scientific method unit inquiry
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-Scientific Method Teaching Strategies Unit Guides

SCIENTIFIC METHOD & Inquiry Unit – Teacher’s Guide

Welcome! This post has been written with the intention of helping you plan an engaging and comprehensive Scientific Method Unit for your middle school science class. If you’re arriving to this page from somewhere other than the Teachers Pay Teachers site, this is the product that this guide was written for. Here’s how I teach using these resources:

ENDURING UNDERSTANDINGS IN THIS SCIENTIFIC METHOD UNIT

  • Scientists are normal people who want to know more about the world.
  • Scientists use tools to sharpen their observational abilities
  • Scientists use a systematic process to test their ideas and the relationships between variables.
  • Scientists are imperfect and make mistakes.
  • Scientists create models and graphs to represent phenomena and relationships more simply.

Resources Included in This Scientific Method Unit

TEACH

  • What is Science Google Slides Lesson
    Spark students’ interest in science with this unit opening presentation on the nature of science. Students participate often in brainstorming parts of science and what qualities are important in a scientist. Many interesting anecdotes about the history of science are provided to keep students engaged and excited. Follow up with this guided reading as an extension or homework.
    Note: This presentation will soon be updated to Google Slides. It’s on my short list to be completed before the start of the 2021-22 school year.
  • Scientific Method Google Slides Lesson
    Use this lesson to introduce the scientific method. This resource emphasizes that the scientific method is a common procedure used by anyone who has a problem to solve. If possible, bring in some food coloring to demonstrate the steps along side the presentation with a simple experiment testing how the number of drops affects the color of the water.
    After this presentation, follow up with this guided reading for extension or homework. The dog, goose, and bag of corn activity could be a great application activity at this time as well.

After some general instruction on the scientific method, I like to dive in deeper. I generally divide this lesson into two days: one for questions and the second for hypotheses. Teach two key steps of the scientific method: asking questions (an NGSS SEP) and writing a hypothesis with this 23 slide Google Slide presentation. It’s not safe to assume that you’re students will automatically be able to ask strong questions or write a good scientific hypothesis, but after this presentation they should walk away with a much stronger understanding of the purpose of the scientific method.

This first half of presentation covers what kinds of questions science can and cannot answer, empirical evidence, and how to ask good, testable questions.
The second half covers what a good hypothesis looks like and a lot of practice in identifying relationships between variables.

By now, students should have a pretty good idea about variables, but you’ll definitely need several days to explicitly teach the differences between independent variables, dependent variables, and controls and how to identify them. Again, I would split this lesson into two dys. Each concept is introduced with a definition and reinforced with several examples, student practice questions, and open ended questions.

After this lesson, follow up with this guided reading. After going over the reading, you can use this activity as a fun assessment, group work, or even add on a presentation element and make it a summative project!

I also have a Minecraft themed practice worksheet that can be used to emphasize variables and controls.

Don’t forget to include reading graphs as well in this unit. I’d suggest doing it around this time as an extension of the variables section.

Hopefully, if your students have been pretty tuned in to the content up to this point, they may already beginning to have some thoughts of their own about bias and experimental error. This presentation will support some of the ideas they may already have about ways that scientists can make mistakes and skew their results.
After this lesson, follow up with this guided reading. Having now covered the bulk of the content in this unit, you can also use the scientific investigations worksheet or the color by number activity questions to review.

Note: This presentation will soon be updated to Google Slides. It’s on my short list to be completed before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

While you’re teaching about all the things that a scientist does, don’t forget to throw in a lesson on modeling. This is an NGSS SEP and I definitely find that my students cannot create good models without some direct instruction on the front end. Throughout the year, you may ask students to create a variety of models to show their understanding of various phenomena, so this lesson is a great place to reference.
Perhaps follow this lesson with a simple activity in which students create models of something like their room, their neighborhood, or even an old science standard like the water cycle or parts of an atom. Prompt students to examine the model to find its benefits and limitations.

ACTIVITIES

  • Dog, Goose, & Bag of Corn Activity
    I like to stress to my students that we apply the scientific method in our lives all the time, even when we don’t realize it. This activity is a fun, no prep way to get the kids in problem solving mode. They’ll be prompted to compare the steps they take with the steps of the scientific method. Everyone can do science!

