Scientists Use Tools to Observe~ Hand Lenses

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Objective

SWBAT make observations of nature.

Big Idea

"Wow! Look what I found!" Today your first grade scientists will use hand lenses to make observations in the schoolyard.

Instructional Notes

In the previous lesson, I introduced students to the Essential Question: What does a scientist do?  In this lesson, students will begin using the scientific process of observing using their senses.  Namely, students will use sight to observe through a hand lens.  Since this is the first time students will use hand lenses, I always give a mini-lecture on it being a tool, not a toy!  I review the Essential Question Anchor Chart, say that today we'll observe with our senses, and finally add a new topic to the chart-- Scientists Use Tools.  

I also establish a procedure about how students will get out and/or return hand lenses to a designated bin... but I won't give away the word hand lens yet!  I want to see if a student already knows it!

Making observations is a key Science Practice (SP3), and here students are carrying out an investigation of the schoolyard.  They will also be constructing explanations (SP6) of what they saw.  I want to see how students are communicating to share their ideas, or, how they are explaining through drawing and writing.

Finally, I'll make a "Discovery Bin" in my classroom for specimens that students bring in for further viewing pleasure!

Materials

Warm-up

5 minutes

To warm-up today, I pass out hand lenses.  I don’t want to give a lot of explanation at this point, because I want to see if students can figure out how to use them. 

I am going to add "Scientists use tools" to our anchor chart.  Now, not chainsaws and hammers!  But tools like these (show a hand lens).  Please don't say what it is!  I am going to pass out this science tool.  Take the next five minutes to explore how you might use this tool as a scientist.  

Students are free to explore the classroom with their hand lenses.  I look to see who might be able to explain how to use it properly and if anyone is using the word, “observe.”  I also generally want to see what their curiosity leads them to discover!

Exploration

20 minutes

While I play a transition song, students bring their hand lenses to the rug.  I like this little chant, to make sure my friends aren't playing with the hand lenses once we're on the rug:

Open, shut them.  Open, shut them.  (Opening and closing hands) Give a great big clap.  Open, shut them.  Open, shut them.  Put them in your lap. (Now all hands are folded in their laps.)

I start with a discussion. Discussion is so important!  It gives *all* students the chance to process the question, get their ideas together, and practice listening and speaking skills.  Discussion also works wonders for your shy students!  Plus, if there isn't a lot of excited discussion, that's a clue to me that I need to build a bit more background knowledge.  

Students turn-and-talk, and then I call on a few students to share with the larger group.  Hint:  While students discuss, I first make sure that everyone found a partner.  Then, I try to listen in on a few conversations or ask additional questions to try to deepen the conversation.  Here are our discussion questions:

What do you think this tool is used for?  (Observing, seeing things up close)

How could you tell? (When I moved it close to something, I saw it zoomed in!)

Next, I want a student to tell the steps to use a hand lens.  I assist any students with eye disorders or vision issues that I know of, and also any student I saw during the warm-up who didn’t look like they’d figured it out.  Sometimes it's hard for kids to realize that by moving the hand lens closer or farther away from their eye, the items come into focus.

Then, I define the words observing, or making observations.  By defining these words, I give students access to science-specific vocabulary.  I also connect to the Science Practices.  I’ll add “making observations” to the Essential Question Anchor Chart:  What does a scientist do? 

Lastly, now that students know the purpose of the hand lens, I tell them that we’ll go outside for a 10 minute-or-so schoolyard walk.  Students will use the hand lenses to observe, and they will list or draw at least 5 things they observed in their Science Journal.  I model recording an object on my desk, to show how to draw accurately and label the item.  (Just in case you don’t have Science Journals, I also included a response page here in the Materials section.  Blank paper works just fine too!) 

While students are recording, I note who is using labels, boxes, or other techniques that will help others understand what he/she observed.  I will pull those journals during the warm-up in tomorrow’s lesson to show successful strategies for recording.

Hint:  During the walk, I encourage students who find neat rocks or leaves to bring them back into the classroom.  I’ll put out a Discovery Bin and keep hand lenses close by, so that students can practice observing as morning work!

Here are some student work samples:

Student Work #1 This friend used words and pictures. I will talk with him about connecting the words to the pictures, to help us understand what particular pictures are.

Student Work #2 This student is going to be shown as exemplary work! The words match each picture, and you can see how much effort he put in. I asked for 5 items, and there are so many here!

Student Work #3 This friend only drew pictures. I know what they are, since I was there, but in reflection tomorrow we will talk about how other people may not be able to tell. I will ask, "How can we help other people understand our drawings?" This work actually belongs to one of my highest-performing students. I am confident that once he is shown the expectation and learns to self-monitor, he will be unstoppable!

Student Work #4 This is exemplary work. I will use it to talk about using boxes to separate our ideas or observations and organize our work. There are also pictures to explain each drawing, including descriptive words like "red" roses.

Closing

5 minutes

In closing, students turn-and-talk to answer the question:

How were we scientists today?  

I picked this question because I really want students to start connecting themselves to the Science and Engineering Practices (the blue box on the NGSS standards).  

If you've got the time, students can record their responses to this question in their Science Journal.  I'm just going to complete it orally, though, because I love taking my students outdoors to explore... so I won't have time to write too!

Today’s formative assessment is for the science practices of observation and recording.  Here is the criteria I'm looking for:

  • Was the student able to observe using a hand lens?
  • Was the student able to record his/her observations using pictures or words?