Let's "Do" Science

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SWBAT investigate by making observations, then use their senses to they gather information.

Big Idea

With this activity students practice using all of their senses, learn to accurately record their observations, and understand how to effectively communicate that information with other scientists.

Bell Ringer: What Skills Are Useful As You "Do" Science?

5 minutes

What skills are useful as you "DO" science?

I get the class going with a Bell Ringer Question "What sill are useful as you DO science?" and allowing students 3 minutes to write their response in their science journal provides a means to developing their ability to express their ideas in writing. Sometimes students write short answers, draw pictures, or write other questions they may have. Students write and draw thoughtful answers such as: reading, skills, math skills, observational skills, and speech skills. Drawing is an important science skill because: pictures give support to the text, students like to draw and as they draw they develop a visual memory, and drawing compliments writing.

Science journals, also called science notebooks, are a great tool for students to record their thoughts and reflect on them at a later date.

Next, I provide 1-2 minutes for students to discuss answers to the Bell Ringer Question with their partners. Having one partner write their answer on a large Poster will give students a chance to share their ideas. I wrap it up by sharing these answers with the class looking for answers like (Science Process Skills) making observations, measuring, and communicating with a scientist.

Practice Observing

30 minutes

Now this is the fun part! Getting to "do" science will get students excited about class.

I give instructions and read the lab directions aloud. Some teaching strategies I follow include: I stand  still when I read to the class, I have students look at the directions while I read, I ask clarifying questions as I read, and I have students highlight key science terms (observe, hypothesis, data table, analyze, conclusion) while I read.

As you read to the class, specifically target key words (observe, hypothesis, data table, analyze, conclusion) in the directions. Use these sentence starters to develop their vocabulary:

  • In this lab, the word . . . means. . . 
  • I know this because . . .

I want students to work with a partner for this experiment to build community and team work. Then I let them work with their partner to complete the steps in the lab, Practice Observing.

During the lab, I circulate the classroom as they make observations, complete the Data Table, and answer each of the questions. This is the time to check for understanding and help with any questions they may have. 

Give students sentence starters to guide their work as they drop each item:

  • I know that the . . . and the . . .fall (at the same rate, at a different rate) of speed because . . 
  • I think this happens because . . .
  • I predict that if I drop . . . they will  . . .

As students evaluate the data and answer the questions, provide a sentence starter to develop their thinking such as:

We dropped each object . . . times. We did this because . . .


Finally, I guide students to write a conclusion about what they learned from this experience. I get a variety of answers to the question, "Which object hit the ground first?" and am looking for responses such as, "They both hit the ground at the same time." Sometimes students don't provide a specific answer, and this is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of making good, detailed observations. 

Asking questions and defining problems is Practice 1 of the Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS. When you do a lab, you want students to practice asking questions, form answers to those questions, and then determine what questions have yet to be answered. Another Practice, #8, is obtaining, evaluating and communicating information and helping students realize that science cannot advance if scientists are unable to communicate effectively. It's good practice! 

Conclusion: What Did You Really Observe Today? How Can You Get A Better Observation?

5 minutes

What did you really observe today? How can you get a better observation?

After students put supplies away, I gather the class back together. This is a good way to share ideas from the lab. After posing the Conclusion Questions, it is important to guide and remind students to use the data they have collected to answer the Conclusion Questions. Provide a sentence starter to develop their thinking such as:

  • I learned that . . . because . . .
  • I could improve this observation by . . . 

By providing 2 minutes to discuss this question with their partner, they process their thoughts and are prepared for a whole class discussion. During a 2 minute class discussion I am looking for concrete ways that can be implemented to improve observations like: learning through trial and error, testing an observation multiple times, taking good notes, and forming connections between what is seen and what is known.

Observing is a valuable tool and getting better at making observations is important to the scientific community!