Kindergarten students need more experiences to listen, and in turn, follow directions. CCSS tell us that we need to have a specific focus on speaking and listening skills; what better way to hone in on speaking and listening skills than to talk your own way through something and then follow your own directions? In this lesson, students will be able to write directions to take them through a process and then will have to listen to their own directions- it is a challenge that they truly enjoy (while they are connecting to the speaking and listening and writing standards)! Here is a little more of an explanation about why I think teaching about plants in this way is helpful!
Prior to this lesson, students will have participated in an introductory lesson about the sequence of the plant life cycle. At this point, besides students' personal experience with plants and planting, they will have seen a couple of videos and a few informational posters and/or texts. Also, students will have participated in many discussions about how to take care of the plant life cycle. All of these experiences will provide students with an ample amount of background knowledge for showing what they know in this lesson!
"Today, you are going to show me what you know about a plants' life cycle. Now, I want you to think back... Think about all of the parts of the plant and the order in which they grow... (think time.) Now that you know the parts, please think about the things that plants need as they go through the process of growing and changing... (think time). Now, talk to one partner and tell them, in order, the process in which you can help plants to grow, in the correct sequence!"
I will give students about two minutes to talk to each other. Then, I will call them back to their spots on the carpet, in whole group, ready to listen.
"Now that you have had a chance to talk about your thoughts, I am going to give you one more moment to think about them- make sure you're not missing a step! (wait time) And now, I would like for you to go write down the steps in the plant life cycle for me. Basically, I want you to write a "planting plan" and tell me the directions you need to follow to grow a strong and healthy plant. As you write, make sure you are re-reading your sentences. Go back and read the entire thing to make sure you haven't missed any steps at the end as well. If you miss something, it won't be pretty! So go on, turn your thinking brain on and get ready to write your directions!"
I will briefly model a sentence that I might write, just to show my expectations; however, I do not want to provide students with too much support.
At this point, I will hand students this page, their Planting Plan Directions, and they will sit at their seats and begin to write down their directions!
As students write, I will not be helping them- I want to see what they know. But, I will walk around and check for good handwriting, participation and engagement and the use of capitalization and spacing.
After about twenty-five minutes or so of writing, I will ask all of my students to exchange their paper with a partner. Each student needs to read their partner's paper silently a couple of times to practice. After about three minutes of practice time, I will ask the students to sit knee to knee with their partner, holding each others' papers.
* I like this portion of the lesson because students are able to really use their writing skills to show me what they know. This is important because it shows me their connection to the science standards while also showing me their writing capabilities!
Now that students have each others' papers, they are ready to determine whether or not they gave sufficient, sequenced directions!
As my students sit knee to knee, I pass out planing materials. I pass out small pots, cups of soil, seeds and water. I let students look at the materials... at this point, some of them have some a-ha moments!
I pass out pots, soil, cups of water, and seeds to each group! (I put them all on plates and put plastic bags between each kids' knee to knee connection to save my carpet!)
"Now, you have everything you need for planting... we just have to find out if you indeed will have everything you need! Let me tell you how this works. Let's pretend that my partner is Sarah. I will read Sarah's first step out loud to her- as I read it to her, she will follow her own directions. So, if Sarah's first step says, "First, you press your seed into some soil," Sarah will take a pile of soil and put it on a plate and press her seed into it. Then, once she has done everything she has written, she will read for me! If I wrote, "I put my seed in a pot," then I will put my seed in a pot. If I didn't say anything about soil, they I cannot use any!"
(At this time, students begin to laugh and kind of freak out and it's a lot of fun! They are all trying to remember whether or not they wrote specific enough directions!- This really instills the idea that directions are created for a purpose, so we need to make sure we tell them well and listen to/follow them explicitly!)
I allow students about 15 minutes to read back and forth and follow their directions for planting. I allow this much time because this process is quite comical and every students' experience is different- there needs to be a lot of talking here!
Once all students have followed their directions, we discuss each student's seed and what all they did to help it to grow. We narrow down the plants to people who have a pot, a seed, soil and water and we figure out who did their best with creating directions- we congratulate those students on a job well done.
I then allow those students to go and type their directions to hang them up near our plants since they have model directions written! (This meets the publishing standard while also making those students even more proud of their work!)
* This portion of the task is crucial because it truly shows students how listening to and following directions can change the outcome of something. I love to connect the importance of directions and speaking and listening to this because it really makes more of an impact than me simply saying, "Please follow directions."
To further our learning experience, we let ALL plants grow in our classroom (no matter what extras might be evident or what necessities might be missing)! We take care of our plants and watch them grow!
I am sure to put all the seeds without pots together. I put all the seeds without directions for watering together. I put all the seeds without soil together. This way, I can take care of these plants appropriately (to strengthen the message of our lesson on directions). I love to have my "botanist," one of my Gold Collar Jobs, take care of my plants-- this way, I don't have to do as much and students also practice responsibility!
I assess this project for three things:
1- Were their directions GOOD and solid? Did they include MOST of the appropriate steps in order?
2- Was the reading and conversation between partners conducive to learning?
3- Did you plant a seed successfully and did it grow?
Sometimes, some students forget a step and their plant doesn't grow; however, that doesn't mean that the student did not write well or have good conversation. As long as students tried and got most of their needed steps in sequential order and then had a good reading and conversation time, I am very happy; the planting is my last concern when assessing. But, we do need to plant- this shows how important it is that we get our thoughts across correctly! Also, the planting provides a real-life connection for students... and it's fun!