When the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: Is it important to have a materials and procedures list prior to conducting an experiment? Why or why not?
As the students work on their journals, I circulate through the room reading their responses in order to have a better understanding of how to steer the follow up discussion. Once the students have had an opportunity to record their thoughts, I ask for volunteers to share their journals with the class. In general, the students note that it is important to have a materials list and a procedures list. When answering why it is important to have such lists, I ask questions to elicit such responses as "so other people can do the same experiment." Generally, the students have a good understanding of the fact that in order for an experiment to be valid, specific procedures must be set and followed, but sometimes they have difficulty articulating such a response.
After developing consensus on the importance of having a materials list and a procedures list, I have the students explain how these items should be developed. To facilitate this process of criteria charting, I ask the students to look through their binders to find experiments we previously conducted in class, some of which required the students to develop their own materials list and procedures list. I have them look specifically at the materials lists first. As a class, we develop a list of characteristics for the materials list. I write this list on the board and have the students write the list in their notes.
Once the students have listed all of the characteristics of the materials list, we move on to discuss the procedures list. The students look through their lab sheets and begin discussing the characteristics of a good procedures list. Again, I facilitate the discussion by asking the students to explain their answers and I write their final thoughts on the board. The students are also taking notes about our discussion.
In order to help the students review the information they have written, I jot down a materials list on the board and I ask the students to point out its deficiencies and to explain how the list should be created. I do the same thing for the procedures list. It is important to note that I ask the students to write down a corrected version of each list prior to sharing their answers with the class. As the students write, I move around the room to check their understanding.
The students then spend the next portion of class working on their materials and procedures list either by themselves or with a partner (SP3 - Planning and Carrying Out Investigations). As the students work, I meet with them regarding the variables and hypothesis for their experiment. During these meetings, I also address students' issues with the materials and procedures lists. These brief meetings allow me to curb student misunderstandings and save me and the students time in the long run. For example, in this materials and procedures student example I explain to the student that she would need to be precise and write exact brands and measurements for the gelatin.
Additional information for developing a materials list and a procedures list as well as examples of each can be found on the Science Buddies website. I post a materials and procedures list - double check on classroom.google.com for students to refer to as a means to double check their own lists.
At the end of the lesson, I ask the students to take the instructions they have written and share them with another student. Once they have exchanged lists, either by sharing the document via Google Docs or by trading computer screens, I ask the students to read through the materials and procedures list to see if they understand what materials are needed and how the experiment is to be conducted. I then have the students meet together and discuss any portions of the lists that do not make sense. One of the helpful parts of having the students share a Google Doc containing the information is that they are able to type directly onto the document and save their changes, or make comments in the margins.
This video demonstrates how this process works in Google Docs.