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5 Tip For Teaching The 5 Step Scientific Method

Teaching the 5 step scientific method has the potential to set the tone for the rest of your semester.  I know that’s a bold statement, but hear me out.  Generally we teach the scientific method early in the semester as one of the first topics covered in science classes.  It becomes the foundation for more than just how experiments are conducted.  It gives your students a taste of how you lecture, the types of activities you incorporate into your units, and what you are going to expect from them in terms of mastering the content for your unit exams.   So yeah, this topic is a biggie.  Here are 5 tips that I feel can help get more student engagement and greater understanding with regards to the scientific method.

Get Your Students Asking Questions

Most textbooks will teach the definition of science as the search for understanding of the natural world.  And so at the heart of your science class, every topic that will be covered started with the asking of questions.  You can share the story of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under the tree and asking the question of why did the apple fall down to the ground. It was this question that led him to the discovery of the laws of gravity.  Or maybe you want to use Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle as he explored the world and then began asking questions about the similarities in species.

As a warm up when teaching the 5 step scientific method I like to have students write down questions about science that they already know the answers to.  To help spark their thoughts I’ll remind them to think about what they learned in the last few years in their science classes.  Maybe they learned why water boils when it is heated.  Or why we look similar to our parents.  From here we can use these questions to lead into our lecture on the scientific method.

Teach the 5 step scientific method with examples

I love teaching biology with stories.  And throughout my lectures I try to add in as much storytelling as possible to help keep the content interesting and relevant.  With the scientific method I love using the example of Francesco Redi and how he disproved spontaneous generation through his experiment.  In my scientific method powerpoint notes I go step by step through Redi’s process that leads him to his conclusion.  I use lots of pictures as well with our examples to help reinforce the content. I go so far to tell my students that I will use the same examples and pictures on our unit exam, so be sure you are familiar with them.  

Practice Other Skills While Teaching The Scientific Method

During my introduction to biology unit, I have a few topics I group togeather.  During the first 2 weeks of the semester I have reviewed the use of tables and graphs to share information.  I taught my metric system lessons.  And I have covered lab safety.  When teaching the scientific method, I like to take advantage of the opportunity to include these 3 topics into my lessons.  

Keep students engaged with this scientific method worksheet

With my scientific method worksheet, I have students using metric units while graphing the data of an experiment.  I honestly believe students can’t practice graphing enough early in the semester.  Some students will have no problems remembering which variable goes on the x-axis and which goes on the y-axis, while other students will be far less confident in their ability to set up their graph.  Use these early semester opportunities to both build confidence and competence in your students.  If you are on the fence on how much time should be invested in reviewing how to graph data, hopefully this article can help.

Have Your Students Practice The 5 Step Scientific Method

Prior to our scientific method lab I have taught lab safety and I have also completed a metric system weighing and measuring lab activity.  So by this time, my students have had a few opportunities to work at our lab tables. I know some teachers prefer to use a candy lab for teaching the scientific method, but I have always been a fan of using chemicals so I can reinforce lab safety from the beginning of the school year.   My chemical reaction lab guides students through the 5 step scientific method as they complete the activity and answer the lab questions.  I have found this lab to do a great job helping students identify the 5 steps of the scientific method.

Make Sure Your Assessments Connect Back To Your Lessons

It can be frustrating for students to spend an entire unit learning certain concepts and having examples reinforced only to see something entirely different on a quiz or a test.  This hasn’t been my style.  Throughout my lessons I will frequently take a pause and let kids know which topics and examples will be on their unit exam.  I recommend kids get familiar with annotating their notes and worksheets by highlighting or putting a star by key information.  This also builds trust with my students as they know that I also care about their success in my class and I am not trying to set them up for failure.

I also use some type of review activity before a unit test.  You would be surprised at the amount  of student participation you’ll receive when there’s a prize for the winning team.  Even a small piece of candy or a few extra credit points will get kids motivated to do their best.  For my review activities I like to use task cards and either put them on my lab tables as a walk around review or turn them into a game of family fued.  

I have several scientific method activities in my introduction to biology unit bundle.

Final Thoughts…

Teaching the 5 step scientific method doesn’t have to be boring. With a little bit of planning and a few activitites to get your students participating in the learning process, it has the potential to set the tone for an exciting year in your science class.

Unitl next time,


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