7 Ways To Create Hands-On Science Lessons · Mrs. P’s Specialties

Engaging and hands-on science lessons lead to better learning for students. Why? Because students are more likely to participate and remain on task when your lesson plans include hands-on activities. Here are 7 ways to create interactive and hands-on lesson plans for science.

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Active Learning with word walls

For each science unit or standard, we have 5 to 10 vocab words displayed on our word wall. Don’t just post the vocab cards somewhere in the room, though, Instead, use them for hands-on learning and reinforcing science concepts. For example, give the vocab cards to students and have them put their cards in ABC order, write sentences using the words on their cards, sort by syllables, sort by category (ex: science tools and science verbs), write definitions for the words, etc. You can easily build in movement by having students write and sort the cards in different positions. For example, at their desk, laying on their bellies on the floor, while standing at a whiteboard, etc. Read Teaching Science In Special Education for more details.

Interactive science books

Use Interactive science books to help students:

  • connect words to pictures
  • help them answer WH questions related to the science topics and lessons
  • practice science concepts and vocabulary with visual supports

Let the students handle and use the different science equipment and tools you teach them about. This will help students better understand the tool during future science lessons and experiments. It might be hard to see exactly what a magnifying glass or a dropper does if they just watch you use it. The Scientific Tools science unit is great for introducing students to the different tools and equipment, explaining what it’s used for and the vocabulary around it.

include science experiments

Students love science experiments. They’re engaging and fun. To make them hands-on in your science lessons, let each student perform the experiment (individually or in pairs) instead of just watching the adult do the experiment.             

For example, we did an experiment with gingerbread cookies to see what would happen to the cookies in different liquids. Each student got their own cups with milk, water, and hot chocolate in them, and they put the gingerbread cookies in each cup and got to see up close what happened to each cookie. They could move the cup around, touch the cookies, etc. We’ve done this with many other experiments too, like sink or float. It really helps students learn and understand when they get to be hands-on with the activity instead of being the observer.

Individual readers in hands on science lessons

Make a copy of science readers (included in each of our science units) for each student. This way, instead of just listening to you read to them, students can follow along in their books. Below is an example of one of the books included in the states of matter unit. To give the science lesson another hands-on component, we also have pictures students can match to each page of the text.

states of matter science unit text with matching pictures and student booklet

You can also add in different skills when students each have a copy. For example:

  • Reinforce vocabulary by having students circle or underline certain words in the book. For example, “Underline the word magnet.” This is also a great way to assess that students are understanding and making connections.
  • Practice following directions. For example, “circle a verb on this page. Color the magnifying glass grey. Underline a word that rhymes with sat.”
  • Students can then take their books home and pracitce reading the book over and over.
collage of books included in the hands on science units. Books pictured come from the weather unit, landforms unit, 5 senses unit and the force and motion unit.

hands on task cards and matching boards

Using task cards and matching boards gives students a chance to practice science lessons and concepts in a different way. Task cards and matching boards are also great for independently practicing what they’ve learned in science. The more opportunities to see the science concepts throughout the day and generalize the information the quicker students will make progress.

Depending on your class, you can also allow students to “correct” or check each other’s tasks cards which also helps reinforce science skills.

Here are some examples of task cards and matching boards that we use:

Animal habitats matching board
hands on science task cards from the weather unit
states of matter sorting pictures activity

write the room science activities

Write the room activities not only gets students up and moving, which we know helps them learn, but it is another opportunity to see, read, and write the science vocabulary from lessons. Write the room is a great way to apply research into instruction. Write the room science tasks are included in each of our science units.

use games in hands on science lessons

Play a bingo or memory type game with your science theme or topic pictures and/or words to create hands-on science activities that are fun & engaging. These games help reinforce science concepts and vocabulary while building pro-social skills with peers. Use this FREE EDITABLE BINGO template to make a game for your next science lesson.

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