The Five Senses - Differentiated Lesson for ESL/Special Needs Students

Kathy Steffens, Instructional Coach K-5 Anoka-Hennepin Schools, Coon Rapids, MN, based upon an original lesson given me from an ESL teacher, Deb. V. Anderson, Anoka-Hennepin
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Initial Publication Date: August 23, 2007


In this Guided Inquiry lesson, students will explore, through the use of their five senses, things found in the natural world. They will discover that our senses are the physical means by which all living things see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Each sense collects information about the world. Students will collect data and share with one another their findings. A recording sheet for this activity is provided.

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Learning Goals

This activity is designed to help students understand that people get all of their knowledge from their senses, and that is why our senses are so important.
  • Students will identify that our senses work together to help us understand the world around us.
  • Students will record data and share that data with others.

Key Concepts/Essential Understandings:
  • Our senses are used to help us enjoy the world and they warn us of danger.
  • Our senses can work together to help us understand things in a different way.
  • We may use some senses more than others.

Vocabulary Words:

Context for Use

This activity is designed to do with a small group of students (3-8). This activity can be done within the classroom or resource room. Although it address a K-2 standard it can be used with upper grades for students who have special needs, lack background knowledge, or need language support (ESL).

Description and Teaching Materials

Record Sheet (Microsoft Word bytes Jul26 07)

Introduction: Explain to the group that today we will be learning about the way we gather information about our world. Discuss with the students what they know about their senses. Introduce the word and meaning if needed. Use this information as a type of preassessment to help guide your instruction to the needs of the students and for additional lessons.

Be purposeful in making sure that students understand that today we are going to explore how our senses help us to learn about things in our world.

Materials needed:
Slice of lemon, small potato, strong smelling herb such as pepperment leaf
**Keep in mind the background knowledge of your students when selecting objects. It is best if students are familar with the objects they are being asked to describe with their senses.

1. Do not show the students the objects or tell students which objects you are using; tell them that they are to identify each object using only one sense at a time.

2. Blindfold students and give them a combination of three objects to identify by smell only. These objects should be placed in a small box that could be picked up by students but would not allow them to feel the shape or size of the object.

3. After identifying the foods by smell, remove the objects and have the students record their guesses on the data sheet along with their reasoning. For example, I think that the object was a piece of lemon, because it smelled like lemonade. Students may draw a picture of the object.

4. Again, blindfold students and give them the three objects to identify by touch only.

5. After identifying the object by touch, remove the objects and have them record again on their data sheets. Again, the students should make a guess about the object and give their reasoning.

6. For the last group of objects students do not wear blindfolds. Give this group the three objects to identify by touch, smell and appearance. Then have them record their information on the data sheet. Again, the students will record their guess and their reasoning.

  • When was it easiest to identify the objects? Why?
  • Which objects were the easiest to guess? Why?
  • Which objects were the hardest to guess? Why?
  • What does this activity tell you about the way we learn if we use our five senses?

Teaching Notes and Tips

Experimental tasting is never recommended for safety reasons, and caution should be used when having students learn about the sense of taste.

There are many online resources that can assist teachers in their own background understanding of the senses. The following links may be helpful in building that knowledge.


Oral Assessment
1. Why do we need our five senses?
2. What can we do with our senses?
3. What are the five senses (point to the body part as you say each one)?

Student Record sheets should also be examined for student understanding and to help form instructional decisions


K.IV.G.1 - Five senses