There are four main components to a lesson that you should use to begin planning an investigation in Kindergarten. This can be used as a guide to prepare for this exciting task! I promise your students are going to love any lesson that you put in front of them when they get to create it.
1. What is the focus of the investigation?
There are a few things that should be considered when you want your students to plan an investigation. Ask yourself these questions: what are you teaching, what learning outcomes do you expect, what science & engineering practices and cross cutting concepts will you use?
What are you teaching right now?
There are numerous disciplinary standards that could be used to plan an investigation but the performance expectations give you one specifically for Kindergarten. Let’s look at the Forces & Interaction standards (K-PS2).
This set of standards is a great way to focus your students towards designing their own investigation. Students can easily manipulate objects with pushes of different strengths. Students are also able to pull objects (using string) and tend to do this during play already.
What learning outcomes do you expect?
When your students are investigating you should have an end goal for their work. What do you want them to learn through this process? The performance expectations are a good place to look. In the K-PS2 standard, the expectation is for students to analyze data from tests of an object to determine if it works as intended to change the speed or direction of an object with a push or a pull.
Using this standard, I would want my students to use a bar graph to demonstrate how far something travels. Students could push a ball using various objects and document how far that ball travels after it being altered. They could also draw vectors (arrows) in a model to demo the directional change.
What SEPs and CCC are you going to cover?
These make up 2/3 pieces of the NGSS. Making sure to include these practices and concepts throughout the year are crucial for three dimensional learning. The standards say for this investigation on forces and motion that you will discuss the bolded bullet points below. You could of course use more depending on follow up work (constructing explanations, engaging in argument from evidence, structure and function, etc)
The Science & Engineering Practices are:
- Asking Questions
- Developing and Using Models
- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Constructing Explanations
- Engaging in Argument from Evidence
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
The Cross Cutting Concepts are:
- Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
- Scale, proportion, and quantity
- Systems and system models
- Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
- Structure and function
- Stability and change
Keeping track throughout the year with what SEP and CCC you’ve used doesn’t have to be complicated. I have a Google Sheets organizer that keeps it all together in one place.
The organizer is completely free and will save you time becuase you’re able to track everything you’ve taught. It’s a simple checklist. Click the button or picture to snag your free organizer!
2. What materials do you need when planning an investigation in Kindergarten?
There are a few factors to consider before you let your students run off with STEM materials and say “have at it”.
First you must decide whether you are going to provide students with extremely specific materials or if you are going to let them choose for themselves from a big selection. Both have merit and it comes down to personality of you and your students.
Teacher Provides Materials
This works in a classroom with limited work space, no formal Makerspace, or other circumstances such as student behavior, your personality, or another specific goal that I haven’t listed.
You as the teacher would give your students a set list of supplies that they can use.
- 1 ping pong ball
- 2 sponges
- 1 golf ball
- 1 dodge ball
- 4 dixie cups
In the beginning of the year, I’d start by providing the materials. Then when you want to try student shopping, model model model expectations and only allow 1 student at a time. Trust me- shopping can quickly turn into a giant disaster if you’re not prepared.
Students Choose Materials
When doing this, I typically lay out lots of materials that students can sort through. I limit to one child per group to come “shop”.
It could be fun to give them an allowance and charge per supply used. It’s a great way to incorporate math into their investigation (besides a graph).
3. How should you group students when they will be planning an investigation in Kindergarten?
STEM activities almost always require group work. This gives students the ability to work on interpersonal and communication skills. I wrote a whole blog about STEM communication here.
Students should be in pairs or groups of 3-5 (depending on access to supplies) to practice the communication aspects of STEM.
It can be fun for your students and help them organize their ideas by assigning jobs. This is a small list and so many more options can be used in your own classroom!
Here’s a list of jobs I let students choose from:
- Leader: divides responsibilities between group
- Time Keeper: makes sure group is staying on track
- Shopper: if you choose this material getting option
- Reporter: speaks with teacher and class when presenting ideas/asking questions
- Architect: student responsible for drawing blueprint or plan for investigation
4. How do students demonstrate what they learned from planning an investigation in Kindergarten?
Will your students draw a blueprint before they begin investigating?
A blueprint is a good way to guide your students toward the learning outcomes. They work on fine motor skills, collaboratively deciding on a best way to build/do something, and can make adjustments before using materials.
The blueprint page is very straight forward and requires students to draw/write what materials they want to use in their investigation. It also asks them to draw a quick sketch of what their investigation should prove or accomplish. (GOAL SECTION)
This work should be done BEFORE students ever touch the materials in the investigation.
How will students record the data collected?
There are so many options when it comes to analyzing data from an investigation. They can use a chart to write down number data and turn this into a bar graph.
Please do this whole group multiple times before having your Kindergarten students trying this out.
It can also be fun to create a class board that displays the data. (Measure with yarn a distance and hold it up against other groups to see who rolled the furthest).
How do you review what students learned during the investigation?
Give each of your students a chance to reflect on the overall investigation when it is complete. I typically do this by following up with this REVIEW page.
Students will draw what was accomplished in their investigation and write about it. Not only does this improve on what they know but it also uses literacy skills.
In the beginning of the year in Kindergarten, I won’t make students write but encourage them to draw labels on their picture. When more phonics skills are learned, I will ask them to expand on their picture by writing about what they saw/experienced.
To review: figure out what your investigation is going to be about (disciplinary core ideas), determine the types of materials you will use, group your students, and make sure they can demonstrate what they learned through different drawing/writing/communication activities.
Do you have anything to add? Leave a comment & let me know!