Safety Rules    












We used interactive notebooks to record predictions and facts





We experimented with light and observed the crayfish's reaction



We were brave and picked up our crayfish



Our crayfish were really tired after we played with them!




1. Investigating Crayfish Using Scientific Inquiry, Jennifer Abbey and Valeen Vaccaro, Mrs. McGinley, Grade 3


2.         Three Day mini-unit:

Day 1   Introduction to Crayfish

Day 2   Exploring Crayfish

Day 3   What We Learned about Crayfish


3.         The rationale for this mini-unit is as follows: It is important for students to learn about creatures that exist in our world. By exploring the behaviors and characteristics of living creatures such as crayfish, students will use inquiry, observation and record-keeping to conduct scientific experimentation. Students will learn to develop a method of testing in order to find out the answers to their questions. These skills will provide them with the knowledge necessary for scientific experimentation.


4.  Visual Representation: Crayfish, 1 for each pair of students


5.   Preparation: In order to prepare for the crayfish unit, we will group the students in pre-arranged pairs. Desks will be moved into rows of 2 to accommodate the pairs. Students will be given the rules for the lesson and for scientific experimentation in general. Students will be made aware of the responsibility of handling delicate, living creatures and will be taught how to properly hold the crayfish by first watching the teachers’ demonstrate. Students who cannot follow the rules will be told to observe until they can gain control and participate safely.


6.         Unit goals are as follows:

            Can the students work successfully in pairs conducting scientific experimentation?

            Can the students make observations and predictions about the crayfish and record them in interactive notebooks for discussion?


7.         Lesson Plan Sequence:

            In this mini-unit which involves the handling of living creatures, it is necessary to begin with an introduction on how to handle crayfish, how to observe them, and understanding what they need to survive. The introduction will set the stage for the second part of the unit; exploration. In exploring the crayfish, students will begin to feel comfortable with living creatures, make observations, ask questions and conduct experiments to find the answers to those questions. On day three we will discuss all that we learned about crayfish. Pairs will present the findings of their assigned experiments to the rest of the class.  We will revisit our KWL chart, this time including what we learned. Students’ interactive notebooks will be collected for review.


NJ Core Content Science Standards:

5.1.4 A Habits of Mind

Raise questions about the world around them and be willing to seek answers through careful observations and experimentation.     


5.1.4 C Safety

Understand and practice safety procedures for conducting science investigations.


            5.1.4 B Inquiry and Problem Solving

Develop strategies and skills for -gathering and problem-solving using appropriate tools and technologies.



  • Students will observe crayfish and create questions about what they want to learn.


  • Students will learn the practice of handling living creatures carefully during investigation.


  • Students will use interactive notebooks to record observations, predictions and results from scientific experimentation.



A KWL chart will be used to assess prior knowledge on day one. Homework assignment on preparing questions about crayfish will assess students’ ability to conduct inquiry. Repeat of KWL chart at close of mini-unit will assess what students’ learned in comparison to what they knew on day one. Review of interactive notebooks will assess how students performed experiments and ability to conduct observations, scientific inquiry and record-keeping.


Day One: Introduction to Crayfish 


ENGAGE:      Students will be told that for the next few days we are going to be studying living creatures called “Crayfish”. In order to do this, we need to first go over the safety rules and set up interactive notebooks to record our experiments, predictions and take notes.


EXPLORE:     Although the students are going to be very eager about the crayfish, we are going to start the lesson with the safety rules for handling living creatures. We will be firm about those who cannot follow the rules. Students who break any of the safety rules will be dismissed from the activity.


EXPLAIN:     We will explain to the students our intention to experiment with the crayfish in order to learn more about them.  We will talk about the things we already know about crayfish and other animals in the same family.  We will hand each child a small booklet which the students will use to set up their interactive notebooks.  We will briefly explain this concept and tell the students that this interactive notebook will be used for the duration of this lesson. We will continue to model how to use the interactive notebooks by walking around and reminding students to write all questions, predictions and observations on the left side, and notes on the right side.



