What is the Scientific Method?

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SWBAT identify the steps of the scientific method and place them in the proper order.

Big Idea

Students race to put the steps of the scientific method in order first.

Rationale & Set Up

The Why Behind Teaching It:

Science comes to life through hands on experiments and investigations.  It is possible to teach the majority of the standards through experimentation which makes learning fun for students.  The scientific method is directly linked to standard 3-5-ETS1-3, which requires students to plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled.   The process will also be used with just about every other set of standards throughout the year. 

Goal of Lesson:

The goal of today’s lesson is to provide students with knowledge about the steps scientists follow to conduct an experiment and for students to be able to identify these steps in real world situations. 

Criteria for Success:

Students will demonstrate understanding of the scientific method by identifying the steps in a real experiment on the exit slip provided. 

Preparation for Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • Copy the scientific method foldable for each student.  The foldable is copied and folded so that the printed words are on the inside.  It is precut so that there are six flaps on the front, three on each side.  I always precut foldables for the students to save time. 
  • I create a blank anchor chart with a heading and a large version of the foldable above taped on the front. 

Guided Practice:

  • Large sheet of contruction paper trifolded.
  • Seven laminated experiment strips with magnetic strips on the back. I copy the Experiment guided practice strips, cut them smaller, glue them onto construction paper, and then laminate them and add the magnetic strips.  


  • Five small trifold boards already set up with 14 pieces of Velcro on each, one board or each group.  There are velcro strips in place for the headings that match those inside the foldable, and a piece of velcro below each of those spots for headings. 
  • Five sets of the experiment headings, experiment practice strips set 1, experiment practice strips set 2, and experiment practice strips set 3 copied and laminated with the connecting side of the Velcro on the back of each of these.  I laminate everything so it can be reused year after year, as well as to ensure they don’t rip when students are removing them.

Wrap Up:

Warm Up

15 minutes

Anchor Chart and Foldable to Introduce Steps:

I begin today’s lesson by passing out a scientific method foldable to each student.  The foldable is prepared as described in the preparation section above. 

I have a blank anchor chart already started with a heading and a larger version of the foldable created for them, taped on the front. 

I begin the anchor chart by labeling the first flap “Step 1: Ask a Testable Question”.  Students already know that anything I record on the anchor chart they are copying onto their foldable. We discuss what the word testable means.  I give a couple examples and ask if each is an example or nonexample of a testable question.  The examples I use are:

               1. Which color of rose smells the best?

               2. Which color of rose attracts the most bees?

               3. Are fifth grade girls or fifth grade boys taller?

               4. Does running in place for 30 seconds increase heart rate?

After our short discussion, I fill in the second flap with “Step 2: Form a Hypothesis”.  I ask what a hypothesis is and many students are able to tell me.  I inform them that they should be writing their hypothesis in a cause and effect statement.  In fifth grade we use the phrase “If I ______________, then I hypothesize___________ will happen.” 

I move on to write “Step 3: Plan Experiment” in the third flap.  I explain that this is the most important step to allow other people to repeat your experiment.  Your plan must include a detailed list of materials, and a detailed list of steps, or procedure, you will follow to conduct the experiment.  I make sure students are aware that they want other people to be able to repeat their experiment, by following their steps exactly as they completed them. The other person should get the same results from following these steps. 

The fourth flap is labeled with “Step 4: Conduct Experiment and Record Data”.  I remind students of the importance of organizing their data so that it is easy to analyze.  Data charts are used to help organize our work. 

“Step 5: Analyze Data and Draw Conclusions” is written in the fifth flap.  We discuss what the word analyze means as well as the word conclusion.  We decide together that this step means to look at the data and see what happened.  I inform them that they should be restating their hypothesis and telling what evidence they collected to support it. 

The final flap is labeled with “Step 6: Communicate Results”.  I tell students we will be communicating our results through graphs and will be working on graphing tomorrow. 

On the completed anchor chart there are pictures next to each flap of the foldable related to our discussion.  I added these as we discussed each step.  This can be done later if you do not feel comfortable drawing quick pictures. 

Guided Practice

15 minutes

With our anchor chart and front of the foldable complete, it is time to practice identifying these steps.  I have a large sheet of construction paper, trifolded like the foldable, but it is not cut to make six flaps, hanging on the whiteboard.  There are also seven magnetic strips, (Experiment guided practice strips), on the front whiteboard, each with one of the steps completed for a real experiment.  The steps are all out of order and are not labeled.

