One Scientific Method?...Not

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Students will be able compare different versions of the scientific method and come up with their own.

Big Idea

There is no one way to "do" science, different sources describe the scientific method in different ways. However, they all incorporate the same concepts and principles.


5 minutes

I start this lesson by reviewing the big question from the day before, "Science or Not?" by having the students write a "chain-note".

The chain-note starts with one student writing the question, "What is science?" on a piece of binder paper and writing a response in a complete sentence. When done, the paper is then passed from student-to-student within a table, with each student answering the question in a complete sentence. I tell them to read the previous responses because they should not write down the same thing as another student. When the initial student gets the paper back, he/she turns it in to my turn-in box.

I like using chain-notes to get students back into an idea we have already discussed because it gives them a sense of what they already know and sets the stage for what is to come. I also use chain notes when I'm introducing a new concept to elicit prior knowledge, or after a lesson for a quick assessment. 


25 minutes

As we move on to this portion of the lesson I ask the students "How do we do science?" At this level, most of them can recite the steps they have learned in previous courses. However, the point I want to make is that there is no one "right way".

I chart whatever they tell me, and pass out pre-made copies of several charts with the instructions to compare them at their tables and create a scientific method that they can call their own. The sentence frame they must use in their discussions is, "I believe ____ should be added to the chart after ___ because ____." I also tell them to sketch their own scientific method since they will be needing it for the final project in the unit.

This allows the students to take ownership of the way they do science, regardless of whether there is a preset of instructions to follow. As the students attempt to navigate the task, they can be heard realizing that investigations need to be focused and start considering the downsides of investigations that do not follow a plan (NGSS SEP 3: Plan and carry out investigations).

As the students are comparing and discussing, I walk the room listening to the discussion, and asking questions like, "Why do you think ___ is important, and why should it go there instead of ___?" or "Why do you think this chart shows ____ here, while this one has ___ here?"

Go Further

15 minutes

Now we are prepared to create a class chart, based on the ideas students discussed and sketched in the previous step. The students will be making their own charts in their final projects, but we have to have establish basic understandings now in order to proceed. 

Once we sketch basic ideas, I ask, "So, what would the basic skills a scientist needs in order to be able to carry out a scientific investigation?" I use a "Commit and Toss" technique. The instructions are:

Get a piece of paper and answer the question using the frame: One skill a scientist needs is ______, because ______." Once you are done crumple it up.

Once every student has his/her piece of paper crumpled up, I say:

When I say go, toss the papers around the room, until I tell you to stop. You can stand up to retrieve a paper, but you cannot have more than one at a time.

Once we stop, I make sure everyone has a paper, and I have the students share out what their paper says, while I chart them on the board.

I don't tell them that they will be tossing the paper before-hand to avoid having students begin the toss on their own. 

This technique help students recognize that there are different ideas, but relieves the threat of being wrong when they are asked to share.

As we are compiling the list, I make sure we have these basic skills: Observing, Inferring, Measuring, Communicating, Classifying, Predicting, since these will be the basis of the next few lessons.


5 minutes

I like to close this lesson with a song by Mr. Lee. The song is catchy, and I use whenever we are actually doing an experiment in class.

The exit ticket or deliverable for the day is a response to a prompt done on a post it-note on my reflective chart. 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.