In middle school science, I feel like it is important for
students to really understand the steps of the scientific method. Knowing the
order of the steps isn’t necessarily that important to me, but understanding
each of the steps and what they entail is. I view the steps of the scientific
method more as a way of thinking and problem solving than simply a way to
conduct an experiment. Yes, students should know how to conduct an experiment
correctly and they’ll need the steps for their future science classes. However,
I realize most of my students won’t become scientists and won’t use the steps
outside of school. What all of my students will need, regardless of their
future career choices, is a way to approach and solve the problems that come
their way. The scientific method can help with that, so that’s how I choose to
present it to my students. Consider the
six steps of the scientific method.

- Make an observation and ask a question about it
- Research if needed
- Make a hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis in an experiment
- Record and analyze the data
- Write a conclusion

You notice your best friend Ashleigh is being frosty to you but extra friendly to everyone else in your friend group. You ask yourself “Why is Ashleigh mad at me?”*Make an observation and ask a question about it:*You ask your friends why Ashleigh is mad. Then you look through your Facebook posts to see if you wrote anything offensive. You see that yesterday you wrote a post saying Ashleigh’s skinny jeans don’t make her look very skinny.*Research if needed:*You’re pretty sure Ashleigh is mad about your post. You think to yourself “If I remove the skinny jeans post and make a new Facebook post about my insensitivity, then Ashleigh will stop being mad at me.”**Make a hypothesis:**As soon as you get home from school, you delete the old post and write a new Facebook post about how you made a mean and unfunny joke about a friend and how sorry you are about hurting her feelings. For good measure, you add that you’re a little jealous because you wish you had her curves.*Test the hypothesis in an experiment:*Within an hour you have 67 likes on your new post and 13 comments praising your apology. You also have one rude comment from your annoying little brother, but he’s stupid and doesn’t matter. You get a message from Ashleigh saying that she forgives you and asks if you want to go shopping this weekend.*Record and analyze the data:*You learned you shouldn’t write or say mean things about your friends (or anyone else…except your annoying little brother), and apologizing and admitting you’re wrong is important. In the future, you will treat your friends better.*Write a conclusion:*

I think it’s important for students to realize the
scientific method reaches beyond the science classroom. Besides the example
above, I also use the Steps of the Scientific Method Activity with Rappers
Scenarios. (You can learn more about the rapper activity here.) Using examples students
can relate to and seeing how they and others can use the steps in their daily
lives will help them remember the steps and actually understand them. With
practice, they’ll begin to approach problems and work towards solutions differently.

In order to give my students more practice with the steps of
the scientific method, I use card sorting activities. My students enjoy them
and the activities are more hands on than other approaches. In my Teachers Pay
Teachers store you’ll find a set of three card sorting lessons about the
scientific method. Each lesson can be used in multiple ways and comes in both
English and Spanish so I can reach all of my students. (You can purchase the card sorting activities here.)

__Lesson Option 1__
The first lesson option is a group card sorting
activity. I use this activity as
practice for my students at the beginning of the year when they’re first
learning about the scientific method and again after winter break as a review.
In this activity, the students work together to sort the cards into the six
steps of the scientific method. For each step, there are five cards: a number
card, a step description card, a step explanation card, and two example cards. Take
a look at the picture below to see an example of each type of card.

This activity gets students to understand what is involved
in each step and see what it might look like in an experiment or a problem a
student might encounter. The students can work together and discuss the
groupings of the cards. After all the cards have been grouped, I have my
students complete a two-part reflection sheet individually. The first part is
about how well they would have done by themselves. For part two, the students
pick out key words and phrases from the example cards and explain how those key
words indicate what step the example was a part of. I like it because it gets
the students thinking about

*why*it represents a step and not just where a card should be placed.

__Lesson Option 2__
The second lesson option is an individual card sorting
activity. I use this activity instead of
the group activity for my classes that get a little wild when given any kind of
freedom. (It seems like there is always one of those that needs a constant
thumb pushing down on it.) Alternatively, I sometimes use it in all of my
classes as an assessment part way through the scientific method unit. I do this
by having the students glue the cards on a paper to hand in. This lesson option
has a lot of possible purposes: a review, a pre-assessment, formative assessment,
or summative assessment. I’ve used it as a quick activity where students just
sort the cards. And I’ve extended it by having students complete a reflection
sheet where they explain how the examples represent each step.

__Lesson Option 3__
The third lesson option I use with our interactive
notebooks. The students sort the cards and glue them into their interactive notebooks
instead of taking traditional notes. When they’re done gluing the cards, they
have the steps in order, a description of what the steps contain, and an
example of each step to refer back to in the future. You can use the cards as a part of your
lesson and arrange the cards together as a class. Or you can give your lesson about
the steps and then have the students arrange the cards afterward as a way to
practice what they just learned. If there is time left over in class, I
encourage my students to color their cards in a way that is meaningful for
them. For example, they might color all of the steps in yellow, the
descriptions in red, and the examples in blue.
Or they might color all of the step one cards in red and step two cards orange
and continue on in the order of the rainbow.

While the steps of the scientific method are important for students
to learn for their future classes and possible future science careers, I think
it is more important for students to learn about the steps so they can use them
in their everyday lives as a problem solving technique. When the steps are presented
in this way, alongside of the typical science context, I find this approach
helps students remember the order of the steps, understand why each step is
important, be more motivated to learn the material, and be more likely to use
the steps in real life outside of school. If you're interested in using these any of these card sorting activities in your classroom, take a look at the Steps of the Scientific Method Card Sorting Activities in my TpT store.

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