What is Science?

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Students understand the major characteristics of science.

Big Idea

Fortune cookies are not based on real science!

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The purpose of this Lesson

The purpose of this lesson is to have students dive into the term Science. I love this lesson because we get to be excited and have fun learning a new language...science.  The two vocab tools are a collaborative vocabulary protocol that is a very powerful way to introduce and front load new words, and a Frayer model, which is a great way to go deeper into a concept.  With appropriate pacing and enthusiasm kids will be excited about engaging in learning!  

Major Strategy to look out for:

In this lesson I use a Frayer model to explore the term Science.  I only use this strategy for important and rich terms because it takes a while and it needs to be easy to identify examples and non-examples.

Ready. Set. Engage

5 minutes

Learning Goal:  Students will be able to understand some of the characteristics for science and be able to give examples and non-examples of scientific activities.

Essential Question:  Is this fortune cookie an example of science?  Why or why not?  

The beginning of class is an essential time to harness.  Effectively using this time not only gives you more minutes of teaching but can also solve management issues, create motivation and engagement, and build a class culture of learning. 

In my class, this time is called Ready... Set... Engage.  The students come into the room, get ready (get their stuff), get set (get settled in their seats), and engage in writing the learning goal and answering the opening question on the board.  By the time the bell rings, students should be in their seats and working.  Rather than calling attention to students that are not doing their job, I use ROCK STAR SCIENCE tickets to reward students that are working when the bell rings.  This goes a long way to developing a positive class culture.   

I like to buy fortune cookies at the store for the students.  It is fun and cheap!  


10 minutes

First, I show the video to the students.  I let them know that at the end of the video they are going to be sorting through some of the traits of science so they should pay attention to see what is really important. 

After the video, I hand out envelopes to each table that contain several different traits of science.  (Previous to this day, I have done a vocabulary activity with students in Who Are Scientists?) 

- Science is observable.

- Science is repeatable.

- Science is testable.

- Science is measurable. 

I ask students at their table to decide what each trait means and to choose which trait is the most important and why.  

When the students are done discussing, I go around to each table and ask them which they chose and why.  I record this on the board.   

Focus: What is a Frayer Model?

5 minutes

I tell my students that today we are going to put together our learning into a Frayer Model that will be made into a display.  This display turns out really lovely and is a great way to get student work out in the hall early in the year.  

This is a five minute focus lesson that is designed to simply display my thinking about how to do a Frayer model.  In my lesson I:

- Show the students the four parts of the Frayer model

- Show an example that is easy and fun

- Display my thinking for them.  

Here is an example of my focus lesson.  

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Guided/Collaborative Practice

20 minutes

The purpose of the guided practice in this section is to assess whether students know how to make a Frayer Model, to answer any questions they might have, and to get started as a class together.  

First, I had out 3 X 5 cards to every student and have them get them make a blank Frayer Model.  To help them with this I have an image of a Frayer Model projected or on the board.  While they are getting this ready, I make sure that there are crayons or colored pencils on the tables.

Once the kids are ready to start I let them know that we are going to make a Frayer for the word SCIENCE.  Our Frayers are also going to include pictures and designs as well as words because we are going to hang them up.  

I have the kids start brainstorming a definition for the word science together.  Usually, I would have them come up with their own definition, but since this is early in the year and the word is difficult, we are going to do it together.  I write down the students ideas on the board, adding my own along the way.  This makes an idea bank for them.  I give the students some time to put their own definition together from the ideas on the board.

Once we have the definition done, we move on to the characteristics.  I remind the students that we've already studied some of the traits of science yesterday and looked at them today again. Students can write down the traits listed and add one or two of their own.  

At this point, I want to release the students to collaborative practice with their group to brainstorm the examples and non-examples.  I always like students to consider non-examples like religion, myths, or others.

The purpose of the collaborative practice in this section is to let students process with each other and get used to working together. Before releasing them, I remind them that non-examples need to be related.  It doesn't work to just write down "cell phone" as that doesn't help us understand the word science.  We want to write down something that might seem a little like science but is a little off.  I release the students for about 3 minutes of quick discussion time.  At the end of that time, I poll the groups to see what ideas they came up with.  If needed, I can add some items in.  

Independent Practice

10 minutes

When the work on Frayer Models is basically done, I like to schedule in some independent work time for pictures, design and decoration.  I think this is an important part of the assignment because it allows the students to show pride in their work and create a more finished product than a worksheet.  I like to assign each class a different color (1st period - green, 2nd period - blue, and so on).  The students can make any designs they want to show off their work as long as they use the class color.  Not only does this make grading and sorting easier, it also allows me to make a very colorful wall decoration.  This independent work time also allows me to get around to different students, point out things I like, make suggestions, and get to know the kids a little more 1-1.  

These are some Frayer Models my students did of the word Scientist.  I like the results I get with the word SCIENCE better, which is why I changed it for this lesson.

As students are finishing their Frayer models, I explain to them how science impacts our lives.  I describe to them the world before science with its fears and mysticism and explain that science uses evidence to help us be explorers of the unknown.  Then I show this video.  


This is a great video to stop and emphasize a few important characteristics of science.  First that science depends on observations (like made in the telescope) Second, that scientists build off of the work of other scientists. Finally, that as technology gets better our ability to 
"See" gets better.   


5 minutes

Closure is one of the most valuable pieces of a lesson.  It is the last thing students hear before they go on and the last chance a teacher has to shift thinking, create engagement or support motivation.  However, the universal truth ALL teachers know is that closure depends so much on time!  I choose different paths depending on how much time I have left in the class.  

For closing, I go back to the picture of the fortune cookie we saw at the beginning of the lesson.  I ask students to think-pair-share with their partners about why a fortune cookie is not science, using the definition and characteristics that we wrote today.  

Depending on the amount of time left in class, I may simply state my thinking or first poll the class.  I let them know that we are going to continue to dive deeper into the idea of science and experimentation tomorrow.  

Here is a video of some students responses.  Read the reflection to find out more of what I thought about each student's answer.