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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Reading RST.9-10.3

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.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

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!

Source:

Buthelezi, Thandi, et al. Chemistry: Matter and Change. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

True/False:

  1. Results in experiments always match the expected outcome.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Often, experiments have unexpected results, and sometimes these are the most exciting or groundbreaking. Be prepared for anything!


  2. Reading the background information about an experiment is key in understanding the concept to be studied or tested.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). You definitely need background information in order to understand how the experiment is designed and to make predictions or hypotheses about the results.


  3. The materials needed for an experiment should be collected prior to beginning the experiment.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). You always want to have everything ready just in case some steps of the experiment are time-sensitive.


  4. The purpose of an experiment is to answer the research question.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). An experiment is all about answering a question or solving a mystery. It’s important for you to know the research question in order to fully understand and interpret the results.


  5. Hand washing is recommended at the conclusion of an experiment.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). This should be a no-brainer. Have you just been using chemicals and touching dirty lab equipment? Yes, please wash your hands.


  6. Procedures for an experiment should be followed in the order in which they are given.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Another no-brainer. The order of steps in an experiment is super important. If you’ve ever failed at baking cookies because you mixed the ingredients in the wrong order, you’ve seen the results of science gone awry. Just like in baking, the elements of your experiment will behave differently if added in a different order. Follow those directions perfectly, friends!


  7. Part of the task in a scientific experiment is to analyze the results.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Experiments aren’t just cool activities that you complete and then walk away from. What did you observe? What do those results mean? Did they meet or confound your expectations? What are possible explanations for what you observed? Analysis, baby!


  8. You can rely on your memory of measurements taken during an experiment.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Wrong! You may believe you have the best memory on the planet, but humor us and write everything down, just to be safe. For your experiment to be meaningful, you have to be certain of the exact measurements.


  9. Protective clothing is the only safety wear needed during an experiment.

    Correct Answer:

    False

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (F). Sometimes you might also need goggles, gloves, UV protective eyewear, etc. Closed-toed shoes are also a must. Be sure you read the experiment procedures thoroughly BEFORE you start, and follow all safety guidelines.


  10. Possible dangers in an experiment include extreme heat, open flames, and chemical irritants.

    Correct Answer:

    True

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (T). Yup, all dangerous stuff if you’re not careful, but if you follow all lab safety procedures, you should have no troubles.


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