Day 1: Amazing Apple Observations

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SWBAT record observations of a piece of a piece of fruit.

Big Idea

Using a familiar experience (fruit) this activity provides the students with a common experience with a familiar material. This allows the students to focus on their notebooks rather than trying to make sense of the content of the investigation.

Advanced Preparation

5 minutes

For this first lesson, you will need:

  • a piece of fruit for each student 
  • a hand lens for each student 
  • a science notebook for each student.  


This lesson will take anywhere from 45-60 minutes.

Note:  I like to use the black composition books for students science notebooks.  They are a perfect size, strongly bound and have the durability to last the year.  I get the college ruled books because I am not worried about students using lines when they are writing.

Introducing and Distributing Notebooks

10 minutes

The students will gather in a circle on the the carpet/meeting area.  At this point in the year they are seated in assign spots.  This is not for an instructional reason but rather part of my Responsive Classroom (behavior management system) approach.  I will also have a whiteboard easel as part of the circle to record responses on.  

Today's lesson will introduce the students to their science notebooks, reinforce the idea of an observation (from preschool and kindergarten) and begin to build the students "tool box" of how to record observations like a scientist.   

Note:  Bold, italicized print is the conversation that you will have with your students.

"What do scientist do?  I would like you to take a minute and come up with answers to this question.  I would like you to keep your ideas in your head until everyone is ready.  Once you have an answer, I would like you to put your thumb on your chin."

I choose not to start my firs science lesson with the typical question of What is Science?  Students have been engaged with science since entering preschool.  In our school, the kindergarten is involved in an extensive outdoor ecological education program and the idea of what science is has been developed.  So I have chosen to start with focusing on the actions of a scientist.  Each teacher should determine where to start based on their own students' needs.  

"I would like you to now share your ideas of what scientists do.  I will write down your ideas on the easel."

I take the students ideas and then focus on the ideas of experimenting, exploring, and observing.  If any of these haven't been mentioned, I will find a way to bring the concepts in to the conversation.  

"Scientist conduct experiments/investigations based on questions they have.  Once they conduct these experiments/investigations, they need to be able to document what they have observed.  They need to be able to write like a scientist.  That is what we are going to focus on during our first 5 science lessons for the year."

I then take out one of the composition books.    

"You will each get one of these books.  These will be our science notebooks for the year.  Once you learn how to write like scientists, you will use these books to record your learning, observations, and thoughts about the science that takes place this year."

I then pass them out to each student and give them each a pencil too.

"I would like you to write your name on the first line and the words science notebook in the 2nd line."

"When we write in these books, we will always start each entry with the same heading (at the top corner of the page). You will always put the date and then write the day's focus under the date.  This will allow me to see what work you have done for the day and what the focus was.

Creating First Entry

45 minutes

"Let's get ready to do our fist entry in our science notebooks.  Let's all write the date on the top corner of the page (you should show them who to use the MM/DD/Y notation).   Underneath the date, I would like you to write Observing an Apple.  This will be our task today. You will be observing an apple and discussing what you noticed.  You will use your notebook to keep track of your observations."

Before I give the students an apple, I will ask them to make verbal observations about an object from the room.  This way I can quickly reinforce the idea of observation statements.  I then hand each student an apple.  

"You will now go find a spot in the room where you can work by yourself and record your observations.  I will give you 10 minutes to observe your apple.  I want you to observe and record for the whole time.  Please don't come over and tell me you are done.  After 10 minutes we will gather back on the carpet."

As students are working, I circulate around the room and note how students are recording.  The reason being, I want to get an idea of how students are recording their observations and be able to strategically partner students for the next part of the lesson.  The idea being that students who are finding this difficult or struggling with ways to record can be partnered with students who are more secure with this task.

After ten minutes, I ask the students to come back to the carpet and I partner them up. Again I can choose to be strategic here if I feel it would be beneficial.  

"I would like you to sit with your partner and share your observations with them.  I will give you 3 minutes for this part of the lesson.  Make sure to not only share your observations but also learn from your partner."

Once the partner share is completed, have the class sit in a circle facing the easel.

"I would now like the whole class to share their observations out loud and use your notebooks to share your observation."

As students share, I will write their observations on the easel.  

"Now, I would like you to tell us how you recorded your observations (words, sentences, pictures, etc.)"

As students share, I will quickly foster a conversation about  the benefits of each method.  This is building a tool box for students to use as they learn different ways to record their thinking.   

"I now want to introduce you to a tool that a scientist can use.  It is called a hand lens.  Some of you may have used these before.  Who can tell me how to use one?"

"Now I want you to take a hand lens and spend another 10 minutes observing your apple and add to your observations that you had already made.  If you learned a new way of recording, you can try the method out too."

After the students finish this round of observation, I call them back to the carpet and have them quickly share out new observations.

This activity gets at the NGSS goal of having students making observations firsthand (1-LS3-1). This is a skill that 1st and 2nd graders will need to develop throughout the year.  It will take many repeated experiences and opportunities for them to truly master the skill of clearly recording observations with accuracy.  

The NGSS Science Practice Standard 3:  Planning and Carrying Out Investigations is touched upon because students are making and recording observations that then can be used for comparison purposes.  

I am having students work with apples because it is a familiar object to them.  If I was to give them an unfamiliar object, I would have to give them time to explore it before asking them to observe it. Using a familiar object will allow the focus to be on observation and documentation.  

Lesson Wrap Up

5 minutes

I end the lesson by starting an informational poster about science notebooks.  I use a big piece of chart paper to create this.  This poster will be added to throughout the first 5 lessons and serve as a reference poster for future use.

Today's "take away" is the idea that each entry should have the date and focus written in the top corner of the paper.  At this point, I do not focus on the other ideas discussed in today's lesson. These ideas will be reinforced during this unit.

I included an image of the anchor chart.  Again, this will be added to each day of the unit and then serve as an anchor chart for reference throughout the year.  As new ideas opt ways or recording are presented by the students, I will add them to the chart.  

It is important to have visuals for students to refer back to.  This allows them to quickly reference the expectations and to focus more on the specific task at hand.