Standard Lesson

Digging Up Details on Worms: Using the Language of Science in an Inquiry Study

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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Foregrounding scientific vocabulary, this integrated lesson invites students to research worms in order to create a classroom habitat. Students are first introduced to inquiry notebooks and then use them record what they already know about worms. Next, students observe the cover of a fiction book about worms and make a hypothesis on whether the book is fact or fiction, and then check their hypotheses after the book is read aloud. Next, after an introduction to related scientific words such as hypothesis, habitat, attribute, predator, and prey, students conduct and record research and findings in their inquiry notebooks. Once they have gathered the necessary information, students plan and build a worm habitat, which becomes the springboard for further scientific exploration, observation, and experimentation.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Students are naturally curious about the world around them. Therefore, it is important to provide students with the opportunity to pose questions and discover answers on their own. Working across the disciplines helps to reinforce the facts, skills and information for the students. In her article, "Science Text Sets: Using Various Genres to Promote Literacy and Inquiry," Margaretha Ebbers suggests "in elementary classrooms, the scientific practices of observing, questioning, predicting, describing, explaining, and investigating should be woven together with the literacy practices of reading, writing, speaking, and listening." In this lesson plan, students actively participate in scientific practices and use scientific vocabulary while reading, writing, and researching.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Materials to create a worm habitat, including worms

  • Inquiry notebooks




Student Objectives

Students will

  • compare information from fiction and nonfiction works on the same topic.

  • define and use science vocabulary words.

  • generate questions of what they want to find out about worms.

  • participate in inquiry groups to find answers to their questions about worms.

  • work together as a class to create a worm habitat.

  • record observations and findings in inquiry notebooks.

Session One

  1. Ask students to share information that they know about worms. Encourage students to talk about their observations, experiences, and feelings (to explain what they know), and to explain why they shared the information (to explain how they know). Students can also add any questions they may have about worms.

  2. Record students’ responses on the board, chart paper, or as part of a KWL chart.

  3. Explain that the class will create a worm habitat, which will be kept in the classroom, so that they can observe and learn more about worms.

  4. Explain that students will keep inquiry notebooks as they work on this project.

  5. Pass out the notebooks and discuss the kinds of information that scientists record in such journals: observations, questions, reflections, findings, and so forth.

  6. Explain that notebook entries should begin with the date—the month and the day. If desired, students can also include the time and/or the day of the week.

  7. Take a few minutes for students to record their own ideas about worms and the project in their notebooks. Recordings can include text and drawings.

  8. Introduce the scientific term hypothesis, a guess or prediction based on the available information.

  9. Introduce a fiction book on worms from the booklist to the class by asking students to make observations based on the cover of the book.

  10. Based on their observations about the cover and their knowledge of worms, ask students to make a hypothesis on whether the book is a story of fact or fiction. If needed, review the differences between fact and fiction briefly at this point.

  11. Encourage students to point to evidence on the cover that supports their hypothesis.

  12. Record their hypothesis on the board or chart paper, and ask students to record their hypothesis in the inquiry journals.

  13. Read the book you’ve chosen aloud.

  14. After reading the story, ask students to share details about the worm in the book that they noticed. Record their observations on the board.

  15. Ask students to review the list, and decide whether they support the class hypothesis about whether the book was fact or fiction.

  16. Encourage students to work from the evidence on the list to draw a conclusion about the book.

  17. Have students record their findings about the book in their inquiry journals.

  18. Allow time at the end of the session for students to explore additional books from the booklist.

Session Two

  1. Invite students to share some of what they read and saw in the books about worms.

  2. Ask students to volunteer any questions they have about worms. Record these comments on the board, chart paper, or as part of a KWL chart.

  3. Review the plan to create a habitat for worms, and record any additional questions that the project brings up.

  4. After the questions have been recorded, use the Animal Inquiry Words interactive to introduce and define the following scientific words:

    • Attributes

    • Habitat

    • Food

    • Shelter

    • Predator/Prey

    • Unique Features
  5. Once students understand the words, return to the list of questions about worms that students have created and place the questions into categories based on the animal study words (e.g., attributes, habitat, food).

