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This in depth lesson plan is on Discovering The World Around Us with our Senses




1, 2, 3  

Title – Discover The World Around Us
By – Jamie Rettke
Subject – Science
Grade Level – 1-3

Guided Discovery Lesson

Topic: The use of observational skills through the five senses

Science standards:

            Illinois Learning Standards: Science

·         State Goal 11: Understand the process of scientific inquiry and technology design to investigate questions, conduct experiments and solve problems.

o Leaning Standard A: Know and apply the concepts, principles and processes of scientific inquiry.

n       Learning Benchmark 11.A.1a: Describe an observed event (p. 32).

·         State Goal 12: Understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical and earth/space sciences.

o Learning Standard C: Know and apply concepts that describe properties of matter and energy and the interactions between them.

n       Learning Benchmark 12.C.1b Compare large-scale physical properties of matter (e.g., size, shape, color, texture, odor) (p. 34).

·         State Goal 13: Understand the relationship among science, technology and society in historical and contemporary contexts.

o Learning Standard A: Know and apply the accepted practices of science.

n       Learning Benchmark 13.A.1c: Explain how knowledge can be gained by careful observation (p. 38).

Grade level: 2 nd Grade

Student objectives: when asked, the students will be able to:

1.       Name four of the five senses and explain their origins on the body (i.e., eyes, ears, nose, tongue, hands)

2.       Use four of the five senses to explore and describe various objects

3.       Demonstrate how knowledge can be gained from careful observation by offering two possible situational examples

Process Skills:

·         Observations – use all five senses to describe and collect data about various objects.

·         Classifying – serial classification of objects according to a observational attributes (i.e., sight, sound, smell, taste, touch)

·         Recording – record observations on data collection sheet and share ideas with class


            For the teacher:

·         Copy of the CD Electrifying Thunderstorms or Sounds of the Humpback Whale by Camco Enterprises, 1987.

·         A familiar smelling spray air freshener (peach, strawberry, pine, etc)

·         Any small objects that can be observed and described using the five senses.

–          Flowers, leaves, grass, cinnamon sticks, stones, shells, dirt, fruits, pine cones, candles, balls, batteries, etc.

–          Summary sheet for data processing

For each group of 4-5 students:

·         Each group should contain a materials manager, time keeper, and speaker

·         Two objects supplied by teacher

·         Data collection sheet

Material preparation before the activity:

            Materials listed above should be gathered by the teacher before hand.  Be sure objects are cleaned thoroughly in case students taste the objects.  Each group of students will receive two objects to be observed.  Each student will receive a data collection sheet to record information.  A transparency should be made of the summary sheet to be used during data processing.

Motivation component: (~ 5 minutes)

Ask the students, “Do you think you could name and describe an object if you could only smell it or hear it?”  Have the students close their eyes and see if they can identify the following objects just by their smell or their sound.  Play a small section of the listed CDs and see if the students are able to identify and describe the sound.  Spray a bit of air freshener in the air and ask the students to describe what they smell.

Learning activities:

            Questions (to be asked by teacher) (~ 10 minutes)

1.       Do you think you could name and describe an object if you could only smell it or hear it? (Closed) [yes or no]

2.       What are our five senses?  (Knowledge) [sight, smell, tastes, touch, hearing]

3.       What parts of our bodies do our senses come from?  (Knowledge)  [eyes, nose, tongue, hands, ears]

4.       What are some ways we observe the world around us?  (Comprehension) [any of the five senses]

5.       What are some ways we may describe an object?  (Comprehension) [size, shape, texture, color, smell, taste, etc.]

6.       How could we gather information about our surroundings if we could not {see, touch, hear, taste, smell}?  (Analysis) [various answers]

            Data Collection: (~10 minutes)

1.       Designate group roles.  Each group will need a timekeeper, a materials manager, and a speaker.  Distribute data collection sheets to students.  The group manager may pick up a copy for each group member.

2.       Directions (to students): Put you name at the top of the data collection sheet. Explain to the students that each group will be given two objects to observe.  The students are to use their senses to observe and describe the object is as many ways as they can.  In the first column, under the word “Object” the students are to list the name of the object they are observing.  Under the word “Descriptions”, the students are to list their observations (descriptions) of the object.  This will be done for both objects, separately.

