Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy
ELA: KINDERGARTEN - GRADE 12
LITERACY: GRADES 6 - 12
RST.9-10.3. Follow precisely a complex, multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
Set the Stage
In order to safely conduct experiments in science class, students must be able to read and understand the steps required. At times these procedures may be complex, so close reading skills are important here. Publishers tend to make the layout of a lab experiment pages similar, no matter the content, so teaching students to use headings and diagrams as part of their reading strategies will help them to accurately follow the procedure. Let’s bond with your students over this one.
Your chemistry teacher has asked you to demonstrate your ability to follow directions and complete tasks while conducting an experiment. You must first be able to correctly decipher what the experiment is asking you to do. Lab experiment instructions, in general, include the following: background information, the research question, a list of materials, safety precautions, procedures, analysis, and conclusions. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
Reading the background information is key in understanding what the experiment is about and what conclusions you might draw. Next, you must understand what the research question is asking. For example, if the question is, “Can the physical properties of a compound indicate that they have ionic bonds?” you would need to be able to define physical properties, compound, and ionic bond. Naturally, you have already learned about these concepts; now you’re reading to apply them.
A materials list is always provided. Sort of like a grocery list your mom gives you. Your teacher will have set these materials out for you at your work station. Be sure that everything is there before you start the experiment. Collect any missing items.
Safety is primary during scientific work, so be sure to take the proper precautions. These might include wearing safety glasses or protective clothing and reviewing warnings about extreme heat, open flames, and chemical irritants. You’re sure to feel like Einstein in your science garb. Read the lab safety form provided. Hand washing is always a must after lab work. Chemicals are not a welcome addition to your lunch.
Step-by-step procedures are numbered in the textbook. These should be followed exactly as written. All measurements taken throughout the experiment should be recorded in your lab journal or on a data table. To answer the previously mentioned research question about compounds and ionic bonds, you’ll be setting up and using a Bunsen burner. You’ll measure the mass of a clean, dry crucible. Adding a rolled magnesium ribbon to the crucible, you’ll measure the mass of these two together.
So, you used the Bunsen burner to heat the crucible and removed it once you observed the igniting of the magnesium and its change into a brilliant white light. Once cooled, you re-measured the mass of the magnesium and crucible. Placing the dry magnesium in a beaker, you measured and added distilled water to the product. After stirring the two, you checked the measure with a conductivity tester.
Having completed all the steps in the procedure, including measurement and other technical tasks, you interpreted the results of the experiment: analyzed collected data, identified energy forms, made inferences, and drew conclusions. You also noted any unexpected results. For example, in this case, did the magnesium compound lose mass instead of gaining? You explained possible sources of error or exceptions.
And, don’t forget to WASH THOSE HANDS, people!
Buthelezi, Thandi, et al. Chemistry: Matter and Change. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.