Thinking and Acting Like a Scientist

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SWBAT describe different aspects of the scientific method.

Big Idea

What's in the blue box? Through discovery students explore aspects of what a scientist does and are introduced to vocabulary of scientific inquiry.

Question of the Day

10 minutes

I post the question, When do we act like a scientist? 

These little ones have lots to say!! They will tell you how they mixed some crazy concoctions in the kitchen and then everyone wants to share their favorite recipe. Don't let this eat too much into your time. Be sure to listen to students sharing with each other to note which students will lend the most to the discussion. Then be ready to call on those identified students. Leave the narrative of mixing ingredients to one of the last examples.

On the Smartboard,  the question word, 'when' is printed in another color. In language arts lessons we will start a list of question words, which provides a scaffold for students who need help with creating question sentences.

Along with the question, I post a picture of my students to encourage them to start thinking of themselves as scientists.

The questions is read to the students.

"Thinking Time"

'You will have about 30 'thinking seconds' to think about your answer to our question before you share your thoughts with your table partner."

Since this is the beginning of the year, students are learning the norms and expectations for the classroom. I explain that for us to have this 'thinking time', we need to be sure not to disturb our neighbors. I  do not elaborate more on this, but will note how the students act and will use this experience for a group discussion about what 'thinking time' looks and sounds like during morning meeting.

I am developing the expectation for quiet reflection time across all subjects, to help students bring their focus to the task at hand. During this time, I model 'thinking time' too. This also gives my ELs time to process the question and consider what they could say.

"Pair Share"

After '30 seconds', I ask students turn to their table partners, introduce themselves and share their ideas. This allows partners a moment to acknowledge each other before sharing ideas... an ice breaker. Students are already familiar with introductions as we have been practicing it during morning meeting.

During this time I listen in on conversations, and ask questions to help clarify aspects of scientific inquiry.

One students said, "I am a scientist when I ride my bike" 

I asked, "What were you thinking or doing that was like what a scientist would do?"

He said, " I wondered how pedaling made the wheels turn." 

"That's great! You asked a question, just like a scientist, you also made an observation about how the bike worked!"

"Share Out"

If you are limited for time, rather than go around the circle and have each pair share, you may want to call on specific students that you noted when you listened to what partners shared. 

After about a minute or two, I signal students to the rug. I ask students to sit next to their table partner, so they can collaborate about what they will say share. I call student pairs to share one of their ideas about 'when do we act a like scientist?' 

To help pull out the scientific inquiry terms, I write what the student says, then circle key words that illustrate the science practice terms. I want to connect their experiences ot the concepts of observation, question, hypothesis, procedure.

See how I set up my chart to organize and record student responses.

The kiddos could explain what they were doing in some detail, but did not have the vocabulary to illicit the words of scientific inquiry ... this was where I scaffold the discussion to show what aspect of scientific inquiry they were doing. It was also hard for them to summarize, so this section actually took longer than I anticipated.


Act Like a Scientist

10 minutes

After the ideas are noted, I say, "Today I want you to pay close attention to what you do and think as a scientist, so that we can add more thoughts to our chart." With this lesson students are not only conducting a lab, but looking meta cognitively on how they are doing the lab.

The Blue Box

I theatrically reveal a table with 6 boxes wrapped in blue paper. "I will tell you two pieces of of information about these boxes. There is something from the classroom in each box and the boxes cannot be unwrapped."

I use school supplies because I want the sound and size to be familiar. The boxes have a uniform shape, covered with blue paper and are numbered on the bottom.  I have a key so that I know what is inside each box. Possible items: scissors, 2-3 pencils, 2-3 glue sticks, box of lavender or rosemary, stress ball, pencil sharpener, legos, post-its...

Directed Lesson on Scientific Inquiry

I project a Thinking and Acting Like a Scientist smartboard page with the academic vocabulary and icons, to help contextualize the following discussion. I point to the words as we move through this part of the lesson. 

"Scientists make observations, what observations can you make about these Blue Boxes what do you already know about these boxes?"

Students share their observations and I post these on the board. They will refer to this when they start to write in their lab booklet.

"Scientists make observations about what they see, hear, feel, smell and sometimes taste, and these observations usually lead to questions. What questions do you have about the boxes? 

I write their questions on the board. We sort the questions: to investigate or questions to help us find out what is in the box.

