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How to Teach Your Students to Design an Experiment

It is time-consuming and exhausting, but well worth the effort!

The bottom line here is that students must learn to write and carry out an experiment of their own design.  Major problem:  A truly well designed experiment takes time.  It takes time for the teacher to teach the student "HOW" to design the experiment, it takes a lot of time for the student to actually design the experiment, and then it takes more time for the student to carry out the experiment.

I think this is an important skill and well worth the effort.  But if you decide to go this route with your students, be prepared for the fact that it will take much preparation and teaching on your part.

Okay, so where do you start?  The first step is to make sure that the student is well-grounded in the scientific method.  This means the student has to be able to do more than write down the steps to the scientific method.  They have to be able to APPLY the scientific method to a problem or a question.

I can help with that.  I have a free PowerPoint, complete with notes for the teacher and the student, that you can download for free.  Click this link for FREE download:  Scientific Method PowerPoint and Notes.

The next step is to have the students practice writing a lab procedure.  I love this activity:  Give the students some building materials.  They can be old legos, tinker toys, paper clips, styrofoam peanuts.  Any type of items will do.  Each student takes their building materials and builds some sort of structure or device.  They then have to describe, in writing, how to build their device.  The students swap written descriptions and try to build their lab partners device from the written description.  This activity is also a free download.  Click this link for FREE download:  Can You Write A Lab Procedure.

Now it is time for the student to design their own experiment from beginning to end.  Start with something simple....something VERY simple. For our first effort, I had my students design an experiment to test the effect of different quantities of water on the germination of radish seeds. Simple , right?  It turned out to be such a great idea!  There are limited options for the students and no advanced knowledge about the topic was needed. 

Radishes were a great choice!  They germinated within 24 hours, and I allowed my students to observe their germination rate every day for three days.  I had my students complete a lab report in which they had to design and complete the following:

  • State a hypothesis that is testable.
  • Write out detailed steps to their procedure.
  • Determine the independent and the dependent variables.
  • Include a description of their control and how it served as a control.
  • Include a description of their experimental groups.
  • Identify factors that must remain constant throughout the experiment.
  • Design a data table.
  • Graph their germination rates.
  • Form a conclusion based on the data gathered.
Below are a few pictures that I took during the lab activity:

Our science students need to develop this skill.  Take the time in your class to teach experimental design.  It is well worth the effort!

Here are the links to the radish seed experiment as well as a few other labs I do in which the student must design their own experiment.

Middle School Bundle of Products!! Great for Back to School!

Are you really ready for Back to School?  So many things to plan for... reading, writing, math, science, social studies, the arts!  Well, I have teamed up with some other amazing sellers and Educents to help you get ready with this amazing deal!

27 Back to School items for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade range students!  

Here's my contribution the bundle:

Cell Structure and Function PowerPoint with Notes for Teacher and Student

This product is perfect for any biology or life science class.  The lessons cover all aspects of cell structure and function.  Great photographs and fun graphics keep the students engaged.

All together there are over 900 pages in this bundle to keep your student/s learning throughout the year!   
Check out all the other great bloggers and what they are offering by clicking on their links below!

Click here to head on over to Educents to take advantage of this limited time bundle to get your 6th, 7th, and 8th graders ready for success!

Significant Digits Help!

What can you do when kids don't get it?

Each year when I teach significant digits to my chemistry classes, I feel like I am banging my head against a wall!  Most of my students will diligently learn the rules for determining the number of significant digits in a measurement.   They can look at 50.00 and tell me that it has 4 significant digits.  But I always get the feeling that some of them never really understand why they are learning these rules and what they mean.

In an effort to help my students grasp the concept, I started doing this significant digit lab each year.  The materials list is super simple: a wood block, three different balances, and three different rulers.  Students begin by measuring the length, width and height of their wood block using a diagram of three different rulers.

They are frustrated by the first ruler.  They don't like having to estimate!  I quickly get the students to understand that the first ruler has only one significant digit, the second ruler has two, and the third ruler has 3.  They use the measured length, width, and height to determine the volume.

Next students get the mass of their wood block using three different balances.

Now that the volume and the mass is known, students must calculate the density of the wood block to one significant digit, two significant digits, and three significant digits.  We then calculate the percent error, using our three-significant-digit density as the true value.  Wow!  Kids quickly realize how important significant digits are to a measurement.

Throw in an additional page of practice problems on rounding and calculating with significant digits, and I'll call this day a success!  I hope you are off to a great school year.  I'd love to hear your ideas on significant digits!

Common Core Back-to-School eBooks!

The Common Core State Standards Back-to-School eBooks

Packed with Tips and Freebies!

Welcome back to school, teachers!  Many of us have already started back to school, and many of you will soon join us. The implementation of Common Core standards is weighing heavily on many teachers as we return to the classroom this fall.

These Common Core eBooks are just the ticket to help you get started. Over the summer, over 200 teacher/authors submitted pages for the eBooks.  There are 8 different eBooks, each one specific to a certain grade range and subject area.

The woman behind the idea is my good friend, Tracee Orman.  She has spent countless hours contacting teachers, organizing, and directing the publication of these 8 fantastic eBooks.

What will you find in the eBook?

Each teacher in the eBook submitted a single page.  Each page has a tip for implementing the Common Core standards, and most importantly, each page contains a link to a free CCSS lesson.  

So let's get started! There are 8 different eBooks.  Below are the links to each. Please download and share with your friends and fellow teachers.

We hope you have a great school year!

Click on the pictures below to download your FREE eBook.