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SWBAT explain the steps scientists use to investigate questions.

Big Idea

Do your students understand the steps scientists use in an investigation?


10 minutes

It is important that students learn the scientific method so they can understand the steps that scientists use to investigate. The steps to the scientific method are: observe and ask questions, make a predication, plan a test, plan and carry out an experiment, record the results, and draw a conclusion.

While seated at their desks, students are shown a  presentation. The PowerPoint, scientific method, is shown to serve as a visual and provide background knowledge.  If you have access to Brain Pop Jr, you can show this Scientific Method Video to serve as a visual for students .  The video shows how the scientific method is used. 

To check for students’ understanding of the video, I ask them to recall the steps in the scientific method. The steps are placed on the word wall for students to refer to anytime.  I use a flashlight to highlight the word and the students tell me the meanings, or I tell the meaning then allow a student to use the flashlight to highlight the word. This strategy is called “Spotlight” and it permits students to interact with the word wall.


Here is the spotlight video.



25 minutes

In order to address the science and engineering practice of planning and carrying out an investigation, I lead the students through a guided inquiry of the question..."Which paper towel holds the most water?" During the inquiry, the students record their findings on the Scientific Method Lab Sheet

Here is the process that I lead the students through....

1. Observe and ask questions- I display three different brands of paper towels that are torn off the rolls. I use a permanent markers to label the paper towel, a, b, and c, so I can remember the brand name of the paper towel. They are observing three strips of paper towels and three containers of water with the same amount of liquid labeled a, b, and c.  I do not inform students about the experiment nor provide the question "Which paper towel holds the most water?" Students are asked to generate questions about what they are observing.  I display a question stem chart to help students generate questions. This poster is enlarged as a poster or you can create an anchor chart. I record the students’ responses on the lab sheet.

2. Formulate a hypothesis- Students are redirected to the purpose of the test, "Which paper towel holds the most water?" Students are asked to formulate a hypothesis. The class hypothesis is recorded on the chart.

3. Plan a Fair Test-Students are asked what materials are needed, and what steps will they take to complete the test. Their responses are recorded on the chart.

4. Do the Test- I call three students up to test the paper towels. The students are instructed to place the paper towel in the labeled containers.  The paper towels should only be in the water for 1 minute (timer needed). Then the students should take the paper towel out and squeeze the water into a measuring cup. "Students Hard at Work" I have three clear cups for each paper towel. The students observe the cup with the most water. I record the class' response.

5. Draw a conclusion/Communicate the results- The class returns back to the hypothesis, and I asked them do they agree or disagree with their hypothesis. Their result is recorded, and I ask them how will they communicate their results. How can people benefit from their findings?   



10 minutes

While sitting at their desk, students are asked to recall the scientific method from the experiment. I provide the students with the various scenarios from the experiment. This will help the students to see the method as a whole while reviewing the steps.  

1.  I record what happens to each towel. (Answer- Do the Test)

2. Which paper towel will hold the most water? (Answer- Observe and ask a question)

3. My hypothesis was correct or incorrect. This paper towel holds the most water. (Answer-Draw conclusions. Communicate results)

4. This paper towel will hold the most water. (Answer-Form a hypothesis)

5. I will put each paper towel in water. Then I will squeeze the water in a clear cup to test it. (Answer- Plan a fair test)