Reviewed by Shannon Cde Baca
Every student comes into class with some notions about the physical nature of the world that are either conceptually incomplete or outright misconceptions. Teachers have always had a difficult time breaking through these ideas that seem to be reinforced by media that perpetuate them (cartoons, poor science fiction) or by lack of direct experience with the phenomena that illustrates the concept. This book presents a teaching and learning style that addresses that instructional difficulty and manages to enlighten not only the student but also the teacher.
The book begins with a well-written explanation of the problem and an overview of teaching methodology that is surprisingly clear and complete. There are some wonderful assessment notes and an assessment rubric that is almost in itself worth the price of the book. The real value in the book is in the 17 conceptual units that cover key ideas in middle school physical science (matter, density, buoyancy, air pressure, liquids, forces, levers, motion, electricity, magnetism, heat, waves, sound, light/color, and transformations of energy). The author also included a unit on mental model building and one on geometry.
Each concept is presented by first explaining the background. This explanation is crystal clear and focused. This is one of the strongest portions of the book. The second section of the units explains some of the most common student misconceptions and possible sources of these erroneous ideas. These are followed by four or more extremely practical activities specifically selected to challenge these misconceptions and lead students to an accurate understanding of the concept.
In the hands of a skilled teacher, this book will strengthen the instructional focus and provide a pathway for teaching students who seem to come through good science with their misconceptions intact. For others, this book may challenge their own assumptions (some of which may be found in the misconception column). Although targeted for the middle level, this book is a valuable resource for teachers from grade 5 through high school. At the lower levels the instructional units are ready to use, and at the high school level the activities would be of excellent use when misconceptions become apparent.
Review posted on 12/7/2000