Thursday, December 15, 2011

11 Science Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill

Reading visuals is something we've been working on in the library. Charts and graphs seem to be extremely challenging for some students to make sense of, so that is a current focus. With the idea of reading expanding, our students need to have experiences reading various types of visual information and putting that information together with text.

As part of this thinking, I read 11 SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS THAT FAILED by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter to our 5th graders.  I love this character an have loved her ever since she appeared in the book 17 THINGS I AM NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYMORE by the same author. In this new story, wonder is the key.  The little girl in the story is full of curiosity. She has lots of questions about the world and works to answer them.  For each question she has (such as "Can a person live on snow and ketchup alone?), she shares her hypothesis and tests her theory.  We had a ball reading the questions she had as well as the ways she went about finding out the answers.

This was a great book for so many reasons.  I am finding that lots of our students think that the way to find answers to their questions is to "search it up".  If something isn't answered in a Google search, students suggest finding a book or asking someone. This book started a great conversation about questions that can't be answered in that way--questions that require active research.

During the 2nd read of this book, we talked about the ways in which the narrator of the book could have recording what she discovered in her experiments.  We talked about ways she could keep track of her data and what her charts and graphs might have looked like. For example, students suggested that when trying to determine whether her dog enjoyed being covered in glitter, she could have charted the time it took for the dog to shake the glitter off for several consecutive days.  They described the chart that could be created to connect that information.  We had a great time thinking about the possibilities for this scientist.

Following these conversations, I challenged kids to create charts to keep track of data around questions they had.  Several students moved forward with this challenge creating charts to determine average time needed to play 4-Way Countdown, tracking strategies when playing Mancala, and more.

After three library classes, I can already see the interest in charts and graphs changing and found this book to be a great one to start these conversations. Whether you are looking for a book to start great conversations around science or just looking for a fun read aloud, I'd recommend this book.


  1. I used "11 Science Experiments" to launch an activity in our after school library program called "Page Turners." I had students research a few of the "failed" experiments before we read the book to see if the experiment could actually succeed. Some of the failed experiments are just plain kid-silly in the book, and others have you wondering. For instance, could you REALLY wash dishes in the washing machine? Or is it really bad for a kid to eat a bunch of snow? Anyway, we had a lot of fun with it together. I did appreciate the way the author used vocabulary that is indicative of science experiments and how well that translated to the understanding of a young reader.

  2. Really exciting set of ideas for using this book, Franki. Passing it on to my media specialist!


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