Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Think Puzzle Explore Dental health in primary

In my determination to meld good health practices, science, math, and the acquisition of English (specifically, writing), I conducted a Dental Health unit for my primary students.   I have been concerned about it on many levels, most glaring were the shiny caps that I see daily as I work with them. Using UbD, the essential questions were: are teeth important? why? do you need to take care of baby teeth? why? what should a person do to take care of their teeth? are some foods/drinks/substances better for teeth than others? why?

K and 1st each offered their thoughts on what they thought (Think) they knew, what Puzzled them, and what they wanted to explore about teeth. (I find many answers to guide me in guiding them as I use this routine, they often surprise me with their schema or the lack thereof.)

I read/they read with me many books that I checked out from DPL.  They learned many new vocabulary words and the accompanying concepts (incisors, molars, enamel, plaque, flossing, brushing, floss, gums, roots, decay, cavity, invisible, teeth, dentist, permanent).

3 major things happened to facilitate their learning:
1.  As scientists they rinsed their mouths with colored water and looked in the mirror to find that the plaque in their mouths kept the color!  I had purchased toothbrushes and toothpaste, so they then brushed their teeth and voila! the color was gone.  They continued to brush daily at school for over a week. I sent the new toothbrushes home with them.
2.  Brenna offered me the name of her dentist, explaining that she would come and instruct the students in good oral health.  In fact, Dr. Preet Clair was very willing to accommodate our schedule and was so comfortable talking with the children. They were very engaged in listening and asking higher level questions.  Dr. Clair was impressed with the depth of questions asked. For example, "How do they put in the metal/fake teeth so they stay in?" "What happens to the crown/metal tooth when the permanent tooth starts to grow in?"  "When a crown/metal tooth is put in, is the glue hot?"

3.  We conducted an experiment using shells (enamel) substituting for teeth and four liquids: water, milk, orange juice, and pop (Dr. Pepper).  They inspected them visually (with magnifying glasses) and tactilely before we placed them in the solutions.  I sealed each jar and kept all in the refrigerator for the duration of the experiment. 

We checked them weekly, comparing our notes and photos of the enamel. Predictions were made.

We also investigated the sugar content of all of the liquids (0 in water, 12 in milk, 22g in orange juice, and  40g in Dr. Pepper.)  We asked, can sugar be good for teeth?

Comic strips were drawn and illustrated from the viewpoint of the tooth by First graders.

We had an additional experiment to demonstrate decay. I took a fresh apple and they poked a nail into it.  Over the course of weeks, we observed the changes to the initial hole.  They were able to imagine what happens when plaque breaks through the enamel to cause a cavity.

through their experiences and experiments, they were able to answer our questions (are teeth important? Yes. Why? Because we need them to chew and talk all of our lives.  Do you need to take care of baby teeth? Yes.  Why? Because you want to have healthy teeth and a healthy mouth.  What should a person do to take care of their teeth? Brush and floss, and be careful of sugar because plaque is our enemy!  Are some foods/drinks/substances better for teeth than others? Pop is bad!! Why? Because we saw what it did to the enamel!


  1. I love how thoughtful you are in your lesson planning Kim! I also think it's great that you were able to connect their learning to their lives as well as bringing in a dentist to help answer many of their burning questions. After reading your post and I am now thinking of the soda I recently drank...! Joking aside, I think you are doing great things for your students. The connection between the apple and cavities is a great visual and I have never seen that, but I could see how that would be helpful for ELL students (really any students) with creating their mental images and becoming more aware of them.
    Great Job! :)

  2. Thank you Shannon! I appreciate your thoughtful insights--coming from you, the master scientist, I am honored :-)
    It means a lot to me!