Science Mini-Lessons for Pre-Service Elementary Teachers

This page authored by Barry Bickmore, Brigham Young University
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This material was originally developed within the Pedagogy in Action Portal


In this activity, groups of students in an Earth Science class for elementary education majors create 5-minute mini-lessons about some concept in the state core science curriculum (grades 1-6). They are required to look up common misconceptions about the concept and target one of them in the lesson. The mini-lessons are then presented to the children of the appropriate grade level at a local elementary school.

Learning Goals

From this activity, students should:
  1. Become more familiar with the state core science curriculum so they understand the breadth of content they will be expected to cover.
  2. Learn the importance of directly addressing common misconceptions in science teaching.
  3. Gain a healthy respect for how much work teaching elementary school can be.
  4. Connect the content of their science classes with their future careers.

Context for Use

The activity is designed for use in science classes specifically for elementary education majors. The preparation is done during lab time, and the presentations are given during a field trip. During the field trip, our students visit a local Title I elementary school and set up their presentations at stations in the gym/cafeteria. The students who are presenting to the first grade go at one time, third grade at another time, etc. The elementary students in the appropriate grade split up into small groups at the different stations, and we rotate them ever 5-6 minutes.

Description and Teaching Materials

Materials include a description of the assignment, tips for students, and grading rubrics. The assignment is broken into several chunks, including background research, lesson plans, dress rehearsals, and so on. The students pick topics from the state core curriculum for grades 1-6. (I cut and pasted the physical science curriculum standards from the Utah state office of education and included them in the instructions. You could replace them with the standards from your own state.) Good and bad examples are given for portions of the lesson plan assignment, and other tips are given to help students create effective mini-lessons. For example, I make the student teams find (on the Internet) a common misconception about their topic and focus their mini-lesson around that. I also make sure to have them include some kind of assessment mechanism so they can see whether the kids got the point.

Student Handout for Mini-Lessons (Microsoft Word 223kB Aug25 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

At my institution, many of the elementary education majors go through their science content courses laboring under the misconception that these classes are irrelevant for their future careers. This is a terrible obstacle to engaging them in the learning process.


Grading rubrics are included in the student handout (Microsoft Word 223kB Aug25 09) for assessing lesson plans and the final presentation. My students like it best if real elementary teachers at the school do the final assessments.

References and Resources

Kirsten Thompson, Barry R. Bickmore, Charles R. Graham, and Stephen C. Yanchar (2007) Earth Science Mini-Lessons: A Service-Learning Strategy for Improving Attitudes Toward Science of Preservice Elementary Teachers, Journal of Geoscience Education, 55, 228-234. This paper describes an evaluation study of the activity.