It is really easy for students to know that plants have parts; however, it is somewhat difficult to explain what parts plants have and HOW YOU KNOW which part is which! I love pushing my students to explain their thoughts and to think further into things!
I think it is crucial that I challenge my students to think outside of the box and to explain WHY they have come up with the conclusions that they have stated. This skill is very important as our students move along through the grades and through CCSS because they will have to be able to justify their answers. Why not start justifying answers in Kindergarten?
"Today, we are going to take what we have already learned about the plant life cycle and apply it to plant parts. We learned that plants have different parts that grow in a specific sequence; however, we didn't talk about WHY a certain part of a plant is categorized as that part. Today, we will be working on categorizing parts of plants!"
"First, we need to review our plant parts. I want you to watch a little video about the parts of a plant. As you watch it, I want you to really listen for the purpose of each part!"
Here, I like to have students watch a BrainPopJr video about plant parts; however, this website requires a subscription. Before I got a subscription, I used this video instead!
We watch the video. After the video, I call students to attention on the carpet in the whole group.
"Okay, we have reminded ourselves about the parts of the plants... I hope that you also paid attention to the purpose of each part as well. Now, we are going to put our knowledge to use!"
Here is how I set up this lesson:
I found some random pictures of different plant parts online. (I simply googled roots, stem, leaves, etc. Like these examples of leaves and roots.) I printed them out. Some might be simple to figure out, while others can be quite confusing to the eye! I chose pictures that I really thought students would have to look at and think about! Then, I taped these small images around the room. (I was sure not to use any illustrations; photographs only.) After that, all I needed was a few sticky notes and my tape dispenser!
"Around the room, I have placed lots of images of different parts of plants. Now, they may look easy to decipher from far away, but there are some things you will have to pay attention to as you look at the images! When I tell you to choose an image, I am going to give you some think time. I want you to be able to look at your own image, without showing it to anyone else, and decide which plant part you think it might be. Remember: your picture can be turned any direction and it can also be deceiving- so look at it hard. As you look at your image, think about what job it LOOKS LIKE that part might be able to do; that might help you decide which parts it could or could not be!"
"Now that you know the rules, you are going to have 3 minutes. When I say go, you can walk and choose an image. You can pick any image around the room, so look and find one you like or even try to find one you think might challenge you! Then, sit at your seat and think while looking at your picture. I will let you know when think time is up."
As students choose their images, they will go to their seats and begin looking at their plant part. I will encourage students, once everyone is seated with an image, to turn their choice in a few directions so they will get some different views of the same part. I will also remind students to think about which job it seems like their plant part might be able to do! At this time, there should be no talking because everyone should truly be thinking (this is an expectation that I set previously in my classroom).
After about two minutes of think time, I will call everyone back to the carpet.
"Now that you have had time to look at your plant part to see what its characteristics are and what jobs you think it might be able to do, I am going to ask you to justify your decision. In a moment, I am going to ask you to divide yourselves by plant parts. I am going to let you choose what part you think you have and go to the group with other people who think they have the same parts. You are going to work together to decide if you agree; if you decide someone is in the wrong place, they are allowed to move to another group and talk to that group."
At this time, I take my four labels (simply written on sticky notes) and place them around the edges of my carpet: stem/stems, root/roots, leaf/leaves, flower/blossoms.
Once I Have my labels set out, I tell the students to go find their spots- the should be able to determine where to go based on the beginning sounds of the words, so I don't really have to help at all- I just watch them make their moves.
Once students are all settled in their spots, they begin to tell each other why they think their image shows characteristics of a particular part of a plant and which jobs they think their image looks like it could do and why. As students talk with each other, I make sure to walk around and monitor conversations; I want to ensure that every student has had the chance to justify their choice.
After about 5 minutes, I call everyone to attention, but they stay in their final groups.
(As I talk here, I place all of the group cards (leaves, blossoms, roots, stems) around the edges of my ActivBoard.)
"Now that we are divided in our groups, I would like for you, when I call your category, to bring your card up. Before I can take your card into the group where you think it belongs, you must tell all of us why you think your part belongs in that group. Let me show you an example!"
I model: "Hmmm... I think that my image shows a picture of roots. Now when I had it turned this way, I thought it was a stem because I thought it looked like the top of some tree branches. But, when I turned it this way, I noticed that it looks like roots inside soil- I can see that these roots can do the job of soaking up water... Do you agree?"
(Students should show me the sign that means they agree.)
"I am glad you all agreed with my ideas. So, since most of you have the same opinion as I do, I am going to place my card under the title of roots. When you come up here, I would like for you to explain your choice for your image just like I did... then ask if your classmates agree! When we are done, we will have all of our categories sorted."
Students get to help assess each others' choices here!
As students talk through their reasoning, the listeners do not have to agree; if they do not agree, they should voice why and the student who has the image should listen and make another choice. I will help them in this process and I will listen to feedback from other students to see if it is just though-provoking or if it is challenging an incorrect choice!
By the end of this time, every student will have shares their justification of a choice at least once and will have listened to and responded to the choices of others many, many times!
"Wow! All of you did a great job explaining your choices and thinking about the reasoning behind them! I love how you all looked at the characteristics of your images and also thought about what characteristics might make your part good for a specific job! Let's look at our four categorizes one more time and check to make sure they are all placed correctly!"
I go over each choice by pointing to individual cards. Students should, at this point, agree with all of the placements. Students should also be looking at each card and paying attention. In the end, a lot of thoughts will have gone through each students' head.
Throughout this lesson, I informally assess in a lot of ways. First, I check on students during think time to make sure they are indeed truly looking at their image through a thinkers' eyes. Then, I listen to the students' conversations in their groups. Also, I will ask students questions when they are in their small groups if needed. Next, I listen to each students' justification of their choice to the whole group. I also listen to students' challenges of each others' ideas. By the end of this lesson, I have heard each student talk at least 5 times or so. This lesson gives me a look into the deep thoughts of some of my students while also allowing me to see how I need to challenge and/or help some other students!
As an addition to this closing activity, I like to let students get their wiggles out while singing this cute little song about plant parts! They can use their bodies (head, shoulders, stomach and toes) to act out the song as well!