To begin the lesson, I ask students to review the lab worksheets they completed for all of the labs throughout our land and water unit. I ask them to identify any lingering questions that they have about their experiments. This review of labs highlights for the students the key content they have learned and activates their previous thinking about topics they are curious about. During this time, I encourage my students to take notes on questions they have about the labs we conducted, specifically focusing on their "I wonder" questions.
I then distribute a copy of the testable questions lab recording sheet to each student. I ask them to record the questions they uncovered during their lab review on the sheet. Recording their own questions serves two purposes; first, students understand that their thinking and intellectual curiosity are valued. Second the students create a questions bank upon which they can draw as they design their own experiment.
I then review with students the types of questions that they may have recorded as a part of their work on this lab. I divide the questions into three categories; research questions (which can be answered using a resource), testable questions that can be tested in our classroom, and testable questions which are not able to be tested in a practical way in the classroom setting. I make sure to inform students that all three question types are valid, but that only some are able to be answered through a controlled experiment in a classroom setting. A photo of my whiteboard notes on question types can be found here.
I then provide time for students to work through their question list and sort their questions into the three types. I ask students to put a star by the testable questions, to put an R by the research questions, and and a ? by the questions that are testable, but not practical for the classroom environment. This sorting activity helps students narrow their focus on questions that may be of interest to their group.
I then ask each student to select a testable question and to create an argument for why the group should select their question.
After each student has created their argument for the use of their testable questions, I ask students to share their questions and persuasive speeches with their science group. I aks each group to choose a testable question that they would like to design an experiment around.
When each group has selected a testable question, I ask students to share their questions with the class. I record the questions on the board. This allows me to ensure that each group has chosen an appropriate, testable question. I also ask additional questions of each group during their sharing time to help them think critically about the experiment that they will design. I frequently ask about manipulated and controlled variables, what data would be appropriate to record, and what new materials they may need to conduct the experiment.