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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Science Skills: Teach Them Early and Teach Them Hard!



Nail down these skills early in the school year!


At the beginning of each new school year, it is essential that a science teacher instruct his/her students in the basic science skills.  No matter what your curriculum calls for, your students will best be served by a review and reinforcement in these basic areas.  This includes laboratory safety,  instruction in how the lab equipment operates, making proper scientific measurements, how to apply the scientific method, the importance of graphing and data analysis, and a review of basic math skills such as scientific notation.  I have already posted about several of these.  Today, I want to emphasize the proper use of lab equipment and how to make scientific measurements.

During a lab, a variety of tools may be used to allow the student to use an inquiry process to gather information, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  If the student is to reach the desire conclusion, it is imperative that they be previously instructed on the proper use of the equipment they will be using.  Scientists use a variety of tools to explore the world around them, and these tools are important to the advancement of science.  The tools may be simple or very complex.  One of the first labs I complete with my students is called:  Use of Lab Equipment and Data Analysis.  (You can download this one for free!)  It provides instruction on the basic pieces of lab equipment such as the meter stick, Celsius thermometer, graduated cylinder, and the quadruple-beam balance.  Obviously, these pieces of equipment are used for measurements in length, volume, and mass, and they will be used by the students all year long.  As I plan for the first few days of school, I always question whether or not I should spend the time on this lab.  I feel that students should reach my class with these skills already in place.  However, I realize year after year, that all students do not reach me with the same skill sets.  For some students this will simply be a review and reinforcement, but other students will come to me with no knowledge of these skills at all.


When teaching the proper use of lab equipment, you must also give adequate instruction in how to make precise and accurate scientific measurements.  I find that many students will need a short re-fresher on the metric system.  As for accuracy and precision in making measurements, it is the nature of the teenagers I teach to rush, rush, rush to get through with the experiments, giving little thought to whether or not their data seems reasonable or logical.  If and when time allows, I often require my students to run multiple trials during an experiment to verify their results.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of a school setting, students have learned that science occurs in a 45 minute period of time, and that the first set of data is perfect and acceptable.  We, as teachers, do what we can do with the schedule forced upon us by our schools, but you must try to give opportunities that require students to repeat and verify lab data.

Here are some of the materials that I have developed to help with the instruction and reinforcement of these science skills:


Scientific Method PowerPoint with Notes for Teacher and Student -- also a freebie!

Science Skills Mega Bundle containing 54 science skill products for your classroom.

Happy Teaching!!


4 comments:

Janaye said...

You're so right, it is important!! Thanks! :)

MrsPaulson said...

Thank you for sharing!
Peggy

Mrs. K. said...

I definitely agree -- these are the foundations of a science lab, and it's essential that students know them before doing any "real" or "big time" experiments!

I'm new to the science-world -- I just got a K-4 science position -- and I'm feeling apprehensive, to say the least. lol. I'm trying to figure out how to teach these basics while still making it fun. My principal was very concerned that my students should leave every day with a smile on their face and an excitement for science (apparently, this was hard to come by with the last sci teacher in my building). I want kids to enjoy my class, anyway, but now I feel added pressure to make everything "fun" and "exciting." I'm looking at my lesson plans for the first few weeks of school (I only see each kid for 1 hour per week) and thinking, "how can I make setting up our science notebooks FUN?" etc. Ack! How do you do it?

~Mrs. K. from The Teacher Garden Blog

Amy (aka Science Stuff) said...

Thank you for your comments. I think that by being concerned and caring so much for how your students will enjoy science that you are already over the first hurdle. I teach high school, and have little experience in teaching science to elementary students. But what I have found after all of these years of teaching is that if I am excited about what I am teaching, then my students will be excited. My enthusiasm is contagious in the classroom. Try to make each class very visual and hands-on as much as possible. Here are a couple of free materials that might be useful on the first days:

Characteristics of Life PowerPoint (packed with great pictures):
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Characteristics-of-Life-Powerpoint-for-any-Life-Science-Class

Free from Deanna Jump:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/What-Do-Scientists-Do

Good Luck with your teaching!
Amy