How to Encourage Kids to Make Generalizations in Science

Generalizations force kids to zero in on scientific concepts. For higher level thinking, give your science activities a twist. Begin with a conceptual question. Present a science activity. Then ask kids to make a generalization. When you use this strategy, kids discover scientific concepts themselves.

Making Generalizations in Science

Making Generalizations in Ms. Sneed’s Classroom

In the midst of her physical science unit, Ms. Sneed is teaching about light. She asks, “What kinds of materials are transparent, translucent, opaque?”  Then she explains the terms. Each lab group receives flashlights and various materials. Ms. Sneed shows them how to shine the flashlight toward the material against a wall. Kids experiment with the materials. They write their observations on a lab sheet. Next, they discuss which types of materials fit each category.  Finally, they make generalizations to answer Ms. Sneed’s question. Students in one lab group write, “Transparent materials are clear. Translucent materials are partially clear. Opaque materials are colored and not clear at all.”

To wrap up the activity, Ms. Sneed asks each group to share. Finally, the class collaborates to write shared generalizations. Their teacher hangs their findings on the wall.

AfterStudents shine a flashlight on different items. Then they make generalizations about materials that are transparent, translucent, or opaque. This encourages scientific thinking in third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade.

Building Ability to Make Generalizations

Over the course of the year, Ms. Sneed scaffolds students’ ability to generalize. In the beginning, she asks, “What does all of this mean?” The class discusses findings as a whole group. Ideas flow freely. Ms. Sneed guides them toward a conclusion. After a few weeks, she switches to “What can we conclude?” and “What conclusion can we draw?” Asking these questions helps her students understand the language of science. Soon, Ms. Sneed’s students are able to draw conclusions on their own. Therefore, it’s time to introduce another term: generalization. From this point on, her students make generalizations with their lab groups.

Making Generalizations in Your Classroom

Asking kids to make generalizations forces them to think. Don’t explain the concept. Instead, ask, “What can we conclude?” Your students will be well on their way to becoming little scientists.

Making generalizations is just the start of scientific thinking. To get those little brains working, ask kids to use inquiry, conduct a fair test, or complete a STEM activity.

The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) advocates a three-dimensional teaching and learning strategy:

  1. Engage students in science.
  2. Integrate science and engineering practices, core disciplinary concepts, and crosscutting topics.
  3. Use observable phenomena to drive learning.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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