Science Journals - Scale and Size

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SWBAT understand the purpose for science journals including the importance of accurately depicting scale and size of drawing they create.

Big Idea

Science journals allow students to record information they have learned. By creating pictures and drawings with accurate size and scale, students will have accurate information when they use their notebooks throughout the year as reference material.


For this lesson, I use:

*Photographs of 4 different animals (Giraffe, Monkey, Parrot, & Hippopotamus) with their name clearly labeled for copying purpose.

*Science journals.

*A book with zoo animals in it, with the spellings clearly accessible. (If you cannot find a dictionary, make up a quick poster with some printed pictures of items ahead of time).


Since my students will be using their journals all year to record scientific information, they need to know that it is important to draw in a way that is helpful in learning the content. They need to be able to reference their drawings and diagrams as models in order to fully understand the science objectives throughout the year. This lesson emphasizes the importance of drawing objects to scale in their notebooks in order to continue to use this skill when we draw diagrams of things like the parts of the solar system and soil later on in the year. If students do not draw objects to scale in their notebook, they might remember the content incorrectly and misconceptions in their learning may occur. This supports the standard K-2.ETS.1-2 by providing explicit directions and instruction for students on how to draw an accurate representation of a real object so that students will be able to apply this knowledge to drawing parts of an objects to solve problems in the future.

In my school, I am required to post a guiding question for each lesson. For this lesson, students will have "What is scale? Why is it important?" glued into their notebook at the top of the page.

Warm Up

5 minutes


Today, I start a new anchor chart titled "Science Journal Entries". I ask students to think about the things we have talked about that are important to remember when we make an entry in our science notebook. I ask,

"What do we need to include in a journal entry?"

Through discussion, I add the things that the students remember from previous lessons to the anchor chart.

If students do not remember the things that I intend to add to the anchor chart, I show them my journal from the previous lessons and ask the students, "How do I know which day I did this work on? Where can I look to learn more about my drawing? How do I know what colors this object would be in real life?" in order to stimulate their thinking about the things in the list.

I have used anchor charts in my classroom for about five years now and have found them to be beneficial as a resource for students to revisit throughout the year. The use of an anchor chart supports the standards in this lesson because it develops a reference for students to use defining the structure of their science journal entries. When students have a set structure for their entries, they will be able to focus more easily and quickly on the content in future lessons.

Before I begin to make an anchor chart with my students, I think about what exactly I want it to say, especially if I plan on it being up in my room all year! I try to make them student-friendly; that is, I want students to be able to use them as their resource. With this chart, my idea is that if a student forgets what the expectation is for a science entry then they can look at this chart and there is a clear outline of what they need to include. Some students will need to reference this list every time they write a journal entry and some will never need it! If I notice at some point later in the year that more than one or two students are not including everything in a science entry, I will use the chart to revisit this lesson as a whole class.


15 minutes

Quick Introduction to Scale:

To introduce the idea of scale, I quickly draw a picture on the board of a dog with a head that is too big, legs that are too small, and a tail that is too long. I ask the students what they notice. When they say, "His head is too big!" or "His legs are too small", I reply,

"How do you know?"

I want the students to begin to understand that they are only too big or too small because they are comparing them to other parts of the body. I say,

"If the body of the dog was bigger, how would his head look? Just right? How about his legs if his body was bigger? Much too small? Let's see what that might look like."

Then I draw a second dog that is still not quite right, but really funny! I ask the same questions, and then I change it to look much better and I say,

"We are looking at something called scale. Artists use scale to help us to be able to see how big or small things are by giving us something to compare the size to in the picture".

Engaging with Scale:

Students will listen to a short story about my trip to the zoo.

After I have told the story, I project it on the overhead for the students to see. I ask them what animals were in my story, and I circle them in the text as they call them out. Then, I say that I am going to make a scientific journal entry about my experiences and I want it to be as accurate as I can remember.

On my whiteboard, I show the first animal (the giraffe). This is to give the students a scale reference of size, and I tell them, "I am going to use the giraffe to determine how big the other animals were. When you compare the size of two animals you are using scale to show how big one is compared to the other". In my journal, I sketch a giraffe and ask the students to do the same. I anticipate that some of them will say that they do not know how to draw a giraffe and I do not want them to give up, so I tell them, "It has been a long time since I have drawn one, too! Let's try together...head first...(draw the head), then the long neck (draw the long neck)....etc." By doing a few with the students that are not picture perfect (because mine won't be!) it will encourage them to do their best even if they are not perfect.

After we have the giraffe, I model labeling it and the students copy the word, spelling it correctly. If someone mentions the resource library, I ask them to go and make sure I spelled it correctly.

Then, I ask, "How big should the monkey be? We want it to look right in comparison to the giraffe. Let's look back at the text and see if we can get a hint". I reread the line about the monkey out loud and say, "All I know is that the monkey was eating a banana, so I can draw it with a banana to know how big it is. Do you think it is taller or shorter than the giraffe?" Obviously, it will be shorter and so I say, "I will make it smaller than the giraffe but bigger than the banana to show the scale of the monkey". I quickly draw the monkey and the banana. I repeat this process for both the parrot (smaller than the monkey), and the hippopotamus (larger than the monkey but shorter than the giraffe). I label all of them clearly.

I ask the students if there is anything else I should add, and somebody mentions that we need a caption. So, underneath, I add the caption, "These are the animals I saw at the zoo." I explain to the students that when I have a drawing of a collection of things, sometimes a caption helps me to remember why I drew it.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

To really assess who understands the idea of scale, I ask students to draw a quick picture of themselves on the playground in their journals. I say,

"To show that you understand scale, draw yourself and one friend outside on the playground. Include 1 object that is bigger than you in real life and one object that is smaller than you in real life in your drawing, and label them".

As students work on their drawing, I walk around to informally assess who seems to understand scale and who might need more assistance in future lessons. Since scale is also a spatial understanding skill, some students may not quite be able to draw the scale accurately and may need additional practice.

After collecting journals, I ask the students why it is important that I considered scale and size in my science journal today. I want them to come to the conclusion that it helps me to remember things I have seen and it allows me to compare different objects by thinking about their size. I add "Scale and size" to my "Science Journal Entries" anchor chart.

One bonus during this lesson was that some students remembered to label the things in their diagrams!

Student Example 1