Picture of magnetic experiment strips

I ask students to identify which of the strips would fit step one.  I do not ask which shows a question because it makes them think about what step one is, then find the strip that matches.  When students identify the question correctly, I have them come move it to the correct location on the large sheet of construction paper (inside, top left).  I instruct students to open the first flap of their foldable which is labeled question, and they will see the heading “Question” already there for them.  I ask what makes a good question for an experiment.  This is checking for understanding from the warm up as well as allowing students who need that repetition to hear it, and see it, again.   When a student answers that it has to be testable, I record on the inside flap of the anchor chart and they record in the same location on their foldable. 

Next, I ask which magnetic strip is step two.  A student selects the correct one, and comes up to move it to the large sheet of construction paper in the correct place (inside, left, middle).  Again I ask for clarification on how a hypothesis should be written, and we open our foldables to record this information. 

We continue the same process for steps 3 – 6.



20 minutes


Students glue their foldable into their science notebooks, and close their science notebooks when they are finished so I know they are ready for today’s activity.  

While students are gluing in their foldables, I pass out one trifold board (prepared with velcro as indicated in the prepration section) and a set of experiment headings labels to each group.  As I pass them out, I tell students not to touch them until I give them directions. 

Group Races

When I see all students are finished gluing, and have their notebooks closed, I explain that they will be organizing some experiment strips for real experiments just as we did for the guided practice activity.  I make this activity a race against all other groups, two points will be awarded for the first group to get it correct, and one point for each group that gets it correct after.  I instruct them to raise quiet hands when they have finished and I will come over to check their work. 

The first thing I have them organize are the headings for each step.  I ask them to put these in the correct location on their boards.  Students all start at the same time and I circulate while they work.  When hands begin going up, I mark on the board which team was 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on.  I have found that if I try to check the first team and they miss it, I usually don’t know which group’s hands went up 2nd or 3rd and it leads to arguments so I just wait to check until all groups are finished.  I check the first team by holding up their board and reading off where they have each label.  They have it correct and get two points.  I circulate to quickly check all other groups, and award each one that got it correct with one point. 

Students putting headings on

I have students leave the headings on the board for the next 3 races.  Next, I pass out the experiment practice strips set 1 to each group.  When all groups have a set, I tell them to read through each one, figure out which step of the process it is, and place it in the correct position on the board.  I remind them to raise quiet hands when they finish.  After giving the ok to begin, I circulate until I see hands going up, at which point I begin noting the order on the board. After all groups finish, I hold up the board from the first group finished and read off each step to check for correctness.  After checking, I circulate to quickly check the other groups.  As I am checking other groups I am having students give me some information about key words, or other items that helped them identify the steps quickly.  They said the if, then statement in the hypothesis, the question mark at the end of step one,  and the phrase "after conducting" in the conclusion.  While I award points on the board, I ask groups to remove the experiment practice strips and shuffle them.  I remind them not to remove the headings. 

Students putting experiment steps on

I collect the set one strips, and pass out experiment practice strips set 2.  We do the same race process for this set and then for experiment practice strips set 3 as well. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Connecting It to the Real World Through Reading

After the last race, students remove both the experiment practice strips, and the headings from their boards.  The person I call on from each group brings those items, along with their board to the front table.  While they return those materials, I ask students how many of them have ever heard of the five second rule for dropping food on the ground.  Just about every hand in the room goes up.  I ask how many of them believe that rule to be true.  I pass out a Time For Kids Article "Testing the Five Second Rule" and explain that scientists actually tested the rule to find the answer. 

I explain that this is a great real world situation where the scientific method was used.  I pass out an applying the scientific method exit slip to each student.  They will read the short article, and then answer the questions on the exit slip as they appear in the article.  After they complete the exit slip, they turn it into the basket.  I can use this to check for individual understanding on knowledge of the steps, as well as their ability to apply the knowledge to various real world situations.

All students are encouraged to use their reading strategies such as underlining information, jotting down notes in the margin, etc.  I do have several students who are reading below grade level, and although they are tested in reading on a fifth grade level, they have reading as an accommodation for science on their IEP's.  Any student with this accommodation is pulled to my small group table, so that I can read the passage for them. By pulling them to the side, it eliminates distraction for the other students, and allows me to face the other students in the class to scan the room for talking and in case others have questions.