3.       Distribute materials.  The materials manager may pick up two objects for the group.  The teacher will pick the objects, not the students.

4.       Inform the timekeepers that the students should try to spend only five minutes on each of the objects.

5.       Walk around the room assessing students during data collection and answering questions when needed.

            Data Processing: (~ 15-20 minutes)

1.       After data collection has been completed, the class will begin data processing, while still in groups.  Place data processing transparency on the overhead.

2.       The speaker of each group will lists several observations the group made about the object.  (Observations to not need to be specific.  For example, the student does not need to say the object was blue, rather they can say they observed the color of the object).  As students give examples, the instructor will list their observations on the data processing sheet in the column “Descriptions”.  (*Note to teacher – without telling students, classify the objects according to senses.  For example, list all those observations made by sight together.  Do this for each of the five senses.)

3.       Ask questions while the students are stating their information.  For example, if a student says an object was bumpy, ask them how they came to this conclusion.  This will allow you to know if the student made this observation by looking at the object or touching the object.

4.       Once a significant amount of information is gathered, ask students to notice the overhead.  Ask the students, “Do you see a pattern in the data we have collected?”  The students should notice that all those observations arranged together are grouped according to one of the senses.  Ask students to decide which of the five senses belongs with each of the collection of descriptions.

5.       To motivate student involvement during data processing, ask, “How did you come to that conclusion (about the description)?  “  What are some ways we observe objects in our everyday lives?”  “  Can anyone tell me about a time you used your observational skills?”

            Closure: (~ 10 minutes)

            Ask the students, “How does this relate to what we have been learning about the nervous system?”  [All the senses are controlled by our brain, which is part of the nervous system]

“Why is it important we observe the world around us?”  [Various answers]  Ask the students to return to their data collection sheet, and write down two examples of a situation in which they gained knowledge by observing something.  Give the students an example.  [I went to take a drink of milk, when I noticed it smelled strange.  Then I looked at it and saw it was a different color.  I knew, from my observations that the milk had gone bad and I would get sick if I drank it.]


1.       Informal observations during data collection and data processing (Formative)

2.       Data collection sheet (Formative)

Observing the World Around Us

Senses                                                                 Descriptions  



Data processing sheet:

Name: _____________________________



Object                                               Descriptions





 I have gained information from observations when I:




 I have also gained information from observations when:




Student data collection sheet Ó


The purpose of my doing this lesson is the teaching of the basic process skill, observing.  It is important students understand how to observe an object, as this skill will be used throughout their educational profession.  According to Bruner, teaching a topic early, and returning to it continually will increase their depth of understanding.  Through data collection and data processing, the students will come to understand that each of the five senses we use to make observations, are parts of a system.  The ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin are individual components of the nervous system and are ultimately controlled by the brain.  Therefore, students will not only be enhancing the observational skills, but they will also be extending their prior knowledge of some of the functions of the nervous system.  This is best accomplished through a Guided Discovery lesson.

            The objectives chosen for the students work in correspondence with the Illinois State Goals.  The students are asked to identify and apply their knowledge of the five senses through careful observations.  They will need to compare objects based on physical attributes such as size, shape, color, smell, taste, etc.  This is done during the data collection phase, by allowing the student to handle selected items.  They will then need to take a minds-on approach to evaluate the types of information that can be gained from using the five senses. The students will also be asked to apply this knowledge to the real-world by supplying a situation in which they have gain information from observations.

            During this lesson, the student will use three predominant process skills, observing, classifying, and recording.  Both observing and recording are invaluable to students, as both will be used throughout their science careers.  From a scientific standpoint, this is what specialists in any science do.  They observe an event and record their findings. The students themselves will not classify the objects.  Rather they will be classified according to the five senses by the teacher during data processing.  This will allow the students to make the collection that, for example, all those things in column “A” were observed by using the sense of smell.  By simply telling the students to classify the objects according to the senses, they may not grasp the underlying concept.

            The timing for each phase of the lesson averages about 10 minutes.  This was done for the reasons of grade appropriateness.  Students at grade level two have a restricted attention span.  To guarantee student readiness, as well as motivation, each sector of the lesson is kept to a minimal duration.