"Which questions could we DO to help us answer what is in the box. For example, one of the students said, is it heavy could we use this question to help us figure out what is in the box?"

"Scientists plan investigations so that they can gather data, information, that they use to answer a question. Our question is, what is in the box."

"Look at the questions we sorted out, the 'doing questions' to help you think of ways you could try to find out what is in your box. This is your investigation

Please turn knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, say hi, and discuss how you may gather information that could help you answer our question about what may be in the Blue Box. I lean in to hear what students have to say, and will clarify any misconceptions.


Student Investigation - Blue Box Lab

25 minutes

With this activity, students plan and carry out an investigation to answer their question, what is in the blue box. The emphasis of the lab is planning a procedure which will give them data, which they will use to conclude about what may be in the box. 

I project the Mini Lab book for Blue Box on the document camera to explain the directions. Each mini lab book has a number on it that corresponds with one of the boxes, so even if the labs get mixed up, I know which paper belongs with which box.

Directions for the Blue Box Investigation

I tell the students that they will collaborate, work together with their table team to investigate their Blue Box.  I explain, "Scientists collaborate, they work together and share their ideas. You will keep track of your thinking on a lab page because scientists always write or record what they do so that they can share their work or do the same thing again.

I say teams will be investigating one 'blue box' to try to answer the question: "What is in the Blue Box".

I explain that before they get their Blue Box, they will need to record the team's questions / hypothesizes  about the BB and what will be their plan / procedure to help them figure what may be in the box.

I want teams to take the time to be thoughtful about their procedure. If I give them the boxes right away, they will move to testing, without a 'plan'. I encourage students to go back and add new steps if they figure out other ways to test their box after they get their box. 

"Before you start on your lab, you need to consider how you will work as a team. How will you make sure everyone has a chance to be heard and turns are taken to share the writing and materials. I refer to our 'sharing our opinion' charts with sentence starters to remind students how they can communicate when they agree or disagree with someone's idea. I give students a couple of minutes to work out these logistics. Then ask for thumbs up when they are ready.

I pass out the Mini Lab booklets for Blue Box and circulate around the room. When I see teams have completed the procedure page of  the lab, I give them their BB.

If you need to break this lesson into 2 days, it is a natural place to stop after students have planned out their procedure. 

The rest of the time students are working to complete their lab on the BB. I walk around to listen to discussions and note how teams are working. When I see something that I think would be useful for the rest of the teams or when I see something exemplary, I will take a moment to bring this to everyone's attention.

As teams complete their lab, I visit with the team and look over their work. I am looking for specificity in their observations, procedures, explanations, and will ask questions if some of their word choices are ambiguous. I checki in with teams to see how well they worked together and to observe and ask questions about how they came to their conclusion about what was in the box.

When I reviewed some of the lab books, I saw that some teams wrote conclusions on the observations page, for instance, 'it is round' rather than writing the observations that helped them come to that conclusion. This is where I will start my next lesson, before students present their findings in lesson 2.


10 minutes

After about 25 minutes or when the teams have completed their lab, I pick up the blue boxes and lab papers and call students to the rug. I say, "When we meet next time for science you will work with your team to prepare a short presentation about what you did in the lab, what observations you made, and based on this evidence what you think is in the box. Scientists prepare their work before presenting or publishing it

I chose to have students share what is in their box for the next science lesson so that students can have that meta cognitive moment to observe what they need to do as a scientist in order to present their findings.

While students are sitting on the rug, I project a blank Blue Box lab page. I say, "Alright scientists, lets take a time out and think about all the science things we did today, maybe looking at the lab page will help you remember what you did as a scientist. Are there any new ideas that we can add to our chart we started today? If you are not sure what words you could say, the bold words on the lab page may help you."  I write the student responses on our answer chart with another color to indicate the new vocabulary and concepts the students can articulate about inquiry method.

The chart we start today will help set the context when discussing our collective meaning of aspects of scientific inquiry in future lessons.

After all ideas are shared, I close by pointing and reading the the chart page and say, " Look at all the ways you were doing the important jobs of a scientist. Look over the chart and think about which idea or new vocabulary word you could share with your family. You have a 30 second thinking time to consider what you might say. Then when I give you the signal, I want you to turn knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and practice with your partner what you will say tonight."