Lesson plan

Think Like a Scientist: Observe, Sort, and Classify

Scientists observe and classify the world around them! In this lesson, your students will practice their processing skills by observing a group of objects and grouping the objects based on their attributes.
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Students will be able to use their senses to observe various objects. Students will be able to sort and classify objects based on their attributes.

(2 minutes)
  • Tell your students that today, they will be doing the work of scientists by observing different items. Define observe as what scientists do when they use their senses to gather information about something.
  • Explain to your students that scientists often use their observations to sort and classify. Define sort and classify as grouping objects together using similar attributes, or features, of the objects.
(3 minutes)
  • Model how to observe something by using your senses to gather information about an object. Use a small object, such as a rock, from one of the group bags to illustrate this for the class. Your observations should include how the item looks, feels, smells, sounds (if applicable) and tastes (if applicable). For example: I see that this rock is gray. I feel that it is rough and hard. etc.
  • Show your students the Talking Stems Chart and model how to describe your observations using the prompts on the chart. For example: With my eyes I can see that this rock is __ (gray, small, round). With my hands I can feel that this rock is _____ (soft, smooth, bumpy).
  • Grab a few more items from one of the group bags. Show your class a small group of these materials, and declare an attribute you will use to sort and classify the objects. For example, you could sort them by color, shape, or size.
  • Demonstrate how you observe the objects in the collection and sort them on two plates by the attribute you've chosen.
(5 minutes)
  • Invite your students to sit in groups. Give each group a bag with a collection of shells, buttons, rocks, or any material of your choice.
  • Ask students to observe the objects using their senses of sight and touch.
  • Refer students back to the Talking Stems Chart and encourage students to describe their observations to their group according to the chart's prompts.
(5 minutes)
  • Instruct each student to individually choose 5 objects from their group's collection.
  • Ask students to choose ONE attribute they have observed in their collection sample, such as color or texture.
  • Pass out 2 small plates to each student.
  • Ask students to label each plate using sticky notes. For example: Blue and Not Blue.
  • Instruct students to sort each object according to the selected attribute.
  • Enrichment: Students who have classified their objects correctly can be prompted to re-classify according to different/new attributes. Additionally, students can be challenged to choose one object from their collection and write an Attribute Riddle. For example: I am small. I am gray. I am not sparkly. Which rock am I?
  • Support: Some students may need you to determine the categories. Students can place the objects into the categories based on their observations.
(10 minutes)
  • Rotate around the room to observe your students as they work. Each student should check in with you once they feel that they are finished sorting and classifying their objects.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell the students that scientists are always thinking about how things can be grouped together. When we are looking closely at something, or observing, we can always think about how things can be grouped together according to how they look and feel. This helps scientists understand the world around them.
  • Ask your students to remove or cover the category labels on their plates.
  • Invite the class to walk around the classroom and visit other groups.
  • Encourage each student to try to determine what their classmate’s categories were based on the objects on each plate.

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