Science or Not

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Students will be able to describe the characteristics of modern science.

Big Idea

Science is limited to the natural world and what we can perceive directly or indirectly with our senses.


10 minutes

Before I start the lesson, I create pie charts from the Science Knowledge Survey the students took the day before. I created it as a Google Form, so I can just click on Form>Show Summary of Responses in the response sheet Google Forms created for me. I don't show every item to the students since it would be overwhelming. For the warm-up, I choose five of the ones that the majority agreed with and that are correct. I also have one of the ones where there was a relatively even split. 

I start the lesson by showing one of the correct responses, and create a chart that reads "We believe that...". I write that response on the chart and ask for volunteers to help chart the next one. This gives students an opportunity to get out of their seats and become more engaged in the warm-up since it's not me doing all the work. We proceed until we have all five.

When we get to the even split chart, I tell the students that today they will have an opportunity to discuss and come up with a class consensus on some of the ideas that were more evenly split. The big questions for the day are "What is Science?" and "What is not Science?"

I like to present the warm-up this way to validate the students' answers from the day before and to give a purpose to today's work.


25 minutes

The students do a card sort under the titles "Science is" and "Science is not" based on ENSI's "Sunsets, Souls and Senses" lesson. The cards are created beforehand and printed on card stock and laminated so they can be used several times. I have seven tables of 4-5 students, so I have seven sets of cards.

I tell the students that they are going to play a game of "Science Is".

Game Rules:

  • One student picks a card from the pile and reads it to the group.
  • The person to the left then has to say "Science is/not because _______."
  • If the group agrees, they place the card under the selected title, if the group disagrees it moves to the next student, who again has to say "Science is/not because _______."
  • This continues until they agree on the placement of the card.
  • The person who draws the next card is the person who placed the previous card. If the frame "Science is/not because___" is not used the card goes to the bottom of the pile and the next student draws a new card. 


As the students perform the sort, I walk around the room listening for the use of the sentence frame and taking notes on interesting ideas to use during the discussion. I also intervene with some added questions to deepen the conversation or help students look at other possibilities

Once every table is finished, they need to review their explanations with each other in preparation for the "go further" challenge in the next section. 

I present the card sort as a game with specific sentence frames in order to establish the routine of justifying ideas when responding to questions in class. The first time that I presented this lesson, I had tables that sorted the cards and "were done" without discussing, so when we got to the discussion portion of the lesson, many students were not able to participate. By providing the structure, I have been able to get away from the "sort now-justify later" tendencies of the students.

Go Further

15 minutes

For this "going further" discussion, I set the stage as a challenge. I have my Science Is - Card Key out, and I call on students randomly, using Popsicle sticks. The student that is called upon needs to again use the frame "Science is/is not because___." If the answer is correct and the explanation is valid, the student earns XP points for their table. I then I pick out another stick and ask how that student interprets the explanation. The speaker earns individual XP. 

If the answer is incorrect, I present a, "But what if..." scenario using the key and begin a discussion with the whole class, going back and forth calling randomly for participants. 

I present the discussion this way in order to provide as many opportunities as possible for the students to talk and expand on the ideas being presented (NGSS: SP1- Asking Questions). Since the students had many opportunities to talk among themselves beforehand, and this clarified their ideas and evidence, they have answers to share even if they originally did not know how to answer. Throughout the year, this discussion routine is presented several times and by the end of the year students are able to come up with their own frames for our discussion challenges.


7 minutes

For the closing of this lesson, I present Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science is in our DNA to reinforce the ideas presented in the lesson. If I am running low on time, I stop the clip at 2:05.

The exit ticket or deliverable for the day is a post it note on my reflective chart in response to these prompts:

  • My AHA moment...
  • I am still thinking about...
  • My learning stopped when...


This chart is posted at the front of the room, and gives me a quick reference into student thinking and attitudes in the classroom. During the beginning weeks of the school-year, I save the post-its and give them back to the students to use as a reference for writing their weekly blogs.