PRACTICE

  • What is a Scientist Guided Reading
    Great for the beginning of the year! Use this guided reading to emphasize the fact that anyone can be a scientist!!! Science is for everyone and can be done by everyone! With 3 pages of guided reading and 1 full reflection page, students are prompted to think about the qualities of a scientist and how they can embody these in their every day life. Includes the qualities: curious, creative, open minded, persistent, competitive.
  • Science Tools Activities
    This activity can be used at really any point in this unit. It includes a guided reading, graphic organizer, quiz, foldable, and card sort. If possible, use these activities along side some hands on experience with the equipment, even if it’s just to practice accurate measuring.
  • Scientific Method Guided Reading
    Use this after the scientific method presentation, or before if you want a flipped classroom. I’ve often used these readings in class to work on close reading skills. You could also use this assignment as a station or a square on a choice board. If you use interactive notebooks, then I’d suggest printing these pages in a half size and gluing them in as an easy reference.
  • Variables & Controls Guided Reading
    Use this after the variables and controls presentation, or before if you want a flipped classroom. I’ve often used these readings in class to work on close reading skills. You could also use this assignment as a station or a square on a choice board. If you use interactive notebooks, then I’d suggest printing these pages in a half size and gluing them in as an easy reference.
  • Variables & Controls with Ads
    Take it one step further with this extension activity. Students must find magazine (or perhaps internet pop ups these days!) ads that advertise with an independent/dependent variable kind of slogan. “If you take _____, you’ll get _____ results!” This could be an extension for your students who get it early on, or it could be something you do with the whole class. I’d advise bringing in some examples for lower students to pick from.
  • Minecraft Scientific Investigations Worksheet
    My experience has always been that it takes kids a little while to master the concept of independent and dependent variables, so give them another shot at it with this fun Minecraft themed practice!
  • Drawing Conclusions from Graphs Worksheet
    As another extension to variables, I like to give my students some practice with graphs. As you know, the x and y axis of most scientific graphs represent the independent and dependent variables of the investigation. This activity can really give your kids a leg up when it comes to standardized testing!
  • Creating Graphs
    I have often found that my students are seriously lacking when it comes to collecting and analyzing data. After we feel confident reading graphs, I like to give my students a chance to work on creating their own. Taking some time during your inquiry unit to reinforce graphing skills is a great opportunity to not only collaborate with the math teachers in your school, but also to review variables once again. This resource will work either online or with pencil and paper.
  • Bias & Experimental Error Guided Reading
    Use this after the bias & error presentation, or before if you want a flipped classroom. I’ve often used these readings in class to work on close reading skills. You could also use this assignment as a station or a square on a choice board. If you use interactive notebooks, then I’d suggest printing these pages in a half size and gluing them in as an easy reference.
  • Scientific Investigations Worksheet
    This resource is a great way to combine all the skills involved in this unit. Students will answer questions pertaining to all parts of a scientific investigation and defend their answers. This could be a good opportunity to throw in a little group work, allowing students to work in pairs or groups of 3.
  • Color by Number – Scientific Investigations
    If you need a sub day, or just a day to relax, then this is the resource for you! Coloring is a great way to find a chance to unwind with your students and work on building relationships. This resource makes a great review or could be used as an easy to check assessment.

ASSESS

  • Scientific Inquiry Quiz
    Any time after you’ve taught bias, it’s safe to give this quick formative quiz. Use it when you feel you need some feedback, possibly before or after the investigations practice.
  • Scientific Inquiry Study Guided & Unit Test
    Last but certainly not least, the study guide and the test. I always provide a study guide, but I don’t create an answer key. I believe that this prepares the students for the assessment without spoon feeding them them the information. Hopefully, your students will feel well prepared for this assessment by the completion of this unit!

FINAL PROJECT

  • The Science Fair
    Don’t skip this classic project that gives kids a chance to be a scientist! Skills reinforced by this project: designing and planning an investigation, identifying independent and dependent variables, control groups, and constants, creating data tables and graphs, drawing conclusions from data, and writing a lab report (optional). This project takes about 3 weeks to complete, and can be done virtually or in person.

Concepts Covered BY this Unit

Concept 1: What is Science

Key Ideas

  • Science is a way of discovering the natural world.
  • Science is open to revision.
  • Anyone can be a scientist.
  • Scientific Modeling

Resources

Concept 2: Scientific Method

Key Ideas

  • Steps of the Scientific Method
  • Independent variables
  • Dependent variables
  • Constant
  • Control Group

Resources

Concept 3: Bias & Error

Key Ideas

  • Bias
  • Experimental Error

Resources

Concept 4: Data Analysis & Graphing

Key Ideas

  • Science Tools
  • Creating Graphs
  • Reading Graphs

Resources

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