  6. Arrange students in research groups, and assign each group a set of questions to answer.

  7. If students have not experienced research before, begin with this practice lesson plan before students move on to their worm research.

  8. Provide each group with materials they will need to answer their research questions: books, journals, Websites,  and printouts (see the Resources section), dictionaries and encyclopedias, etc.

  9. Ask students to keep track of their research and findings in their inquiry notebooks. Support use of scientific words as students work. Students may suggest hypotheses about the questions and then record their hypotheses and findings in their notebooks.

  10. If desired, introduce the Animal Inquiry interactive, an online graphic organizer that provides students a place to record four facets of animals [basic facts, animal babies, interaction with others, and habitats]. The writing prompts can be used to organize research questions as well as to record findings. After completing individual sections or the entire organizer, students have the ability to print out their final versions for feedback and assessment.

  11. Facilitate the research process as the groups work to find answers to their questions. Allow an adequate amount of time for students to research.

  12. As students are working, remind them that their goal is to learn enough about worms to be able to build a habitat that could sustain worm life.

  13. Review students’ notes in their inquiry notebooks and offer supportive feedback and comments while the visiting each group.

  14. Allow additional research sessions as necessary for students to find answers to their questions.

Session Three

  1. Invite individual groups to share their findings with the class. Encourage students to use scientific words to describe their research and findings.

  2. Record their answers on the board, chart paper or KWL chart.

  3. If there are still unanswered questions, record those as well.

  4. After all of the groups have shared, review the findings as a class.

  5. Working together as a class, plan the habitat for the worms, recording the details on the board.

  6. Ask students to reflect on the categories that they have researched by asking the following questions:

    • What habitat do worms need?

    • What kind of food does the habitat need to include?

    • What kind of shelter will the habitat need to have for the worms?

    • Should predators be included in the habitat?

    • What prey will the habitat include?
  7. Guide students to create a list of materials necessary for the classroom worm habitat. Before the next session, gather all of the resources, including worms that will live in the habitat.

Session Four

  1. Explain that this session will be devoted to building the worm habitat in the classroom.

  2. As the habitat is assembled, ask the students to help you write the procedure.

  3. Record the procedure on the board or chart paper, so students are able to transfer the information to their inquiry notebooks.

  4. Working together as a class, develop guidelines for touching and looking at the worm habitat. Record these guidelines on chart paper as well.

  5. Allow time for students to observe and explore the worm habitat over the course of the next several class sessions.


  • Invite the students to participate in Math and Science Centers based on the worms and their habitat. These activities also invite students to write in their inquiry notebooks.

  • Even though this thematic unit is about worms, it also is a natural way of introducing a unit on recycling since worms are recyclers. In fact, students need to understand the concept of recycling in order to understand how worms are community helpers. Students can be community helpers like the worms by helping to recycle and helping to take care of the earth.

    • Construct a recycling graph. Have students count pieces of trash left over from their lunch and graph their findings in their inquiry notebooks or a shared class graph. Ask students to write about what they know by reading the graph, to connect math with writing.

    • Build a compost pile at the school to learn even more about worms. When the pile has had time to mature, invite the students to dig with a large shovel and observe the animals living there. Ask the students to record their observations, using the observation form.

    • Begin a recycling campaign at the school to help save the earth. The students could construct posters for the school with persuasive writing to encourage others to participate in recycling to help take care of the earth like the worms.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Assess student work by observing the following:

  • participation in class discussions.

  • engagement in the inquiry process (searching for and recording answers about worms).

  • printouts from the Animal Inquiry interactive.

  • level of detail in inquiry notebooks, including facts and observations.

In all work for the activity, listen and watch for indications that using the language of science as they explore the inquiry project. Students should demonstrate a clear and accurate understanding of scientific vocabulary words introduced in this project by using the words in their inquiry notebooks, group conversations, and class discussion.