Smell This

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Students will be able to explain how smell provides them with information about the world around them by collecting data about a variety of smells.

Big Idea

Sniffing jars help students recognize some distinctive smells.


15 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 I am going to read them a book about one of their five senses.

“Team 203, today I am going to read you a book about one of my favorite senses. This sense lets me know when the cookies are ready to come out of the oven and I can tell when Mr. Clapp has mowed the grass. Can anyone guess which sense I am talking about?”

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

“That’s right Ashleigh I am talking about my sense of smell. How do you think our sense of smell helps humans?"

I select a student to respond. 

"Well done Bryan; our sense of smell can tell us if something is good or rotten. Think about when you take the milk out of the refrigerator and your not sure if it is good or not. One of the ways you check it is to smell it. If it does not smell sickly then it is most likely still good. In the book we are about to read there is information on other ways smell can help us and some animals." 

“This book is called Smell it! It is written by Sally Hweitt.”

I go ahead and read the book to the students. As we read we discuss the answers to some of the questions raised by the book.

“What smells do you like?”

“What smells don’t you like?”

I use the fair sticks to select two or three students to respond to the questions. You will need to gauge your audience’s attention span to decide how many students you select to respond to questions.  


I use this non-fiction book to engage my students’ attention. The book provides the students with some information which will be helpful to them during integrated work stations. 


40 minutes

Once the book is over I ask the students, “Did anyone pay attention to what we use to smell?” I allow the class to call out the answer, “Your nose!”

“You are right it is your nose. Raise your hand if you can recall what we call the two holes that allow the air to go up into our nose.”

I select a student to respond.

“Good recall Colin; it is your nostrils. Now raise your hand if you can tell me what senses the smell and sends the message onto your brain?”

Again I select one student to respond.

“Good work Bryan; it is tiny little hairs. Isn’t it amazing to think that a tiny little hair has such an important job?”


“Today at one of your work stations you are going to work on answering the question, “Can you match the smell with the thing?””

“You will be given a sheet of images like this one (I hold one up for the students to see). Then you will be given a covered open jar. You will not be able to see what is in the jar because we are going to tell you to close your eyes.”

Smell images

“You be allowed to take one big deep sniff and then you have to point to the image of what you think is making the smell.”

“After everyone at the table has smelled the jar you will be shown what is in the jar and you can see if you were right or not. Once you have checked what the item is you can record if you liked the smell or not in your science journal.”

Smell Test recording sheet

“Now remember to stay focused on your work at each station so can complete the task.”


Now I send the students over to the integrated work stations 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 smelly 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.”


When my group is sitting at my station ready I pull out the first jar.

“In front of each of you is a selection sheet filled with six images. I am going to let each one of you sniff the jar and then I will say “Select.” It will be your job to select which item you think you smelt.”

“Now everyone close your eyes. When I get to you I will say your name and you will know the jar is under your nose ready for you to take a big sniff. Here we go.”

I take the lid off the jar and hold it under the first student’s nose.

After I have let each student take a sniff, I have the students open their eyes and say, “Select.”

We discuss the choice each student made and why he/she made it.

We record the results on our charts and do the next jar.

I repeat this process for each of the six jars.

Take note - At one time I used to use peanut butter in one of my jars but with the steady increase in nut allergies I replaced it with garlic. Make sure to check for any allergies in your room before doing any kind of taste of smell activity.


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. After 15 minutes are up, the timer goes off and the students clean up ready to switch stations.  

I set the visual timer and remind the students to look at it so they can use their time wisely.

Students getting ready to smell the scent jars.


In this activity the students are exploring how to recognize familiar items based on their sense of smell. 


At another station the students write about how your sense of smell can protect you. The students complete the prompt, “My sense of smell protects me by...” Higher performing student may attempt to complete the prompt themselves. Lower performing students may need you to scribe for them (ELA).  


At another work station the students graph items that smell good and items that smell bad (math).

Getting ready to sort and graph.                                                 Student working on graphing. 


At another work station the students make their own scent pouch just like the early settlers used. Explain to the students that the early settlers of long ago did not bathe as often as we do. This meant the early settlers were often a little smelly. To make themselves smell better to others the early settlers made and wore scent pouches around their necks. Provide the students with a variety of herbs and potpourri to make their own scent pouches (social studies and science – engineering).

Students preparing to make their scent pouches.                       

Students wearing their scent pouches.


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. 


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 and take a spot on your dot.”


Once the students are seated I tell them, "Today you had the chance to smell a variety of scents; some of them sweet and fragrant and others sour and gross. You were able to sort some scents into good smalls and bad smells. Remember how the book mentioned that police dogs use their powerful sense of smell to find criminals and lost people? Well other animals use their sense of smell to protect themselves."

"Deer use their sense of smell to protect themselves from predators and hunters. If you observe deer closely you will notice they raise their heads up often and test the air. They constantly smell the air to make sure they are still safe. If they smell danger they know to run and hide; so just as our sense of smell helps us it also helps our animal friends too."  

“Now for today’s exit ticket you need to share with us one item you like to smell and why you like it. For example, I like the smell of baking bread. I like this smell because it reminds me of my grandmother who makes her own bread.”

“When you have shared your smell with us you may 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 a smell they like together.


I use this exit ticket process as a way for the students to analyze what they know about smells and explain a specific smell can make them feel. During integrated work station time they experienced different activities which involved smell in one format or another. This quick assessment process allows me to see if the student is able to take information learned in one format and be able to transfer it to another format.   


In order to assess if my students have successfully understood and retained the information presented in the lesson I evaluate each student by providing them with a task the next day for morning work.

When the students enter the classroom they will see this message on the morning work board, “What helps you to smell? Draw it. Now find and draw four things that smell in this classroom.”

I have my higher performing students label the items they choose to draw – they can either use resources such as the books in book area or they can use phonetic spelling. For my lower performing students I will label their items for them when they bring their science journal over to me to be checked.

When the students come over to me to have their science journal checked I ask them, “How does your sense of smell keep you safe?” I make a note of their response right into their science journal so I have an anecdotal record of their thinking.