Questions, Hypotheses, Variables & Controls...Oh My!

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Students will be able to identify testable questions, write hypotheses, identify variables and controls.

Big Idea

The processes of science include the asking testable questions and constructing investigations to answer those questions.


5 minutes

As students enter I have a "Do Now" (page 1 of PowerPoint) displayed on the board. 

I often use "Do Now"s when I am presenting a slide show, as it gives students something immediate to do and sets the stage for what is to come. 

Today's Do Now is a probe designed to elicit a conversation about testable questions. I review them to understand the ideas the students came in with. They are not graded for correctness, only as participation (did they do it or not).

I Do

20 minutes

Once the Do Now is turned in, I pass out the hypothesis, variables and controls worksheet and present the Hypothesis and Variables slideshow. 

The slideshow presents the concepts of testable questions, hypotheses, variables and controls, which are the basis of students being able to plan and carry out investigations (NGSS  Practice 3). At this point, it is important for all of us to have a common language while referring to these terms so that is why I present formal definitions to the students.

The first page of the handout asks students to define the terms presented in the slideshow in their own words, so after each of the corresponding slides, I stop and students discuss, write their ideas, and share out.  I spend a lot of time during this portion of the lesson, giving ample time for students to define and discuss among themselves. This is where the students are developing scientific vocabulary. I like to think of this as students creating mind-pegs where they will hang the rest of the concepts from.

Because of this, I also give them a sheet that identifies each of the key ideas that I want them to take away from the slideshow. In the past, when I did not provide this sheet, the students would either try to copy everything down or listen passively without taking any notes. I copy this first sheet one sided so that students can tape it into their notebooks once they get it back.

I also provide a link to both the slideshow and the complete handout on the unit website so that students that are absent, misplace their work or would like to improve their grade have access to it. 

You Do Together

20 minutes

Once we get to slide 16, I tell the students that they will now be working  to complete their practice sheets. They all must have their own sheets, but they will be working with a partner. This means that as they are completing their sheets, I should be hearing conversations like "Why ____?", "I think that ______, because _____." or "I agree/disagree because ____."

I also tell students that I will be awarding XP points to partnerships that are observed discussing their answers and that partnerships that might just answer without a discussion or where one member cannot give reasons for the answers will not get XP. 

Students were previously paired up as Clock Buddies, so they must move to find their 4 o'clock buddy (or whichever number hasn't been used). The students just spent 20 minutes listening to me, so they need to move around. The benefit of clock buddies is that no student is left standing without a partner and the students already know who to go to. Now, if there are absences a triad would also be allowed.

Working with a partner during this time gives the students a chance to learn from each other and clarify their thinking. I award points to student partnerships that are engaged in the conversation. This cuts down on the partnerships where students write down answers without actually talking to one another.

As I circulate the room, I also continue to prompt the students to give valid answers and explain them. 



5 minutes

I close this lesson with the Meeps video (last slide) as a way to put a fun spin on the lesson. 

The exit ticket or deliverable for the day is 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.