            The motivational content of this lesson is to spark interest in the students.  At this point, you may not even need to tell the students the topic of the lesson.  By presenting a familiar scent and/or sound to the students, they are compelled to think about how they conclude what the object is.  Until this point, they may not have thought of using their sense of hearing to observe the world.  Introducing the lesson in this manner may also motivate students to start asking questions.  The students are now thinking before the topic has even been stated.

The questions that are asked during the inquiry (questioning) phase of the lesson are limited.  I designed the lesson with the thought in mind that the questioning be student centered.  The questions to be asked by the instructor are to assess the knowledge of the students and to spark motivation.  This will also allow the students to begin thinking in a minds-on manner even before data processing.  The types of questions may also act as a transition into data collection.  Questions have been proposed and the students will now investigate.  The questions are grade level appropriate, to cause a state of disequilibrium, yet they are simple enough to ensure the students will not come to a level of frustration.  Student data sheets, as well as materials to be observed, are to be distributed after the questioning phase for reasons of classroom management.  The student will be better able to pay attention to the questions if they are not distracted by their worksheet.

During the data collection phase, the students will be working within groups.  This will adhere to Vygotsky’s theory that social forces are a function of cognitive development.  Students will be able to bounce ideas off one another and possibly learn from one another.  At this time, group roles are to be appointed.  Designation of group roles will not only add autonomy to the classroom, but it will also aid with classroom management.  Each group will have the following roles to maintain: a materials manager, to gather and put away data collection sheets and materials; a time keeper, to ensure students are working on task in the allotted time; a speaker, so that not all students are calling out answers at random.  The students will then take part in the hands-on activity.  Each person in the group will receive two objects to be observed.  All the objects will come from the students’ world.  Meaning they will all be common items they have seen or had experiences with before.  Through touching, smelling, tasting, looking at, and listening to the object, the students will gather information and make a number of descriptions about that item. 

Within the data processing phase, the students will take part in the minds-on portion of the lesson.  The students will compare a number of observations made by the students.  The instructor will classify those observations according to what sense was used.  For example, if a student said an object was hard, he/she may list that object under “Sense of Touch”.  The teacher however, would not list the actual senses.  It is up to the students to look at the list of common observations and recognize the pattern, that all those observations were gathered by the sense of touch.

The closure of this lesson has two specific goals.  First, to act as a review to the lesson while stimulating prior knowledge.  It will also ask that students apply their understanding of the ideas attended to within the lesson.  This will allow the teacher to assess whether or not the students have a firm grasp on the concepts attended to and are able to move on to the next lesson.  It will also behave as an encouraging factor for the students to extend their knowledge to other areas of learning.

The lesson plan itself has been written up using Times New Roman, font size 12.  The student data-collection sheets have been written up using Comic sans MS, font size 14.  This was done for various reasons.  First, Times is a more traditional text.  Comic sans is less formal and more appealing to the students’ eye.  The text in the student sheets is also larger for ease of reading.  During this unit, for all the student data collection/data processing sheets, I have been consistent by using Comic sans MS.  This has been done to not confuse the students with varying text styles.  Directions have been placed on the student data sheet to reduce the number of students asking, “What should I do?”  Having clear directions on each student’s sheet will enhance classroom management by reducing the amount of direction type questions.  This may also increase student autonomy by allowing them to take ownership of the assignment.

            Evaluations for this lesson will be based on various aspects.  First, there will be informal observations made during the data collection.  The teacher will note whether the students are making observations based on all of the sense or just one or two.  Second, the data collection sheets will act as a way to assess the students’ understanding of and application of the five senses.  This will answer the question; “Do the students know what the five senses are and how to use them?”  Lastly, the students’ write-ups on the data collection sheets will allow the students to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of daily observations.  Therefore, students who are able to identify and apply four of the five senses as well as demonstrate its importance into a real world situation, would have clearly met the objectives.

            This lesson was written with Bruner’s theory of the spiral curriculum in mind.  Therefore, it may be altered to accommodate students at various developmental and cognitive levels.  This lesson may also be easily modified to assist special learners in the classroom.  This may be accomplished by providing more individualistic assistance, yet it will vary depending on the specific student.

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