How to Teach the Scientific Method to 7th Graders

teaching the scientific method
As a middle school science teacher, I always love teaching the scientific method to my students. There are so many routes you can take with teaching it, and I’ve tried many of them. If you’re gearing up to teach the scientific method, then you might benefit from reading this post. (See what I did there?) You probably have many questions. When should I teach the scientific method? What all should I include in my unit? What order should I teach the topics of the scientific method? How do I go about teaching the scientific method? In this post I’ll share what’s worked for me. Plus, you’ll find some links to FREE resources to help get you started.

When Should I Teach the Scientific Method?

I want my students to have a good handle on lab safety before getting started with the scientific method because it involves labs, tools, and sometimes harmful chemicals. The scientific method is important for studying science in general, so I teach it as early in the year as possible. It is my second unit (right after lab safety). I bring the scientific method up throughout the year, whenever we have labs. After winter break I have a week-long review to brush up on the more difficult aspects of the scientific method.

What Should I Include in My Scientific Method Unit? In What Order Should I Teach the Topics?

Obviously, all groups of students are different. My seventh graders always come in with very, very little experience with the scientific method. Knowing that, I start with the basics and go over everything I think they need to know to successfully use the scientific method. I recommend giving your students a preassessment before the unit to gauge what topics you can skip and which you need to hammer into your students’ skulls. Here are the topics I always include in my scientific method unit and the general order in which I teach them:

  1. The Steps of the Scientific Method
  2. Independent and Dependent Variables
  3. Scientific Questions
  4. Hypotheses
  5. Observations and Inferences
  6. Research and Procedures
  7. Constants/Controlled Variables
  8. Analyzing Data/Graphs
  9. Scientific Conclusions

How Do I Go About Teaching the Scientific Method?

In my class, each of the nine topics listed above starts with interactive notebook notes in combination with a PowerPoint. (See the video below of the interactive science notebook pages I use. They're all available in my store and you can get the INB pages in my Scientific Method Interactive Notebook Pages Bundle.) After introducing the topic via notes and a PowerPoint, the students get practice in the form of stations, activities, and/or worksheets. Lastly, I assess each topic with an exit ticket to determine if we need to keep working on the current topic or if we’re ready to move on to the next.

The single most important scientific method resource I have is my Scientific Method Stations. I use them at least three times in the unit because they’re so versatile. They give students practice identifying variables, writing good hypotheses, designing procedures etc. I just post them around the room at the beginning of the unit and they stay there until the day of the unit test. I truly believe they are a great resource for the middle school science classroom. They are one of my most loved and best selling resources, so I decided to make a second set. I added my Scientific Method Stations V2 to my store in September 2023! 

But Really, What Do You Do for Each Topic?

  1. The Steps of the Scientific Method: I go over what the scientific method is, what it’s used for, the order of the steps, and what each step might look like.
  2. Independent and Dependent Variables: I go over the definitions of independent and dependent variables and how to identify them in an experiment. Then we practice. And practice. And practice some more. Eventually it clicks and then my students HAVE GOT IT DOWN.
  3. Scientific Questions: Students learn about what a good scientific question needs to have. We review variables again while examining good and bad scientific questions. Group work and games can be fun with this. 
  4. Hypotheses: Students learn what a hypothesis is and how to write a good hypothesis. Even my best students need to learn the If/then version of writing a hypothesis because they have only been taught the “I think blah blah blah will happen” version. Hypotheses typically need a lot of practice. Here is a free coloring worksheet to help your students write good hypotheses and identify independent and dependent variables. 
  5. Observations and Inferences: Students learn the definitions of qualitative and quantitative observations and how to use those to make inferences. Here is a free observation activity you can use in your class.
  6. Research and Procedures: Research is straightforward so we briefly discuss where to find accurate information. For procedure, we learn what it is, why it’s important, and what happens if a procedure is poorly written. 
  7. Constants/Controlled Variables: This is hands down the hardest part of the scientific method for my students. We go over what constants are, why they are important, and how to identify them in experiments. Students need TONS of practice with this. Here is a free exit ticket to check if your students have mastered constants. 
  8. Analyzing Data/Graphs: I go over where independent and dependent variables go on graphs, what good graphs include, and types of graphs. Then we practice interpreting graphs. I try to include as much data analysis throughout the year as possible because my students always need practice with this. Here is a free data analysis worksheet and a free data analysis Boom Deck.
  9. Scientific Conclusions: Students learn what should be included in a good conclusion and practice writing a good conclusion using a data table and graph from an experiment. 

I hope this post gives you a good starting point for planning your scientific method unit. I love teaching the scientific method and have created many resources for my students. You can find my scientific method resources here, including interactive notebook pages, activities, worksheets, and assessments. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to post a question below or message me. Thanks for reading and have a great school year!

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I added an option in my store to get all of my scientific method resources in one discounted bundle: Scientific Method HUGE Bundle.