Lesson 2

Introduction to Scientific Inquiry: The Eight Essential Science Practices

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SWBAT list and describe the eight essential Science Practices used in scientific inquiry.

Big Idea

What do scientists do, and how do they work? This engaging activity using chant, or rap, provides students with an overview of the eight essential Science Practices specified by the Next Generation Science Standards.

Setting Up The Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students are provided an overview of all 8 Science Practices: Asking Questions; Developing and Using Models; Planning and Carrying Out Investigations; Analyzing and Interpreting Data; Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking; Constructing Explanations; Engaging in Argument from Evidence; and Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information  and the Crosscutting Concepts of Cause and Effect;and Patterns.

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.

Materials Needed:

One set of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Word Wall Cards Lesson 2

One paper copy for each student of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Word Wall Cards Lesson 2

One copy of the The Inquiry Cadence for each student

One copy of the Science and Engineering Practices Poster for each student

One color copy of the Science and Engineering Practices Poster for the classroom

One copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 2 for each student

One copy of What's The Matter Plaid Pete? Vocabulary Practice - Lesson 2 for each student (to be given out for independent practice/group work/ or homework - anytime after this lesson)




Focus & Motivation

10 minutes

Essential Question:  What Does A Scientist Do?

I ask my scientists this question that is posted on my whiteboard, "What does a scientist do?"  I tell them I will give them a minute or two of think time, and then I will ask them to turn and talk to their partner.  After students have had a few moments to think, and then to share with their partners, I list responses on a piece of chart paper.  

I tell students that I would like to share a video with them that was made about some 6th Grade students who were asked the very same question.  I tell them to pay careful attention to how the students in the video answer, because I would like to see if there is anything we missed that we can add to our list.  I show the video, What Do You Think a Scientist Does?.  

Comparing Answers

Then, I ask them to compare the answers from the students in the video with the ones we have listed on the chart, and to notice if there is anything we can add.  I ask them to turn and talk to their partner.  As students are talking, I circulate to make sure each student is sharing.  This is the beginning of the year, so I know I will have some shy ones that need prompting.  When I have seen that all students have had an opportunity to share with their partner, I call on a few students to add additional answers to our list.

I add student ideas to the chart paper list we have created.  I then tell students that, "Wow! - scientists do some pretty amazing things.  However, in order to accomplish these lofty goals (and I will stop to define the word lofty - high achieving - amazing) , scientists have to have a process in place."

Introducing the Big Idea for the Unit:

I lean in and drop my voice a bit and act as though I am telling them a secret.  I say, "It's sort of a big deal, but scientists don't really talk a lot about it.  They have this whole procedure for how they investigate things.  It's amazing really - but scientists all over the world follow the exact same steps.  It doesn't matter what country they are from - the U.S., Russia, India, Mexico - all respected scientists follow the exact same steps!  (I typically insert the countries of origin of the ELL students in my classroom here) Today, I am going to share those steps with you, because you are scientists.  Yep - it's true.  In this class, you are scientists."  

I tell students that this Science Unit that we are beginning has two Big Ideas - ideas that are so big, and so important that I want them to remember them twenty years from now!  The first Big Idea is: 

Scientific Inquiry is the process and practices that scientists engage in to develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas and the natural world.

I have this idea posted so that students can refer to it throughout the unit, and I will refer to it periodically.

Share Learning Objectives and Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can list and describe the 8 essential science practices used in scientific inquiry.

Language Objective:  I can determine and clarify the meaning of unknown academic words in 5th Grade Science text.  [ELP.4-5.8]

Success Criteria:  I can work collaboratively with the class to "translate" the 8 science practices and rewrite them in everyday language.

Vocabulary Instruction

20 minutes

Today's Learning Objective & Success Criteria

I tell students that today, they are going to learn about the eight practices that all respected scientists use.  I tell them that these are called "practices" because scientists don't just know their names, what they involve, and why they are used - they actually use them on a day to day basis.

I share today's learning objective and success criteria that I have posted:  

Learning Objective:  I can list and describe the eight essential science practices used in scientific inquiry.

Success Criteria:  The eight practices are correctly listed, and described correctly in my own words on the lab sheet that I will paste into my Science Notebook.

Introduce Vocabulary

Consistent with the 5E Model of Instruction - The majority of vocabulary instruction in my classroom occurs during the "Explain" or instructional stage.  This ensures that students have the experiential activities that will allow them to connect new vocabulary terms to conceptual understanding.

