The first lab and lab report

After the measurement activity and some practice which I wrote about here. We are going to start our first inquiry style lab and lab report. I’ve budgeted 3 days to do this first lab. It’s a lot of time but I’m hoping a large time investment will pay off later. We will ease into writing lab reports because for most, if not all, of my on-level students this will be the first lab report they’ve written in high school. I will probably use a grouping method when they walk in the front door. . . . . . popsicle sticks or stickers or playing cards. . . So we’ll do a warm up and then break into groups. I’ll have matching marks on tables so they have a work space to gather around based on the object they received at the door.

I’ve read suggestions to start with the students creating the data table and graphs independently first and with each lab have them create another part of the lab report.  I think we’ll create all the parts of the lab as a group except for the data table and graph using whiteboards. If students bring tablets they may use a whiteboard app. I’m going to use this rubric (found it here: to structure our lab write ups. So this will act as an introduction to the lab report rubric, a structured introduction to inquiry style labs and the expectations concerning them both.

I want them to use the meter tape they made in the measurement activity. I’ve been reading Making Sense of Science: Force and Motion. I think I’ll set up our first inquiry lab based off the first speed activity described in the book: They will measure distance and time. I think we’ll start off with a question that is intuitively easy (Which is faster walking or jogging?) so that we can focus on the inquiry process and measurement.

What I’d like to do is present the question: which is faster walking or jogging? They’ll write this down and check it off on the rubric. Next, I’ll give them 2 min to discuss in their lab group how they will know which is faster. Take some answers afterward. Then I’ll ask them to decide what they will measure and give them another 3 min. I’ll have them go around and announce what they plan on measuring and why. Record ideas on the board. Next, I’ll give them 1min to discuss the different ideas in their group and pick one. I’ll have each group write their measurement selection on their white board and hold it up. I’m hoping they will use the measuring tape and a timer to measure the distance and the time. Then I’ll ask them to take 1 min to identify their dependent and independent variable. They will show their answers on white boards and which is which and why. They will share out here.  Next, we’ll craft a hypothesis. I will give them 2 min to discuss and write a hypothesis on the white board.

I’m hoping they will choose a hypothesis along the lines of Jogging is faster than walking. And then hopefully the amount of distance they cross in a certain amount of time or the time it takes to cross a certain distance will be what decides which is faster. So the independent and dependent variable would depend on the setup. I’m hoping this will take a good junk of the first day. Remaining time will be for writing the procedure. They’ll write their procedure in a group but each will write separately.

When they come back the next day they’ll be sitting with non-lab group peers. As a warm up they will read their table partners procedure and write comments on a sticky note and discuss. Then they’ll go back to their lab groups and have 3 min to discuss any changes to their procedure. Once finished discussing and finalizing they will have 5 min to create data tables on their dry erase boards. They’ll share out the how and why. We’ll discuss any variations and need for repeat trials. They’ll record their data table. Next I’ll free them for 5 min to take data (it may take longer but I can always extend. Calling it early never goes well. . . ). Once the data is recorded then we’ll review types of graphs (Eeeeek!) I’ll give them 2 min to select which type of graph to represent their data. We’ll go around and share out if their is a lot of variability. I’m thinking a bar graph is the way to go. They seem to love bar graphs so it’ll work well for them. Next they will have 5min to create their graphs on the dry erase boards. Next well do a mini lesson on error and I’ll give them a few minutes to calculate their error and add error bars to their graphs. This should be near the end of class so the last few minutes everyone will spend time creating graphs on their paper. (Will probably offer markers and color pencils to jazz them up a bit)

Last Day!!!!

Today we’ll write our conclusions. I usually provide a very structured way of writing the conclusion. An opening sentence that restates the hypothesis. A sentence that describes how the data supported or didn’t support the hypothesis (with reference to the graph!). A sentence addressing any sources of error and error calculations. A sentence addressing possible future follow up. And a closing sentence restating the hypothesis and if it was supported or not.  I will give them 5 min to write the conclusion and extend if necessary. After conclusions are completed on the white board each group will share out. Any issues will be addressed. Once the conclusions are concluded students will return to their assigned seats and complete the assignment assessment (5min).

Next we will move on to formative assessment questions to prep for the lab quiz. Dry erase boards or socrative.


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