Tools of the Trade-Tools that Scientists Use

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Students will be able to identify tools used by kindergarten scientists and develop explanations for how they are used.

Big Idea

Science is so much fun! It is even more fun when we know what tools to use and why they are the best tools for the job.


10 minutes

For this lesson, you will need Tools of the Trade Cards included as a PDF with this lesson.  I print the pictures on a colored printer and laminate them for durability.  The opening of this lesson is designed to help students make important connections to and activate prior knowledge.  This is especially important for English Language Learners, but all kindergarteners (since they are acquiring English skills and expanding vocabulary) will benefit from this portion of the lesson.

I gather the students around my big chair and I tell them, You know, I was thinking a lot about the different kinds of tools that people use to do their jobs.  I am a teacher and an important tool that I use is the Smartboard. I saw a police car.  That is an important tool that a police officer uses to do his or her job.  There are lots of different tools that are used by people doing all kinds of jobs. 

I have some pictures of some tools that different people used.  When I show you the pictures, I want you to raise your hand if you know what occupation might use this tool.  There might be more than one correct answer, so don't put your hand up just because someone says something different than what you were thinking. 

I show the pictures to the students and I ask them what occupation uses each tool.  With each answer, I ask the students if they know what the tool is used for and why it would be an important tool for that occupation.  I really want to encourage the students to think critically about each picture.  When the students are done, we move over to the Smartboard for our direct instruction time. 

Direct Instruction

20 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use my SmartBoard.  If you have a SmartBoard, the file Tools of the Trade can easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  Click here to download. There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson.  Click here to access them:  Tools of the Trade Slides PDF

I gather my students in front of the Smartboard.  I have cards with each student's name printed on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the Smartboard.

I open the first slide (SmartBoard Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques (Click here to learn more about SIOP). I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can identify different science tools and what they are used for.

Language Objective
I can tell a friend what science tool will work best for a certain job. 

Slide 2:  There are many different kinds of tools that scientists use to do their job.

Slide 3:  Some tools are very big and others very small.  We talk about how big the telescope is (bigger than our school) and what it is used for.  We then talk about the eye dropper. 

Slide 4:  In kindergarten, we will be using some different tools for our science activities.
Can you help figure out the tools we need to use?

Slide 5: We need to measure how far these cars rolled.  What tool should we use? Why would we use this tool?  I call on a student to come up to the board and circle the correct answer.  It is very important that we take the time to discuss and process as a group why this is the correct answer.  This discussion helps the students make sense of the world around them and that certain structures have specific purposes.  To assist my English Language Learners, I restate the students ideas.  For example, "You think that the ruler is the best tool because we use rulers to measure things.  We want to measure how far the cars travel, so we use a ruler."

Slide 6-9: Continue as above. 

Slide 10: It is now Turn and Talk Time.  Turn and Talk allows my students to practice their academic language and develop their expressive English vocabulary.  The students have assigned Turn and Talk partners.  I ask them to hold hands with their partners and hold their hands in the air so I know that everyone has a partner.  I then say to them, We need to pick up some very small seeds.  What would be a good tool to use to pick up the seeds?  Why?. I give them time to talk to their partner and when it is obvious that they have completed their discussion, I call on a student to share their discussion  I cue the student to expand the "why" of the answer to continue to strengthen rationalization skills.

We then move to our seats for guided practice.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I collect several different science tools.  I get four of each tool, so I can place one on each of my four student tables.  These are the tools I collect.  Think about what tools your kindergarteners will use during science and collect those.  These are the items I gather:

magnifying glass

eye dropper

tongue depressor



measuring cup



I place a tray with the items on each table and say to the students, On your tables are trays that have different science tools.  I am going to ask you to pass a tool around the table so everyone can get a look at the tool.  After everyone has looked at the tool, I want you to discuss what the tool could be used for during science.  Make sure you explain why that tool would work well to do that job.

I start by asking the students to pass the magnifying glass around the table.  After everyone has had a chance to see the tool, I encourage the students to begin their conversations.  When they are done, I ask students to share what the tool could be used for and why it would work to do this job. It is important to focus on the rationale for use of the tool to support the development of critical thinking that will assist the students as they engage in scientific practices. You may find that the students come up with some unorthodox uses of the tools and that's fine as long as they are rationalizing the use. 

After we have worked through all the tools, we clean up to prepare for independent practice.



Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, you will need copies of My Science Tools activity sheet included as a PDF with this lesson. The students will need scissors and glue to complete the activity. 

I distribute the sheet to the students and have them put their name on the top.  I tell them, I want to know if you know what kinds of tools we will be using during science this year.  Your activity sheet has pictures of different things at the bottom.  I want you to find the things that are kindergarten science tools and put them in the square. Set the other ones to the side.  Raise your hand and I will come check your work.  After I check your work, you can glue the items down.

The students begin working and I circulate around the classroom.  While the students are working I ask them questions as to why they placed items in the square.  It is important that the students get a chance to rationalize their sorting.  I will ask questions like, Can you tell me why you put that in the box?  Why would this be a kindergarten science tool?

After I have checked their work, the students glue the pictures down.  This is a routine that we always do when we have projects that require gluing.  It saves a lot of time peeling mistakes off the sheet.  When the students are done, they share their work with a friend and pick out one tool, telling their friend what it would be used for. 

The majority of the students had a strong understanding of the concept presented (Sample 1). There were a few students that were confused about the concept (Sample 2).  These students needed some one-on-one attention to correct mistake that were made.