To understand how we use the five senses to gather information.
In this lesson, students learn about their five senses. At the K-2 level, you can expect that students are familiar with the fact that their nose smells, their fingers feel, their eyes see, their ears hear, and their tongue tastes. However, students may not have spent much time thinking about how they use these body parts and their senses to learn about the world around them. This lesson encourages students to explore their environment using their senses, first in an open-ended way, and then in a more reflective way. Using student sheets to record their observations, students work in small groups at five "Sense Stations," where they document what they smell, taste, see, etc. Through group discussion, students then are challenged to think about how their senses led them to new information.
For a fun yet educational twist, students are asked to be "sense detectives" at the sense stations and to document their clues on their student sheets. Students use these clues (the things they learn about items by using their senses) later in the lesson to write a "Sense Mystery." Writing the mystery gives students exposure and practice to linking science with literacy. It also helps them really think about what they have learned by challenging them to incorporate appropriate ideas about the five senses into their story. This lesson includes a guideline for the writing exercise as well as all necessary student sheets.
Students at the K-2 level are very curious about the world around them. This lesson facilitates their interaction with their environment by encouraging them to learn more about their surroundings with their senses, and helps them to become more aware of how much they rely on their senses to learn new things. "(Students) should be encouraged to notice how they learn by asking them how they learned something in the past or how they might learn to do something new or by having them teach a skill to someone else." (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 140.) As students participate in the activities and discussions of this lesson, they reflect on how they learn with their senses, that they have a tendency to use particular senses to gather particular types of information, and that they can use their senses to help someone else learn about something new.
In the Development section, students work at "Sense Stations." These are stations or centers that you will need to set up in advance. You will need to collect items that correspond to students exploring each of the five senses. You may want to have each station be on a table top, or you could have a variety of arrangements, with some on tables, some on the floor. Suggestions for each of the stations include:
Also, label each station in words and pictures. If you want to, go to the My Senses Tell Me Labels teacher sheet for labels you can cut out and use at the stations.
Begin with an introductory discussion about the five senses. A good place to start is defining what we mean by "sense." You can define sense as a way to understand or experience what is around us. Tell students that people have five senses that we use to help us do this. They are touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. To help students begin thinking about how we use these senses to help us understand or experience what is around us, make a web of a class discussion.
Draw one large circle in the middle of chart paper, and label it "Senses." Draw five lines stemming out from this center circle, evenly spaced apart, and make a circle at the end of each line. You will now have one center circle labeled Senses, and five outer circles that you will label individually as "Touch," "Smell," "Taste," "Sight," and "Hearing." You can now use these outer circles to write students' ideas about each of these senses. You may choose to create more of these webs, if you want the topics discussed recorded separately, or you may want to collect all of the students' ideas on one chart paper. For example, if you ask students to discuss how they use each sense and then ask them to name things they hear, smell, touch, taste, and see, you may want their responses on separate webs to keep the information clear or you may want to collect everything on one paper. Your decision will likely be based upon how many students you have in the class, how much information they offer, and how many questions you pose. Here are a few questions that might be good to help students begin thinking about their five senses:
- What parts of your body do you use for each of the five senses?
(You will probably want to ask about each sense individually.)
- When might you use each of your senses?
- Can you think of times when you use two or more senses at the same time?
- How do your senses help you find out more about something?
Keep your web(s) on display in the classroom so that students can refer to them during this lesson. Please remember that during this phase of the lesson, it is important to collect all of their ideas, whether factually accurate or not, and write them in the web. Students will discover on their own, through the activities of this lesson and group discussions, the accuracy or inaccuracy of their initial statements.
Using the My Senses student esheet, students should begin by going thtrough the My Senses ebook. Students who can read will benefit from learning some basic information about each of the five senses. If your students are not yet able to read independently, consider printing these information pages out and displaying them in the classroom along with the web(s). You can read these pages to students, and their pictorial representations will aid students in remembering what these pages say. You could also either laminate these pages or cover them in transparent contact paper, which makes them more durable, and leave them in an area of the classroom for students to access (such as the book area). If your classroom is set up with any types of centers, these pages could correspond to the centers. For example, the hearing page could be placed in the listening or music area, the touch page could go in the art area, etc.
Now that students have spent some time thinking about their five senses, they are ready to learn more about how their senses help them gain information about the world around them. Because young students benefit from the opportunity for free exploration before they think critically about what they are exploring, encourage them to explore the environment using their five senses. You could have them do this outdoors or indoors. Ask them to notice the kinds of things they can touch, taste, see, hear, and smell. The sense of taste may be a little difficult for students to explore freely, but you can ask them to notice the kinds of things that people are able to taste (a vegetable plant, food being prepared in the cafeteria, even crumbs on the floor!). Keep this part of the activity rather short, in order to leave time for students to work more closely on five senses concepts in the next step of this lesson. About ten minutes might work nicely.
