Senses Help Scientists

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Students will be able to understand how our five senses help us to make detailed scientific observations.

Big Idea

Using our five senses helps improve our observational skills.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.”

By saying “walking feet” I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them they are going to watch and listen to a short song on the SMARTBoard.

“Boys and girls I need you to practice your good audience skills because you are going to watch a very quick video clip where a man is talking to a sock about the five senses. Once he has finished explain to the sock what the five senses are he will sing a song about the five senses and how they help us.”

After the song is over I say, “You were a good audience so now it is time to move to another song. Please stand up and prepare to do the “Five Senses” song with me.

Once we have sung the song two or three different ways, slow, fast, deep voice, high voice, etc, I have the students sit back down on their spots by singing the “Spot on Your Dot” song.


I use this video clip and song to engage my students in a fun way to begin thinking about the five senses. The video clip and song capture the students attention, connect their thinking to the situation and help them access current knowledge; what are the five senses? Once the students know what the five senses are, they will be able to connect how the five senses help us make more detailed observations. 


45 minutes

Once the students are seated I tell them, “Today we are going to read the book The 5 Senses, by Nuria Roca and illustrated by Rosa M. Curto. Listening to the title and looking at the cover what do you think this book is going to be about?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

“That’s a good prediction Sebastian; this book could be about our five senses and I like the way you explained your thinking by telling me how there are small pictures of each of the senses on the cover of the book.”

“Let’s go ahead and read our book to see if Sebastian’s prediction is correct.”


As we read through the book I stop at each sense and ask, “As a scientist, how do you think this sense would help me make a good observation?”

I use the Fair Sticks to select different students to respond to the question.


When the book is over I ask the students to take a seat around the edge of the rug by singing the “Edge of the Rug” song.

Once everyone is seated around the edge I pull out my science journal and lay it out open in front of where everyone can see.

“Today at one of your integrated work stations I am going to take small groups of students out into the garden to make a sensory observation. When scientists make observations they will often use all of their senses so they can make a very detailed observation. Can anyone tell me why I might need to make detailed observations?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

“Well done Bryan; I need to make detailed observations so other people will know what I observed.”

“When I use my senses to make a scientific observation I help others get a clear picture in their brain. This will help them understand my scientific thinking and they may want to replicate (I lean over and whisper, “That’s a scientific fancy word for “copy.””), my experiment to observe the result for themselves.”


“Now when I take you out into the garden I want you to think about the question, “Which senses can I use to help me make a good observation in the garden?””

“I will be out in the garden with you and you can check with me if you have any questions about the senses you are using to make your observation. When you have found a sense you can use in the garden I want you to draw what it was that you saw, heard, smelt, felt, or tasted in your science journal and label it with the correct sensory sticker.”

Senses Labels

“While we are out in the garden we have a job to do. Does that mean I am out there to play?”

I allow the student to chant, “No.”

“That’s right; recess is the time for play. We are working. We will be making scientific observations using our senses.”

“Anybody who is not in control of their body staying on task will be sent back inside.”

“Does everyone understand what you are going to do out in the garden?”

Most students nod their head yes.

“Who can repeat back to me what you are going to do out in the garden?”

I select a student who I know is going to give an accurate response because I do not want other students to become confused by incorrect information.

“Well done April; you told me you are going to find out which senses you can use when you make an observation in the garden and draw the results in your science journal.”

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go get ready to have some observation fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity.

I will take a visual timer out with me and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.


In this activity the students are exploring through observation to answer a given question; “Which senses can I use to help me make a good observation in the garden?” The students will walk around the garden and discover which senses they can use when making scientific observations outside. Through exploration the students begin to see how the five senses can extend their observational experiences. This will hopefully lead to better scientific observations in the future.

When we practice this skill in later lessons, I will ask the student to become even more detailed. For example, sight: “What do you see in the garden?” becomes “What type of plant/tree do you see?” which in turn becomes, “How many plants/trees do you see in the garden?” etc. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, collect your science journal, whether it is finished or not, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to share with me one of the sensory observations they recorded in their science journal. I only want one sensory experience at this time because I only have a limited amount of time between integrated work stations and snack. I will ask the students to share their science journals with me in more detail at a later time such as during free choice centers or during Be Excited About Reading (B.E.A.R) time.  

 “For today’s exit ticket you need to share with us one sensory observation you made while out in the garden. When you have shared one of your sensory observations with us you can leave your science journal with me, use the hand sanitizer and get your snack.”

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on what their observations were together.

I use this exit ticket process as a way for the students to analyze one of their explorations by explaining to me one of the sensory observations they made while out in the garden. Through this explanation process I can see who made a connection about how to use their senses when making a scientific observation of a given thing; in this case the school garden. Later in the day we will watch a video called Making Observations on Brain Pop Jr. about how our senses help us to make good scientific observations.   


At another work station the students are directed to find items in magazines and place them into the correct sensory category – sight, sound, touch, taste or smell, on a group poster. The tricky part is that some items may belong to two or more sensory categories. So long as the student can justify his/her selection then the placement is correct.  


At another work station the students are directed to use recyclable materials to construct an invention that will improve their observational skills as a scientist. The student must be able to describe the materials used, what the invention is and how it improves observational skills.


At another station the students will play the game “Tick, Tock, What’s in the Sock?” In this game there is an item hidden in a sock. There are five different socks each with a different item. The teacher gives each child a different sock and they have 20-30 seconds to feel inside the sock. Once they think they know what is in the sock, they draw the item in the correct sock on their recording sheet.

After each student has had a turn feeling the items in the socks, the teacher goes around the table and asks a student to tell us what they thought was in one of the labeled socks. Once the student has stated what they thought was in the sock, the teacher asks the student to explain why they thought it was that particular item. This encourages the students to use adjectives to describe what they felt. When the student is done the teacher reveals what was in the sock and a short discussion revolves about whether the student was correct or not. Then it becomes another student’s turn.  

Sock Guessing Game Recording Sheet   


These activities provide the students with the opportunity to apply and expand their understanding of the concepts within new contexts and situations thus elaborating on the information they have been presented with.


Further extension activities can be:

Students can play Sid the Science Kid’s sensory game at the computer station. This game has Sid asking questions about one or two given senses and the student must select an item from the given choices which would match those senses. The question technique is good because it causes the students to think about what they know and gives them a chance to test their ideas. 


In order to assess if my students have successfully understood and retained the information presented in the lesson I set out an evaluation task for morning work the next day.

As the students arrive I have the task written on the chart at the head of the classroom. It reads, “Take an observation walk around the classroom. Use your science journal to record something you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste.”

For my higher performing students I would also request that they label their work. Other students can dictate what their item is to me and I will label it for them.

Based on the items the student chose to draw under each sensory category I could assess if the student truly understood the previous days lesson.