Lesson 1

Introduction to Scientific Inquiry: Pre Assessment

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SWBAT show what they know about scientific practices and controlled investigations.

Big Idea

What do students already know about scientific practices in general, and controlled investigations in particular? Students take a pretest to demonstrate their knowledge in order to inform instruction, as well as set up their scientific notebooks.

Unit Explanation

Unit Rationale

This first unit is a critical beginning of the year unit.  The first part of the unit, (Lessons 1-10) introduces students to the Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards, so that they can successfully use these practices to understand the rigorous content in the second part of the unit (Lessons 11-25) - the Disciplinary Core Ideas of Matter and Its Interactions.  Students who do not understand these Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts, will have difficulty once rigorous science content is added.  

Many previous State Standards included separate content standards for Science Practices. However, the Next Generation Science Standards does not do so.  It integrates these practices within each Disciplinary Core Area.  Further, these standards assume that 5th Grade students will have mastered many of these Science Practices and Crosscutting Concepts at earlier grade levels.  Therefore, the first 10 lessons of this unit are designed to bridge these gaps in understanding as we move towards implementation of the NGSS.  

Big Ideas In This Unit 

#1 Scientific inquiry is the process and practices that scientists engage in to develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas and the world.

#2 Everything in the universe is made of matter, which is constructed of particles, which are too small to be seen; the ways in which these particles interact are what give matter its structure and properties.

Note:  The assessment boundaries for 5th Grade for the Next Generation Science Standards do not require that students distinguish mass and weight, or define the unseen particles.  However, as those concepts are developed in Middle School Standards, they are introduced in this unit.

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed by this Unit:

Part 1:  Lessons 1-10 

Science Practices:  

Developing and Using Models

Develop a model to describe a phenomena.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, using fair tests in which variables are controlled and the number of trials considered.

Make observations and measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon.

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Measure and graph quantities such as weight to address scientific (and engineering) questions and problems.

Part 2:  Lessons 11-25:

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

PS1.A - Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means.  A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects.(5-PS1-1)

PS1.A - The amount (weight) of matter is conserved when it changes form, even in transitions in which it seems to vanish. (5-PS1-2)

PS1.A - Measurements of a variety of properties can be used to identify materials. (5-PS1-3)

PS1.B - When two or more different substances are mixed, a new substance with different properties may be formed. (5-PS1-4)

PS1.B - No matter what reaction or change in properties occurs, the total weight of the substances does not change. (5-PS1-2)

Cross-Cutting Concepts:  

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change.

Scale, Proportion, & Quantity

Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large.

Standard units are used to measure and describe physical quantities such as weight, time, temperature, and volume.

Connections to Nature of Science

Science assumes consistent patterns in natural systems.

Materials Needed:

One Copy for each student of Science Practices Pre-Assessment

One Copy of Learning Progression Rubric for Science Practices


30 minutes

I tell students that this year in Science, we will be going on a "Science Journey."  That means that we will be traveling through some of the different areas of Science, such as:  Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Technology, using the same skills and practices that scientists from all over the world use.  We will become scientists!

Our guides on this journey will be a funny guy by the name of Plaid Pete, his best friend Seth, and a few other assorted characters.  I tell them that they will first "meet" Plaid Pete in a short scenario, a type of story that gives a context for some type of Science situation.  

I tell them that this first scenario is a type of Pre-Assessment.  It will give me an idea of what they know about Science practices, so that I can adjust my teaching to fit their learning needs.  It is important that they understand that this is not a graded assessment and that I just want them to "do their best."   

I hand out the Science Practices Pre-Assessment and read it to students.  This is an important step because I want to assess their knowledge of Science Practices, not their reading ability.  I score it using the Learning Progression Rubric for Science PracticesI am specifically looking at the indicators in red on the rubric - those standards that students coming into 5th Grade should already have in place.   

I will adjust my instruction based on the results of this pre-assessment.

Setting The Stage

30 minutes

We use black and white Mead Composition Books for our Science Notebooks.  These hold up much better than spiral notebooks.  I always keep a Teacher Master Copy that has the same lab sheets, vocabulary, etc. on the same pages as the student books.  I use this for modeling, and for students who were absent so they know what to make up.

I tell my students that these notebooks are a precious resource.  I ask my students, "Did you know that one person's ideas can be worth more money than it would take to fill this classroom?  I share that in companies like Exxon Mobil where scientists keep notebooks that detail their experiments and investigations, they are not allowed to leave the locked rooms where they are used.  They are so valuable, that scientists have to sign them out, and then sign them back in again. 

I tell them that the journey they will be taking in Science this year will be reflected in the pages of their Science Notebooks - because it is a reflection of their ideas, their thinking, and their growth as a learner.  That is why we call them "interactive notebooks" - because they aren't just a place to write words and glue sheets of paper.  They are a place to record their thinking, use these ideas to interact with new information, and then go back and revise their original ideas - just like we do in Writer's Workshop.  At the end of the year, we will go back to construct our table of contents and reflect on the journey we have taken, as learners, as thinkers, and as scientists in the world around us.

We prepare our notebooks using these steps.

  1. Leave the first two pages (and back side) completely blank.  It will become the Table of Contents page, which we will add at the end of the year.
  2. Number all pages in the bottom outside corner, beginning with that third page as #1.  (It is far easier for everyone to be on  same page and for absent students to see what they have missed).
  3. Tape a piece of ribbon inside the back cover to use as a bookmark.
  4. Fold the Science Notebook Rubric "hamburger style" (horizontally) and use a few dots of white glue to glue on top of the ribbon to hold it down.  I demonstrate this step by step to my students, as you can see in the video clip below.
  5. Write the Unit Name and Big Idea(s) on the first page of the unit (For this first unit, this will be on Page #1).  At the end of the unit, students will come back and create an illustration(s) representing what they learned in this unit.  Since this first Unit will have 2 big ideas, I have students divide the page in half and write the following on the top section:  Big Idea #1:  Scientific Inquiry is the process and practices that scientists engage in to develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas and the natural world.
  6. I stress the notebook as a tool for learning and thinking.  To assist students in taking ownership, I remind them that this notebook makes a statement about them as a learner.  I show examples of previous student work, and we practice using the rubric to score the samples.