Oh Kitty, What's That?

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SWBAT to use all their senses to make observations by observing and determining what the mystery item presented to them really is.

Big Idea

Young children need to learn how to understand their senses and how to use them together in order to make connections and strong observations.


10 minutes

Before the kids come in from lunch, I run to the classroom and put a cylindrical chocolate cookie on a napkin at each student’s seat.


one box of chocolate cake mix*

1/4 cup butter

3 oz cream cheese

1 egg

white sparkle gel

*use 1/4 of flour if you live at an altitude greater than 3500 ft

1) preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) blend butter, cream cheese and egg

3) add cake mix, blend well

4) scoop one tablespoon of dough, roll into log or spiral shape

5) place on ungreased cookie sheet, refrigerate for 15 min

6) bake 7-9 minutes

7) cool completely, brush with sparkle gel using a pastry brush

What I do:

I gather the kids on the floor as we enter from the playground. I sit in the story telling chair and look glum. The kids ask me what's wrong and I tell them about how upset I am with my kitty:

My kitty, Jack, has been very naughty lately. He's been forgetting to use his kitty box and I'm tired of cleaning up after him. Do you know what that means?

One student says I have to give him away. I say, "Well I might, but I'm not going to right now. But, why do you think I have to give him away?" The student says, "Because he's going potty on the floor instead of his box."

I say, "Yes he is, and it makes me sad, but we need to get on to science so let's do that." I do this to "plant a seed in their minds" for this lesson.

The Science:

I quickly review with the kids what it means to observe something. I tell the kids about a time when I was their age when I was going on a trip with my mom and dad and we were driving on a highway through a desert. It was really hot! The whole time we were driving, I thought there were big puddles of water on the road in front of us. Each time we got close to where I thought I saw the puddles, I discovered that they were not really there! My eyes were "tricking" me!!

I then tell them that I brought something for them to observe, but it was hard to bring to school. I instruct them to NOT touch the object when I send them to their tables until I tell them because they might get a big surprise if they do and it won’t be a good one (this helps lead the kids into thinking the cookie at their spot is cat poop).  I explain that they will be using all of our senses today to observe the object and determine what it is.

The kids are asked to sit at their tables and I again tell them NOT to interact with the object YET. I send each table group one at a time to sit with their hands in their laps to wait for instructions.

This is the bait and hook of the lesson. Once they sit down, they are stunned, but they can't move. I absolutely love the reaction my class has every year!


10 minutes

Once they are seated, I ask the kids what they think they see.

The girls are always the first to say, “Ew! It’s poop!” I love that part. I ask them why they think it is poop. We list all the reasons they share on chart paper.  At this point, they are only using their sense of basic sight to determine what the object is.

They have me list:



maybe hard

maybe dry


crunchy looking

I ask them what they think the object might be. Someone says, "I think it's poop." I tell them, "Yup, it does look like poop." They all yell, "Ew!!" I tell them that we are going to make sure that our observation is correct because sometimes an observation can be proven incorrect and we have to be sure it is what we think it is.


15 minutes

The kids are asked to wear gloves throughout the duration of the observation. It keeps the excitement high.  They are first asked to view the object with a magnifying glass. I ask them to tell me what they see. I make a branch chart for the object and I list what they say under “see.”

When we exhaust sight, we move to sound. We listen to see if the object makes any sound. We list anything that we hear. If we hear nothing, we list “none” under the heading.

The kids then touch it with gloves on. I always have some kids object, but they eventually do it. We write down the words that they give me for touch.

We then move to smell. The kids really resist this one! They don’t want to smell it and then the brave one of the bunch steps forward. They all, or most, end up smelling it and get a pleasant surprise! It smells like chocolate!! We record that on our tree map.

The last one is taste! Woohoo! Now that they've tasted it, they realize it is really a chocolate cookie!

It’s important to understand that your young students have never had a specific full sense guided science observation before this lesson. Therefore, it is vital that you be clear and focused on the senses individually and collectively while delivering this lesson. This lesson helps the children learn how to specifically integrate all the senses into a valid and beneficial observation of a single object.

Practice 3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials) to those that emerge from students’ own questions. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 61).


5 minutes

I ask the kids if they can explain what they think just happened when we were observing the cookie.

For this question I take volunteers because there is is such a variety of levels that can approach an answer to this question. A non-experienced child could say, on a very basic level, I thought it was poop, but it wasn't. An more experienced child could say, when I only used my eyes I thought it was poop, but when I used my nose and mouth I found out it was a chocolate cookie!

I accept anything that leads us to the understanding that using our senses together can create a different observation experience than when we use them separately. Encouraging this kind of discussion is important because the students get much more out of learning first hand on their own than from us telling them. It is worth the extra time to probe and ask for more information than to save a few minutes and just tell them.

Once they have come to the understanding as a group that using the senses together brings a richer and more accurate learning experience, I explain to them that the senses are designed to work together - sight and sound/taste, touch and smell.

I also explain that if you lose a sense, one of the other senses will enhance and become stronger. One of my students said that his grandma can't see anymore, but she can hear everything!

Wow! You never know when they are going to make connections!


10 minutes

I have the kids gather back on the floor. I do this by having the table leaders collect all the trash from their tables and throwing it away. I then call each table to the floor one at a time.

For writing, they are in a whole-group with support generating a piece of informational text. For reading, they are responding to the informational text they created by drawing an illustration of what they had me write for them. I leave this information posted in the room for the remainder of the science unit.

When we are finished, I have the kids line up for music as I check their work in their draft book. I do this one table at a time beginning with my strongest table to avoid behavior issues while lining up. I save my bounciest table for last.