Scientific Laws and Theories


Scientific Laws and Theories teaches students about the differences between a law and a theory when it comes to science. Students will also learn how to differentiate among facts, beliefs, and hypotheses. They will be able to give examples of each of these five concepts.

There are additional suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you could incorporate into the lesson plan. For example, one idea is to divide students into five groups and assign each group one of the five concepts from the lesson to research further.

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What our Scientific Laws and Theories lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Scientific Laws and Theories introduces students to difference between a law and a theory in relation to the field of science. Students will discover what a fact is, what a hypothesis is, and what a belief is. They will learn how to differentiate among these five concepts and give examples of each. This lesson is for students in 5th grade and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

You can check out the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for additional suggestions for ideas and activities to incorporate into the lesson. For the activity, students could work alone or in groups instead of in pairs. In addition, you could add a second or third scenario. Another option is to haves students create posters that show the differences among each of the scientific terms. You could also divide students into five groups, assign each group a term, and have the students research it further and find more examples. Another suggestion is to invite a scientist to the class to speak with students and answer their questions. One more options is to use current science content and have students identify facts, beliefs, theories, hypotheses, and laws from the content.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson. It suggests teaching this lesson in conjunction with others that relate to the scientific method, processing skills, and so on. You can use the blank lines to write down any other ideas or thoughts you have about the topic as you prepare.


Laws, Theories, Facts, and More

The Scientific Laws and Theories lesson plan contains four pages of content. Science concepts can often be quite simple or extremely difficult to understand. Students have probably learned many science-related concepts and ideas, such as the three main states of matter. They might understand that there are three states and be able to identify examples of each. But they may not understand why some matter can turn into a solid or why other substances can never turn into a liquid or gas.

There are a lot of scientific concepts, and we can’t label them all the same way. Scientists label their ideas as facts, theories, hypotheses, laws, or beliefs, depending on the traits or qualities of the idea. All these terms carry a different meaning in the field of science, and all scientists need to understand them.

Facts, Laws, and Hypotheses

The lesson provides a chart that explains each of the five labels. First, students will learn what a fact is in the field of science. Facts are basic statements that scientists have proven to be true through experiments and observation. If we observe rain from the sky, it is a fact that it’s raining. All facts are true under specific conditions, but in science, they may later be proven false when retested using better instruments or more thorough observation.

A law is a logical relationship between two or more things based on a variety of facts and proven hypotheses. Laws are often shown using mathematical formulas or statements of how two or more quantities relate to each other. Newton’s law of gravity, for example, predicts the behavior of a dropped object but does not explain why the object drops.

In science class, students often start an experiment with a hypothesis, an educated guess about what will happen and what they might observe. A hypothesis is a prediction of cause and effect. Additional experimentation and observation will either support or disprove a hypothesis. For instance, we might guess that all cleaning products are the same. After testing this idea out, we learn that some products are actually better than others, proving our hypothesis false.

Theories and Beliefs

A theory is the “why” in science. Theories explain why certain laws and facts exist, and we can test theories to determine their accuracy. Repeated testing can support a theory, and that theory will remain valid if there is no evidence to dispute it. Many times, we can label a theory as an accepted hypothesis.

One example of a theory is the idea that a large crater on Earth might have been caused by a meteor strike. However, this idea is not a proven fact, but many accept it to be true based on collected evidence. On the other hand, it’s possible that we can disprove the theory and find it to be false.

Finally, students will learn about beliefs. In science, a belief is a statement that is not scientifically provable in the same way as facts, laws, hypotheses, and theories. Beliefs that we proved to be false today can later be proven true by someone else using scientific experimenting and observation.

An example of a belief is the scenario in which many people believe there are certain lucky numbers, and the position of the planets affect how people behave. However, we cannot prove either of these beliefs to be true. It’s still possible that someone someday could change either of these beliefs into a fact after experimenting and observing.

Understanding the Difference

The difference between a theory, a law, a fact, and a hypothesis is subtle. Theories, laws, and facts often start out as as hypothesis when someone originally proposes it. After going through rigorous testing, experimentation, and observation, it’s possible that the hypothesis becomes one of the other three.

In addition, a fact may be true with certain conditions. For example, water boils at 212 °F at sea level, but at higher altitudes, it boils at lower temperatures. Every fact will depend on the specific circumstances under which a measurement is made. It is important to understand the differences.

How can you tell if a statement is a fact, law, hypothesis, theory, or belief? Facts are the statements that everyone knows to be true through direct observation. In science, we base facts on many lines of evidence. For example, at one time, it was a hypothesis that the planets circled the sun. With more observation and experimentation over time (and with better instruments), we learned that this was true, a fact. Newton discovered the law of gravity but could not explain why it worked. But others have explained it with a theory as to why it works. A theory will not become a law but explains the law.

The bottom of this page provides examples of each of the five categories of scientific concepts. Water freezes at 32°F, matter comprises atoms, and black holes exist. These are all facts. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Energy cannot be created or destroyed in a chemical reaction. These are all laws.

In the hypothesis group are three more statements. The sun will rise tomorrow morning. The universe was created at the big bang. Eating more vegetables will help a person lose weight. Theories include the idea that plate tectonics explain the movement of the continents. Natural selection explains the concept of evolution. Microorganisms cause many diseases.

Finally, humans were created separately from all other life on Earth. There are no such things as ghosts. The number 13 is unlucky, but the number 7 is lucky. These three statements all fall into the beliefs category.


The Scientific Laws and Theories lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will reinforce students’ comprehension of lesson material in different ways and help them demonstrate when they learned. Use the guidelines on the classroom procedure page to determine when to distribute each worksheet to the class.


Students will work with a partner for the activity. The worksheet provides five separate prompts regarding different scenarios about astronauts visiting a new planet. Students will collaborate and share their ideas and thoughts with each other as they develop the answers for the prompts. The five prompts relate to either a hypothesis, fact, law, theory, or belief.


The practice worksheet divides into two sections. On the first section, students will match 15 explanations to the correct term. There is a word bank with five terms to choose from. Students will use each one three times. The second section requires students to decide whether each of five statements is true (T) or false (F).


For the homework assignment, students will look at 20 statements. They must decide if the statement represents a fact (F), theory (T), hypothesis (H), law (L), or belief (B). The worksheet mentions that they can use the internet or other resources for help if necessary.

Worksheet Answer Keys

At the end of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. The correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them to studnets’ work. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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