Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2004

Annie Chien or visit


Generic Fishbowl Activity for the Science Classroom

This activity was originally designed by Allison Godshall and the staff at the School of the Future. The author modified the activity based on action research in her own classroom as well as observation in other classrooms.

Introductory Notes for the Teacher: A great way to incorporate student-lead discussions is through a fishbowl activity. Popular among humanities teachers, a fishbowl activity allows students to engage in a discussion that is facilitated by a “student leader” and allows the students themselves take ownership of the talk. It is also a modeling activity for accountability; the activity is designed so that there is also observation occurring between students to push for active listening, and constructive interaction.

The fishbowl can be easily adapted in science classrooms. Teachers can use the protocol to have students share and discuss lab results. As a part of a lab activity students can design an experiment setup. It is also a perfect structure for a debate or addressing current events.

The following lesson will guide you throughout the activity, from setup to completion. For a successful fishbowl, read the whole lesson first before implementation. The first two fishbowls maybe a struggle for you, especially for classrooms that has been traditionally teacher-centered. Active listening, constructive and accountable talk take practice, therefore the more you use activities such as the fishbowl in the classroom, the more the students will adopt them as a classroom routine.

Instructional Objectives: In addition to content objectives, students will also be able to..

National Standards: Teaching Standard B. Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers:

Materials Check List:

Pre Class Preparations:

The Class Workshop

Class Wrap Up


Differentiation Tactics

Feel free to contact me via email about your experiences with the fishbowl at


Return to General Science Lesson Plan Menu