Student Designed Investigations Part 2 – Testable Questions, Predictions, Materials and Procedures

Author(s): Linda Akiyama

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5


Biology/Life Science, FOSS-Related

Vocabulary words:

See vocabulary words taught in previous lessons of this unit, "What is a Living Thing and How Does a Living Thing Respond to Its Environment?"

What you need:

Part 2 -Copies of "Investigation Plan" sheet(attachment), "Possible Changes in the Environment"  sheet(attachment), "Materials That Can Be Used" sheet for each pair of students. One overhead copy of the worm investigation from the previous lesson,"Introducing the Process of Investigative Science".



Each group of two is creating its own investigation. I try to do this lesson at a time when I have half the class or can work with 6-8 students at a time while others are working at learning centers.



Time needed:

60 minutes

Author Name(s): 
Linda Akiyama

This lesson is from the unit, "What is a Living Thing, and How Does a Living Thing Respond to Its Environment?" The unit is designed to be taught prior to teaching the adopted FOSS curriculum on life sciences. In this unit students are given time to think about and discuss the fundamental question, "What is a Living Thing?" They are also introduced to a process for planning science investigations on the topic of how different living things interact with their environment. The unit ends with students deciding on a testable question, designing an investigation, doing the investigation, collecting data and drawing conclusions. Students then create poster presentations of  their investigation for a grade level science fair.

In this particular lesson, students work in pairs to decide on a testable question, make predictions, choose materials, and plan a procedure.

Prerequisites for students: 

A prerequisite to teaching this lesson is to teach the previous lessons in this unit.

UNIT: What is Life and How Does a Living Thing Respond to Its Environment?


1) What Do Living Things Have in Common?

2) Living or Non-living?

3) Introducing Cells

4) Introducing the Process of Investigative Science - How does a Living Thing Sense and Respond to its Environment?

5) Student Designed Investigations Part 1 - Observations

Learning goals/objectives for students: 

Students will be able to write a testable question about how one living thing responds to one factor of its environment.

Students will create a scientific investigation of their testable questions, make predictions, decide on materials, and plan their  procedures.

Getting ready: 

Part 2 - Copy "Investigation Plan" sheet (attachment), "Possible Changes in the Environment"  sheet(attachment), and "Materials That Can Be Used" sheet for each pair of students.

Lesson Implementation / Outline


Have posted: Most scientists agree that all living things sense and respond to their environments.

Remind students of the investigation that they did as a class to try to answer the question:

What will worms do when put on a paper towel that is 1/2 damp and 1/2 dry? (See "Introducing the Process of Investigative Science" lesson.)

Review the vocabulary introduced in that lesson (prediction, materials, procedure, data, conclusion).

Ask a few students to share what predictions they made before doing the worm investigation. Ask what materials were needed to do the investigation. Show students the filled out "Investigation Planning Sheet" from the worm investigation and quickly go over the procedures used. Ask students to remember how they gathered data and what conclusion the class came to after doing the investigation.

Tell students that they are going to work with the partner that they were with during the last science lesson. Together with their partner, they will write their own investigation to find out how the living organism that they choose responds to one factor in its environment.


Have each student sit with his/her partner.

1. Hand out and go over "Possible Changes in Environment" sheet.

2. Give an "Investigation Plan" to each pair of students. Have partners work together to think of a question about how their chosen organism responds to one factor in its environment. It must be a question that they can answer by doing an investigation. Have students write the question on the appropriate lines on their investigation sheet. They should check with the teacher or other adult helper before going on to make sure the question is testable and that it can be investigated given the materials available to the students.

3.Hand out "Materials Available for Investigations" sheet and go over with students.

4. Have partners continue to fill out the next 3 parts of the Investigation plan (prediction, materials needed, procedure)

Checking for student understanding: 

Rotate between teams to check that students are creating a plan that they can carry out and that is clearly written so that others could duplicate their investigation. Guide students by asking questions that help them to apply what they already know to the task they are being asked to complete.

Wrap-up / Closure: 

Have partners read their testable question to the class. Tell students that the next time that they do science, they will use their investigation plan to do their experiment and gather data that will help them answer the question that they are investigating.

Extensions and Reflections


Planning and conducting student created investigations can get noisy and seem a bit chaotic at times. If you can accept the noise and the fact that you have 10 groups all doing different things with different materials and filled with excitement from working with bugs and plants, I think you'll find that it is well worth it. Students are so motivated to problem solve ways to seek answers to their own questions. Having success in doing that creates a community of learners who can't wait to plan their next investigations.

Materials That Can Be Used for Investigations.doc52.5 KB
Possible Changes in Environment.doc25 KB
Investigation Plan_4.doc28 KB
NGSS Topics
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: 

Standards - Grade 3

Life Sciences: 
3. Adaptations in physical structure or behavior may improve an organism's chance for survival. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know plants and animals have structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.
d. Students know when the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.
Investigation and Experimentation: 
5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Repeat observations to improve accuracy and know that the results of similar scientific investigations seldom turn out exactly the same because of differences in the things being investigated, methods being used, or uncertainty in the observation.
b. Differentiate evidence from opinion and know that scientists do not rely on claims or conclusions unless they are backed by observations that can be confirmed.
c. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements.
d. Predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with the prediction.
e. Collect data in an investigation and analyze those data to develop a logical conclusion.

Standards - Grade 5

Investigation and Experimentation: 
6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
b. Develop a testable question.
c. Plan and conduct a simple investigation based on a student-developed question and write instructions others can follow to carry out the procedure.
e. Identify a single independent variable in a scientific investigation and explain how this variable can be used to collect information to answer a question about the results of the experiment.
f. Select appropriate tools (e.g., thermometers, meter sticks, balances, and graduated cylinders) and make quantitative observations.
g. Record data by using appropriate graphic representations (including charts, graphs, and labeled diagrams) and make inferences based on those data.
h. Draw conclusions from scientific evidence and indicate whether further information is needed to support a specific conclusion.
i. Write a report of an investigation that includes conducting tests, collecting data or examining evidence, and drawing conclusions.