We will place the students into pairs:


Tatiana/Ronaldo, Reginald/Mrs.McGinley, Nyah/Jason, Sydney/KiAizah, Serena/Sharleka,           Jet/Fahiym, Yasmarie/Raijon    Kerry/Diana,         Arianna/Yuleah


Students will name their crayfish and then observe them. Students will record what they see in their interactive notebooks, and then draw a picture of their crayfish attempting to label the parts. We will encourage the students to talk about their crayfish and to write several questions on the left side of their notebooks.  We will come together as a class and talk about all of the things we know about Crayfish through our observations. We will create a KWL Chart on the board. Next, we will discuss what we want to know and have the students copy the chart into their “crayfish” interactive notebook.  We will add what we want to learn to our KWL charts.


EVALUATE: Throughout this lesson, we will walk around to see how the kids are reacting and interacting with each other while observing their crayfish.  We will see how the students respond to guided questions and to brainstorming.  Students will be given an assignment for homework asking them to choose one of the “want to know” items from the KWL chart and make a prediction about it.  We will give an example such as “I want to know how a crayfish protects itself.  I predict that a crayfish protects itself by running away and snapping its claws.”  This homework paper will also have a diagram of a crayfish for the students to try and fill out.


Day Two: Exploring Crayfish


ENGAGE: Students will be told that today we are going to focus on learning about the crayfish through observation and experimentation. We will tell them that this is how we will try to can answer many of their questions about crayfish.


EXPLORE: Students will be given their crayfish and we will have them discuss in their groups, about how they might find out what a crayfish likes to eat.  We will ask them to try to come up with a way that we could test this idea.  Students will be given 5 minutes to discuss.


EXPLAIN: We will explain to the students how we would go about setting up an experiment to determine what crayfish prefer to eat. In front of the class, we will demonstrate how we would conduct this experiment, using hungry crayfish of our own.  We will make a chart on the board listing the data. Students will make observations/record the data simultaneously in their interactive notebooks. 


ELABORATE: Groups will be assigned different variables to test.  Students will be asked to set up their experiment and figure out a way to display their data so that it can be explained to others.  Teachers will walk around during this activity and help the students.  Again, use of interactive notebooks will be encouraged.


EVALUATE: Students will be evaluated during this process as teachers walk around.  For homework, students will be given sheets in which they are asked to make predictions about other students’ assigned experiments and answer one question about their own.


Day Three:  What we Learned about Crayfish


ENGAGE: Students will be told that today the pairs are going to present to the rest of the class what they learned about crayfish the day before.


EXPLORE: Students will be given various materials to control for light, habitat, territory, etc and will be given five minutes to just play with the items.


EXPLAIN: We will have each group report to one another about what they found out and how they went about doing it. They will use information from their interactive notebooks to share their findings.


ELABORATE: Students will be asked to listen and record comments and questions in their notebooks. Students will be given a chance to check their predictions and ask questions.


EVALUATE: The pairs of students that worked together will be asked to present the information they observed, recorded and tested to the class. A KWL chart will be made on the board listing all that we learned about crayfish. Students will be asked to hand in their interactive notebooks. 


Content Knowledge:

Martin-Hansen, Lisa Crayfish Investigations, Science Activities, Vol. 41, No. 4

Coldiron, Deborah, Crayfish, ABDO Publishing, MN: 2009


Unit Culminating Activity:

Students will present what they learned to the other groups. A KWL chart will be completed on the board so that students can discuss what they learned about crayfish. Interactive notebooks will be collected, reviewed, and used as assessment for future lessons.                    



Crayfish activity worksheets and guiding questions (see attached)


Home-School Connection: A letter will be sent home to parents letting them know that the students will be studying crayfish. The letter will encourage parents to ask their children about the crayfish in order to promote the important home-school connection. (See attached letter)


Appendix:      a. Crayfish labeling worksheet

b. Guiding questions

c. Letter to parents



Names of Group Members:





Name of your Crayfish: ______________________________


Directions: As a group, carefully label the parts you see on your crayfish.







Dear Parents,


We have some exciting visitors coming to our third grade classroom! On November 18th we are going to begin a science unit on Crayfish. We will learn how crayfish survive, what they eat and where they live. We will learn how to hold the crayfish, how to observe them, and we will experiment with them in order to learn more about these wonderful living creatures.


Please be sure to ask your child about what he or she is learning once we begin our unit. We are all looking forward to this exciting week of hands-on activities with our new “friends”.


Thank you,


Ms. Vaccaro and Mrs. Abbey