I tell students that before we begin, I need to give them some vocabulary and definitions that they will need to understand.  I explain that these are words they may be familiar with in other contexts, but that they have special meanings in Science.  I introduce the lesson vocabulary using the What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Word Wall Cards Lesson 2 (In most cases I will introduce the vocabulary after a "hands-on" activity so that they will have experiences to attach the language to, however - today they will need the vocabulary for the activity).

I use the following procedure to introduce new words:

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " Scientists made a model of the hurricane on the computer so they could predict its path and warn those in danger."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebook

After introducing the words, I demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I show them how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box.  I also give them a copy of the word cards.  They will cut those out and place them in an envelope they have glued to the back of the page that they have constructed the table on.  They will use these cards to study the vocabulary, and play vocabulary games like password and concentration with a partner.  They will finish sentences for the remaining seven words for seat-work later.  A finished Student Notebook Page will look like this.

The Inquiry Cadence

I tell students that we all have brains that learn in different ways, and that I know for a fact that some kids in our class learn best when things are put to a rhythm, or to music.  I ask, "How many of you really enjoy listening to music and can say the words of songs to yourself as you are doing something?"  I tell them, "I have the perfect strategy to help you learn the practices that scientists use - It's called "The Inquiry Cadence."  I ask, "Who likes rap songs?"  I tell them, "Well, this is a bit like a rap song.  Let's listen as I show you how to do "The Inquiry Cadence." Then, I pass out The Inquiry Cadence.  I perform the cadence for them, and some of my students are already singing along by the end.

I tell students, "Let's practice this together a few times so we can get the hang of it."  I practice the cadence with students several times.  I ask one student to record The Inquiry Cadence Video for us as we do it again.  This is only our third time, and almost all of my students are really engaging in this activity.  I look across and see that my English Language Learners are singing right along.  When we finish, I ask if anyone notices anything about the words in the cadence, and one of my ELL students responds, "All of our vocabulary words are in there."  That's when I know the cadence has done its job.  They are repeating the vocabulary words, and will need to repeat each one at least 80 times before it becomes a part of their spoken vocabulary.

We continue to practice this, typically on the way to the bus at the end of the day or at some place or time where we don't disturb other classes.



30 minutes

Science & Engineering Practices

I tell students that while the Inquiry Cadence is a fun way to think about the eight essential Science practices, I actually have a poster that is more useful for them.  I show or project the Science and Engineering Practices Poster.  I also provide a black and white copy for each student to fold hamburger style (horizontal fold) and paste inside the front cover of their Science Notebooks.  We chorally read the eight practices together.  I ask my students if anyone understands what these steps mean.  Not a single hand is raised.  I have my work cut out for me.

I explain that although these practices are listed in numerical order, that doesn't mean that scientists follow them in lock-step sequence.   I know that it is important that I explain this, or it will lead to student misconceptions that are difficult to undo later on.

Translating the Science Practices

I hand out What's The Matter Plaid Pete? - Lab Sheet Lesson 2.

I tell students that in order for them to meet the lesson objective, they will need to carefully watch how I read the Science Practice, and then use the vocabulary information presented earlier to "translate" the step, by telling what it means in my own words.  I read the first step, then model for students how I would put that step in my own words, using the information from the vocabulary cards.  I say something like.  

"Hmm . .  the first step is Asking Questions.  I know that asking questions in Science is a little bit different than just asking any old question.  Let me see, the vocabulary card said that a question is "something that can be proven or disproven by experimentation."  That means that Asking Questions really means, Asking a Science Question - one that you can do an experiment about and prove the answer to.  That's what I am going to write here:  1.  Asking Questions - asking a special kind of Science question.  It's the kind of question that you can do an experiment about and prove the answer to.

I allow students to copy this first example.  I ask them to write down the second step, Developing and Using Models.  I call on a student to tell me if there is a Science vocabulary word here that we will need to use to translate this step into our own words.  Hopefully, they will be able to identify that the word, models, is one of our vocabulary words.  

I had originally planned to have students work in pairs to "translate" this next step - but I can see this is not going to happen.  I am noticing that my students are really struggling with this!  When I first asked them if they understood what any of these practices meant in a Science situation - not a single student raised their hand.  

We work through the remaining examples together.  I am finding they need this support.  I know that in future lessons, I will need to review these steps in "kid friendly" language again and again.  When we finish, student notebooks look like this Student Notebook Example

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Pair Share

A few minutes before the period is over, I ask students to meet with a partners to check over their work, making sure they have clearly written each of the "translations" we have worked on together as a class.  They will fold these lab sheets "hamburger style and glue them into their Science Notebooks.  

We will close the lesson with a second rendition of The Inquiry Cadence.