Now have students explore the same environment, but this time, give them the My Senses Tell Me student sheet to record their observations as they explore.
Once students have explored their senses through this activity, bring them together as a group to discuss what they noticed during this exploration. You might ask:
- What kinds of things did you touch, smell, hear, see, or taste?
(Again, ask about each sense individually.)
- Tell us about what you noticed when you were exploring.
- When you used your fingers to touch something, what did you learn?
(Ask about each sense individually.)
- Did you learn new things about something when you used more than one sense? For example, if you looked at a table (using your sense of sight), what could you tell about the table? Then, if you touched the table, what else could you learn about the table?
Next, divide students into five groups. These groups will rotate through the five "Sense Stations" you will have already set up (as described in the Planning Ahead section). Give each student their Sense Detective student sheet. Tell them that they will each be detectives! Their job is to gather clues, using their senses, about the items presented at each sense station. You can tell them that their clues will be used later in this lesson to write a Sense Mystery!
At each sense station, students use one of their five senses to learn more about the items present. Through this exercise, students gather information by using their senses, and also test whether or not their sense gives them the same information if they move farther away from the items.
Once students have recorded their clues on their Sense Detective student sheet, guide a group discussion about what they discovered through this exercise.
- What kinds of clues did you gather?
- Did it feel a little different to try to learn something about your items at any particular sense station? (Did you learn that you use one of your senses the most when discovering something?)
- Was it hard not to use some of your other senses at any of the sense stations? (For example, was it hard not to use your eyes?)
- Did each of your senses give you the same kind of information? Discuss.
- How do you think a person who does not have use of one or more of their senses can get information about something? For example, how can a blind person learn what something looks like? How can someone who cannot hear learn how things sound? (Teacher note: In the Extensions section of this lesson, there are some ideas and resources listed for further exploration of this concept. You may prefer to include them at this point of the lesson instead. Whether you want to expand on them now or later, it is important for students to think about these kinds of issues.)
As a fun way to wrap up this lesson, have students work together to write a mystery using the clues they gathered at the sense stations. This is also a good exercise for linking literacy and science, an important skill for students. Using chart paper to record their story, ask students questions to help organize their information. To develop the mystery, you can refer to the Writing a Sense Mystery: Ideas teacher sheet. This sheet is for you to refer to for this group writing experience, especially if the majority of your students are not yet reading and writing. If your students are independent readers and writers, perhaps you could have students work again in small groups to write their own mysteries, or even work individually. The ideas sheet simply offers ideas about some important elements for writing a story and reminds students to develop the story around the clues they gathered regarding their five senses.
As a way for students to reflect on what they have learned and to give you a means for assessing what students have learned, have students present their mysteries to the rest of the class and encourage classmates to ask questions about their stories. Help students focus their questions on things that involve the five senses. Some guiding questions might be:
- What senses did your character use?
- What senses helped solve the mystery? How?
- Did your character use one sense more than another?
- Do you think your character could have used her/his senses to get the same information whether s/he was far away or close to what s/he was investigating?
Another idea you might try doing is outlined at Classifying the Five Senses. Consider making these cards and bags and letting them be accessible to students as a choice during science time. Leaving it more open ended this way allows you to observe students' ability to categorize and sort based on the attribute of sense.
This is a great time to refer to the web you made at the beginning of this lesson. Students can look at their ideas before this lesson and compare them to what they have since learned. Students could make a new web about what they learned.
For teaching about how people without the use of one or more of their senses gather information in alternative ways, you could see if one student is comfortable being blindfolded. If so, challenge classmates to help that student understand what something looks like using the other four senses. Parts of the body other than fingers can feel, and how something feels can also be played out physically (bumpy can be described with jumping up and down). Students can be amazingly creative in breaking information down to help others understand it when challenged and given the chance.
Additionally, adding some materials to the classroom for the students to explore will help with this teaching. Braille books are excellent for students to feel and to help them understand how someone who can't see can still read, using the sense of touch rather than sight. Tuning forks placed in water will make sound, or vibrations, visible. Also, feeling things that vibrate, such as a stereo speaker, can help translate the sound of music to the sensation of touch. These are just some ideas that you can incorporate in your classroom for this lesson topic. As always, it is great to have guests with these disabilities visit with students.
You can visit these websites for additional educational ideas about the five senses: