Awesome, Weird, Cool...Not!

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SWBAT use more precise and accurate scientific vocabulary to observe, describe and explain as they use their specialized senses to make sense of science.

Big Idea

From observing a cat to touching and describing mysterious things in brown paper bags, students learn to understand that specialized senses and precise words go hand in hand in developing good inquiry skills.

Word Wizard: A warm up to strengthen content vocabulary

10 minutes

Prior to the Lesson

Prepare Word Cards: Using small notecards write and place them in a magical looking hat.

 analyze, classify, compare, conclusion, data, estimate, measure, count, experiment, hypothesis, infer, investigate model, predict, plan, question, share, variable, operational definition, and observe

All students need one copy of: Frayer Model Template

To warm up for our introductory unit and to help students become aware of scientific words they will be using to master NGSS standards, and to increase their vocabulary as demanded by CCSS, a "Word Wizard" will be chosen from the class to come up and draw three word cards from the hat.

We use the Frayer Model Sheet to help define these content based words as shown for you  in this Frayer Model Example. The idea? For students to define words using their own paraphrasing and ideas. The concept of knowing what the word "isn't" helps them remember what the word is. Drawing symbols or pictures to help them remember what it looks like is a great way to define it in their minds. And finally, the "sounds like" should be a word that pops into their heads that rhyme...but of course is not related to the word. This helps students with phonics, spelling and visualization as well as another mnemonic device to help them absorb the word.

Everyday, three words will be drawn from the hat and then defined and then glued inside a section of their science notebook or kept in a science folder as a resource. It also can photographed and downloaded to their iPad for organization. This decreases their chance of losing the papers too!

If student's don't finish, this can be sent home to work on.

I choose three people to share an example from their model before we move into our core lesson.


15 minutes

Opening: Miles Video I posed the questions in this video to help students connect the fact that like Miles, we are animals who observe through specialized senses.

I asked students if they could think of other ways we observe things? How are they like Miles and how are they different? Do animals use their senses to observe? I asked students to tell me if they knew what specialized senses we have to be able to decide if we want to eat something?

How do we know if we like certain clothes to wear? What senses do we use to know we are safe? How do cats decide if they want to eat something? Do they use the same senses? What senses do they use to know they are safe? ( Example: How do they become afraid of something?)

After we discuss these questions, I list sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste on the board.I ask them to describe how they use each of these senses every day? What purpose do they serve?

After a discussion, I lead them through dialogue into making the connection that they are living organisms with specialized senses that  serve a purpose, just like other animals on the planet. This helps support the mastery NGSS 4 LS1-2. I went back to the video of Miles and play it where I began to pet him. I ask students to verbally explain his reaction to my touch.

How do I know that Miles likes that? I list their responses on the whiteboard, underlining any adjectives or  verbs as I wrote.

What do you predict he would do IF he didn't like my touching him? How do you know that? What experiences have you had with cats? After students share we How do I know that Miles is very soft? I wrote their responses as before, underlining any adjective or  verbs as I wrote.

I explained that because we are animals, we can use our specialized senses to observe, predict, and understand the world around us. I explain that we will be expected to model understanding of other animals as we will study about them and their senses that are specialized and used for their survival.

To transition into the next activity, I mention that we can use our specialized sense of touch to observe objects. We can describe objects even though we can't see them. Miles uses his whiskers and we use our hands!

Activity: So what's awesome, anyway?

25 minutes

Prep Materials: 4 brown bags for each  group with "touchable" objects that will create an immediate reaction: Suggestions? Peeled cold grapes, a ball of cold playdough, cold cooked spaghetti,something that is rubbery. The object is to fill the bags with something that will help them to react and write down common words they use to describe like "icky", "awesome" "weird", etc.

This game is played by first creating groups of four students. They use their Precise Language Exercise Sheet to describe by writing the first word that pops into their head. THEY MUST NOT LOOK IN THE BAG OR TALK. They can only use their sense of touch and their ability to use words to describe. They fill out the first column of their sheet with the word that pops into their head and then draw what they think they felt. This exercises their ability to visualize and helps them understand that this skill is important as young scientists.

I open this section of the lesson by writing the word "awesome" on the board and we discuss what it means to them and how they use it. I tell them that we will be playing a game where they need to use their specialized sense of touch and will ask them to write the first word that comes to mind as they touch the object in the bag. I reassure them that there will be nothing in the bag that will hurt them. I continue to explain that I also want them to sketch what they think is in each bag, but not to fill out the other column; we will do that together.

After they are done, the bags remain shut. I ask my students to each take a bag and keep it closed as I ask them to reveal its contents to others in their group in numerical order. I lead the discussion by asking them to share their word. I list the examples on the board an then we brainstorm words that are more exact as I teach them the difference between using vocabulary that is vague vs. vocabulary that is precise.

I close this section after each object is shared and precise words for description are shared.


5 minutes

To close this lesson, I gather students together to ask for "aha" moments. I question what they learned from understanding that "touch" is one of their specialized senses that they use to understand their world. I ask: Do you think that touch is an important sense to use as a scientist? What were some of the best precise words that took the place of vague words that helped us understand what was in the bag better?


Homework & Language Arts Connection: Writing in writing journal.

What am I? Pick a common household, food,toy or classroom object. Start each sentence with"I am" and use a precise describing word. Write 5 sentences and finish with the sentence "What am I?"

We will trade our journals and see if we can guess the object. They may use words that are from any of the senses.