Teaching Process Skills with Children's Literature: How to Think Like a Scientist

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How to Think Like a Scientist is written by Stephen P. Kramer and illustrated by Felicia Bond.  The book focuses on real world and sometimes comical situations that children encounter.   The stories focus on the types of questions that arise and how students can learn by putting the scientific method into practice to get the answers to their questions.  The illustrator, Felicia Bond illustrator for the series, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, is known for utilizing a comedic element within her illustrations making it appealing to children to read.

For the sake of brevity, this example will be paraphrased.

The situation entitled “Because we want to” takes a real world approach to children making choices towards completing homework.  In this example, the teacher, Ms. Wilson, assigns a math assignment to be turned in on Monday.  You, the student, are working diligently on a math assignment Sunday afternoon when your friend Pat calls and invites you to see a movie that you really want to see.  Ms. Wilson has been behind on collecting and returning homework assignments and you and Pat figure she will not collect this math assignment until later in the week.  Pat offers to distract her Monday by asking how her weekend went.

QUESTION: Is Ms. Wilson going to collect the math assignment Monday morning?

ANSWER:  Pat does as promised and asks Ms. Wilson how her weekend went and she responds “I’ll tell you all about it while you’re passing your math papers up to the front of the room.”

“Suddenly you feel very sick.  You were sure the answer to the question would be “no”.  As a matter of fact, you were the only person in the whole class who doesn’t have the paper finished.  What happened?”

“Part of the reason you answered the question incorrectly was because of an observation.”

The book then takes the students through the art of using the Scientific Method.

Curriculum Connections
How To Think Like a Scientist is appropriate for third graders in their development of logic and reasoning as well as the development of practicing the steps of the scientific method.  SOL 3.1 a, b, g, h & j are achieved by reading this book and putting these practices in real science experiments either performed at home or in the classroom.

Additional Resources

  • Utah Education Network: “It’s Hammer Time” A lesson plan teaching third grade students to use the scientific method while learning about simple machines, and push and pull forces.
  • Another example that I have collaboratively taught at the third grade level should be done in close proximity to the Thanksgiving holiday.  The basic idea is to use the scientific method to make hypotheses about what families will eat during the holiday meal.  The students will collect data from the class and will learn to input the data on a computer and graph the results.  From this process, the students will draw conclusions from the data collected.  As I recall, the data was broken out into the main course, the starch, the vegetable and the best part, the dessert.
  • A to Z Teacher Stuff: Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Mixtures

Book: How to Think Like a Scientist
Author: Stephen P. Kramer
Illustrator:  Felicia Bond
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Publication Date: 1987
Pages: 42 pages
Grade Range: 3-7
ISBN: 0-690-04565-4