Growing "Beanstalks"- A Cross-Curricular Connection (Science and Writing)

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SWBAT make a connection between a familiar story and a science experiment; then, they record their findings and write in response to the fun!

Big Idea

GROW beans, scientists, readers and writers... all with one task!

Why This Lesson?

1 minutes

There are two things Kindergarteners ALWAYS love- stories and science experiments!  So, why not combine these two things as often as possible?  An easy way to make a connection between a familiar story and a science experiment is to take Jack and the Beanstalk… and grow your own!

Since I wanted my students to be able to write about loosely linked events, I thought that a journal, by date, would be the perfect way to do that!  I had to remember: If I want my students to enjoy writing, it is important that I make sure to provide them with something interesting and enjoyable to write about! With that being said, I thought the best way to allow my students solid access to this type of writing was to involve them in a science experiment that would get them engaged in the writing process!  Also, the fact that they are able to enjoy a story that is a fantasy and then turn it into a realistic story from their own experience really builds background on how to differentiate between those genres!

How Does This Activity Work?

10 minutes

This “experiment” is one that my students always LOVE!  They get to talk, they get to plant, they get to watch and they get to enjoy their own beanstalk!  This experiment is one that doesn’t take much time and is worth the investment for students and teachers alike! 

We talk about planting our own beanstalk. 
    (We practice speaking and listening, as well as following directions.)
We plant our own beans. 
    (We connect to our science standards and get a kinesthetic connection to the lesson.)
We create a fantasy atmosphere to add to our real "beanstalks." 
    (We focus on the standard of text types here and how to change what we are making from realistic to fantasy and why.)
We write about our beanstalks. 
    (It is important that students make a writing connection here because this makes the lesson more personal and helps them understand the process even more.  When students are able to connect a story to a science experiment to a writing project, they are building a conceptual understanding and making strong foundations for more learning!)
We take our beanstalks home! 
    (I think it is crucial for my students to have a good home-to-school-connection.  I think it is equally important for my students' parents to know what we are working on so they can support and/or appreciate it at home.)

It’s so much fun!

Here is what I used for this lesson:
- A copy of Jack and the Beanstalk
- One paper or plastic cup for each student
- One popsicle stick for each student
- Markers for popsicle sticks
- Potting soil
- 2-3 lima beans or kidney beans for each student
- Extras: printables, contruction paper, cotton balls, glitter, etc.

The Process Students Typically Follow

20 minutes

To begin this experiment, we talk about how the story, Jack and the Beanstalk, is a fantasy; however, beanstalks are real things (as long as they aren’t so gigantic that they lead to castles in the sky)!  An important part of this process is having students talk through the real and fantasy portions of their projects!  When students are provided 5-10 minutes to talk, they are able to practice their speaking and listening standards while also thinking through their prior learning and future plans!

I have students talk about what plants need (sun, water and soil) and why.

I ask them to talk about what we should do to make sure our beanstalks grow.
As a group, we create a plan for successfully growing our plants, based on the things we know.

We plant our beans using soil and water in small, individual cups. 
I let each child put soil in until it’s about hallway full. 
Then, I let them push 2-3 beans into their soil. (I never give them just one seed- sometimes one won’t grow!...I learned this the hard way! OH... and never use old ones!)
After that, I let each child give their bean cup a little water.
  *I think it's important to allow students to have the responsibility of putting soil, beans and water into their cup because it keeps them invested even more in the project.

Since we are working on meeting the standard of telling the difference between different types of stories (in this case, realism and fantasy), I like to make sure that our project isn't completely focused on realism!  I want students to be able to tell the difference and talk about it!

Before we finish and put our cups in the window, I let each student add a “Jack” to their cup.
The students draw Jack on a popsicle stick and place it in the cup, near their beans.
Sometimes (if time permits), I also allow students to add a paper castle and/or clouds!
If I am really daring, I will even let the kids use cotton ball clouds and… glitter!!!

Realism and Fantasy at work:
Finally, we put our plants in the window and wait for the magic.  The kids see that the plant, the real part, changes.  Meanwhile, their "Jack" doesn't move or change because it's not real.  In the end, students' observations and writing really reflect the differences here and students really see, in true form, what it means to show realism.



Student Observation Process

60 minutes

One part of this experiment that is vital to the enjoyment for students is allowing them time to journal their thoughts.  This takes about 10-15 minutes per writing time.  And, when students write, I let them have private think time and they do their writing independently.

If I have enough time, I really like to have students write every day!  I think it is important that students connect their true experiences to their writing throughout this project.  If I do not have enough time for my students to write each day, I make sure that they at least write 3 or 4 times.

On day 1, I make sure to have students draw and write what they how their beanstalk will grow.
On day 2, I make sure to have students evaluate Day 1’s writing: was I realistic?
On days 3-5, I make sure to let students look at all of the plants closely as they begin to change.
On about day 7, all of the beanstalks have grown- I make sure to let students draw and write about  how their beanstalk actually grew and what it looks like!  I like for students to work on realistic drawings with labels, because that connects to the standard of determining the difference between realism and fantasy!

Here is an example of a (high) students' journal about their beans, as well as an example of a students' (on-level) journal about their beans.  As you can see, students really get excited about describing their plants and how they are changing day, by day!

After about 10 days or so, I send the beanstalks home and the kids love that!  When kids take their plants AND their writing home, they can really show their parents how much experiences can shape their writing (and reading)!  I love having kids plant their "beanstalks" in their gardens, too!

Assessing the Task

10 minutes

I check students’ writing from days 1 and 2, to see if they understood the difference between logical, realistic thoughts about their beanstalk and the fantasy-type thoughts from the story.  If the student had unrealistic expectations on day 1, I expect for that to be changed on day 2.  If students did not grasp this concept, I pull them into a small group before writing on day 7!  I think it is important to check students' understanding of the science AND reading connections throughout the process!

In order to support this lesson, I like to have students do some extra activities like this one and this one!  I like to see what students know, whether it's in centers or for morning work, even after we have completed a great task!