Let's Observe Like a Scientist: Do You See What I See?

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SWBAT analyze and interpret a photograph of light waves and use their observations to create scientific drawing with precision and perseverance.

Big Idea

You can draw like a scientist!! In this lessons students will learn how to create an accurate representations using their observation skills and drawing with precision.

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Standards:

The best way for our young students to learn is by doing.  Young children are naturally curious and this curiosity drives the learning that children experience before even entering school. It is important to allow our students to use this same curiosity and understand that questioning, observing, wondering and discovering are what scientists do all the time. The National Science Education Standards states, "Full inquiry involves asking a simple question , completing an investigation, answering the question, and presenting the results to others." Since science literacy requires that students are actively involved in exploring science in the same way that resembles how scientists go about their everyday work. This lesson allows to students to see that connection to their daily wonderings and observations.

Why Draw in Science?

The art of writing in the early grades involves teaching our students how to write using pictures.  Sketching or drawing helps students to develop observation skills and visual literacy skills.  Visual literacy requires that students observe, compare and contrast, integrate understandings, and think about different science concepts.  Drawing and sketching motivates students to be creative and it allows them to make connections between their observations and their ideas. Drawing is said to increase engagement as well as uncover student misconceptions.

In addition, many scientists will use drawings, photos, diagrams, videos, graphs and visual aids to explain results and help make discoveries. So teaching children to observe and sketch is a great tool for preparing my students to be college and career ready.  Observing and drawing is a tool for guiding students to analyze and interpret data through careful exploration and drawing with precision. 

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this lesson I am introducing light waves though observation. Students will explore using their sense of sight to learn how to observe using pictures of light waves.  This lesson will focus on teaching students how to observe and draw with precision and perseverance while introducing the science vocabulary light waves and beam of light. Students will record their observations and evidence in their scientific journals.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Prior Knowledge Needed:

Students will need to understand the term waves. It is recommended that this unit be taught after my unit on sound.

Home-School Connection:

I LOVE involving parents in the learning in my classroom.  This parent letter is both an introduction to our next two units as well as a request for supplies. Many of the items used to teach this unit are recyclable items so I ask for help from parents and colleagues.



1. Writing/drawing tools: Color pencils, pencils, crayons, etc.

2. science vocabulary

3. Photographs of light waves

4. Science Journals -  I use blank paper in my journals so my students have more space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.


5 minutes

I begin this lesson with all my students sitting on the carpet next to their turn and talk partners.  I put on my white lab coat with a magnifying glass in the pocket and my favorite science goggles.  I ask my students What do I look like? They all yell and laugh!  Then I lean in real close and I ask You are right! I look just like a scientist because today you are going to learn how to draw and sketch just like a scientist. Do you know how to draw pictures? All my students yell out YES!  I want my students to understand that drawing like a scientist requires pictures to look accurate.  I show them two pictures. One picture is a flower that is all blue and the other is a picture of the flower that looks just like the flower in a vase on the counter. Boys and girls which of these two photos look like it was done by a scientist? The children point to the one that looks just like the one taped to my chart.  I lean in real close and ask Why? Please turn with your turn and talk partner and share your thinking.

I record their thinking on our anchor chart about the "Drawing Like a Scientist". Anchor charts are a great tool for making thinking accessible and visual for our learners. They create a culture of literacy and allow the learning to be both relevant and current. My students refer to our anchor charts often and use them to deepen classroom conversations.

I listen for ideas like:

  • It looks just like the flower
  • It is the same size
  • It has labels
  • It has the same bumps and color as the real leaf

I bring the class back together and share the anchor chart. Today you will be doing the exact same thing. Many scientists will use drawings, photos, diagrams, videos, graphs and visual aids to explain results and help make discoveries. You will observe your picture just like a scientist and then you will draw what you see. You will have to pay close attention to the colors, the lines and the size of your picture.  I know this will be hard but when something gets hard you work harder.  Are you ready to draw like scientists?


20 minutes

Attending to precision is a skill that I work on all year with my first grade students. My students watch the video about Austin's Butterfly starting their work today.  I ask my students to look at their pictures the same way that Austin looked at the picture of his butterfly.

I give each child a magnifying glass, their science journal and a pencil.

Boys and girls we have finished our unit on sound energy but we are not done learning about energy.  You are going to LOVE our new unit of study...LIGHT ENERGY!!!  Do you remember when we learned the word sound waves. Sound waves are a type of energy that travels to our ears and into our ear drums.  Well today you are going to learn a new word: Light waves.  Do you know what light waves do? YES! You are right they travel to our eyes and into our brain and our brain tells us what we are seeing.  Today you get to observe photographs of light waves.  Using your magnifying glass you will observe your photo closely. Then you will do a scientific drawing just like Austin.  Right now you are going to only work on making the lines like the lines in your picture and doing your best to make an accurate representation. You will not need to add any color to your picture yet. Today you will need to put on big and brave muscles to give this a go. Are you ready?

Student work samples: 1 2 3

As my students are working I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching.  I encourage my students to do their best and remind them that being a scientist is hard work.  I record my observations on science recording sheet and use this data to drive my teaching.



10 minutes

The common core writing standards asks student to focus on a topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed. I want to model how to attend to precision as well as how to take suggestions from peers to strengthen drawings. I ask for a volunteer to put their picture under the document camera for review. I am sure to pick a child who I know is confident and willing to model how to use ideas for revision.  First I ask my students to share what they like about the picture. Then I ask my students to share ideas for making it look more like the picture.  I want the critiques to be focused on the lines only.

I have the students share their drawings with their Turn and Talk Partners and critique the lines in their drawings. As they are sharing I listen in to the conversations to when we rejoin as a group I share what I heard. 

This video shows two children critiquing each others' work.  This image shows the revisions made from the critique.

Boys and girls you gave your friends some very good critiques about the lines in their drawings.  Now it is time for us to persevere. Perseverance is when you do something that is hard and don't give up.  Remember when we read the book A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman. Frank wanted to fly but he was frog and frogs don't fly.  Did Frank give up? No! He worked and worked and worked. He believed in himself even though it was so hard. Today I want you to go back to your tables and I want you to draw your picture again but this time with a new idea of how to make the lines.  Are you ready to give this a go?


10 minutes

I have the students share their two drawings with their peers.  Then I pass out the color pencils and crayons and ask the students to add color to their drawings.  I remind the children to color like scientists. 

WOW!! You did it! Look at these scientific drawings! These are amazing.  I would like to collect all of your first drawings and you will keep your second drawings.  It is time for you to add color to your drawings. You will add color just like a scientist would add color to a drawing.  Notice the color of my leaf drawing.  We said the blue leaf doesn't look like the leaf taped on the chart because it is blue.  When you are coloring your picture be sure to use the same colors in your photograph.  Are you ready?  Great! Off you go!


10 minutes

Rubrics are an assessment tool that allows students to take ownership of their own learning. I have my students use a rubric to evaluate their own scientific drawings.  The purpose of the Scientific Drawing Rubric is to allow my students to become more aware of the learning process as well as give me insight on a students ability to reflect on his own work. On a my science clipboard, I keep a record of students who are able to persevere with ease as well as who was able to attend to precision.