Leaf it to me!
Lesson 4 of 7
Objective: SWBAT sort leafs from different trees by comparing their attributes.
I have the students gather on the floor. To ensure a smooth transition, I call one table at a time to come to the floor to sit like scientists. This means that they are expected to sit crisscross applesauce with hands in laps, mouths closed, and brains ready to learn. As kids follow directions and prepare for the science lesson, I thank kids for demonstrating how a scientist sits. This encourages other kids to model the desired behavior. Even my behaviorally challenged kids jump at the chance to demonstrate how to sit like a scientist. They fill with pride when they are acknowledged for doing a good job.
Once they are ready to begin the lesson, I explain to them how the experience is going to look. I demonstrate sorting paper leaves. I stress the sorting with shape rather than color. This eliminates surprise and helps kids who are change sensitive, especially my developmentally delayed kids and my autistic mainstream kids.They know exactly what and how we are going to do things before we do it, which lowers their anxiety.
Here's what I tell them:
- I will call one table leader at a time to get an envelope with synthetic leaves in it.
- Once all the table leaders are seated, I'll call one table at time to go sit at the tables quietly with hands in your lap
- When you're ready, I'll ask the table leaders to take the leaves out of the envelopes.
- You will work together to sort them into piles of leaves that have similar characteristics. Who can remember what characteristics means? I chose a random volunteer to answer. I call on kids until the meaning of characteristics is clear.
- To work together, everyone must talk to each other and share ideas. I will walk around to the different tables to help you if you need it.
- Once your table has finished sorting the the leaves, raise your hand and I will come and check your work.
*If the sorting is incorrect, I use guiding questions to get the kids thinking differently about their sorting criteria. For instance, I might ask how they sorted the leaves and have them explain their thinking. I might also ask the kids to show me how the leaves are the same in a single pile. This often gets them thinking more in line with the goal of the lesson.
As I roam the room during the exploration, I engage kids in higher level questioning so that they can reason out why they sorted the leaves the way they did. I ask them to explain how they did the sorting and what they were looking for when sorting the leaves.
I also ask the kids to show me each leaf in one of the piles and to explain to me the differences between one pile and another.
This is the foundation for drawing conclusions, making a statement based on observations and using evidence to defend their statements. By the end of the year, my kids can create, state, defend and debate arguments at a basic level. If their future teachers follow this process, the kids will have no problem finding details in things that allow them to formulate a conclusion and defend it with confidence by the time they're in fourth or fifth grade.
Once all the tables have successfully completed the sorting of the leaves, I have them gather back on the floor. I ask the table leaders to collect the leaves and put them back in the envelope. I call one table at a time to come sit on the floor. I tell them I am looking for the table that can come to the floor the quietest. This encourages excellent behavior.
I ask the kids to tell me what they learned and observed while sorting the leaves. I first have the share their ideas with their floor partner. HOW PARTNERS ARE CHOSEN. I then call on random students by pulling name sticks out of a name stick can. This prevents subconscious bias in calling on students. Whether we, as teachers, realize it or not, we often call on the same students repeatedly while overlooking others.
I provide sentence starters for students who need the extra support in sharing ideas. For this section of the lesson, I provide them with, "I saw that the leaves...." They could fill in with were round, pointy, like a toothpick, had three points, or whatever else they observed.
I record the ideas they share on chart paper. I illustrate when needed to clarify the information shared. This supports my struggling learners as well as my ELL students.
I post the chart paper somewhere in the room where they can easily access the information in subsequent lessons in this lesson.
The three types of leaves are:
simple leaf (one solid piece - oak tree)
compound leaf (more than one piece - rose bush)
needle (conifer - pine tree)
We continue to stay seated on the floor, but I give the kids a quick brain break and planned wiggle time. I do this to allow them to get the blood flowing to their brains and to keep them engaged. Sitting too long on the floor in a whole group can cause undo stress and promote behavior problems. Planned brain breaks can eliminate both of those problems.
For this brain break I have the kids start by crouching down and acting like a seed. I then have them slowly stand straight up and raise their arms to the ceiling. They then sprawl their fingers apart to be branches. We then do "jazz hands" which looks like wiggling fingers to imitate leaves shaking in the wind.
Once we've gotten our wiggles out, I take one of the envelopes of leaves and use a pocket chart to sort them. As I do this, I explain to the kids about the three different types of leaves and explain what they look like and why. I also tell them what kind of tree each leaf came from. They are synthetic leaves that look like the real thing.
I use the ActivBoard or a photograph of the kind of tree each leaf came from as I explain.
For the evaluation section of this lesson, I have the kids cut out nine small pictures of leaves and sort and glue like leaves together on a page in their journal.
I have them write a sentence about the leaves on the adjacent page (see photo). If this lesson is taught after January, I expect the kids to write three or more sentences about the leaves as their writing skills are much more developed than early in the year.
To hand out the journals, I call up the table leaders to get the journals for everyone at their table along with the appropriate number of cut and paste pages. I have their table teams follow them to the tables.
As they work, I roam the room to intercept any confusion or misunderstandings. I support their understanding of different types of leaves by asking them open ended questions that require explanation like, "What is your favorite type of leaf and why?" This makes them connect new learning to themselves as well as defend their thoughts through explanation using evidence.
At the end of the lesson, I collect the journals from one table at a time and stack them open to the page. I do this for two reasons:
1) time for glue to dry
2) a quick evaluation of work done
I can catch any misconceptions I missed while roaming and meet with those students tomorrow for a few minutes to clear up whatever they didn't understand today.
After the journals:
Once the kids are finished with their journal work, I have them return to the floor. I ask the kids to think silently in their brains for 20 seconds about one thing they learned from today's experience. I set the timer to 20 seconds. Once the timer goes off, I pull names from a name stick can so students respond in random order. I do this because it requires all students to engage in the questioning whether they are chose to share out or not. It guarantees 100% engagement.