Before I begin this unit, I send home a seed collection homework assignment. The kiddos are to bring in seeds they find in the neighborhood or at home. I set up an exploratory table with a variety of seeds for students to handle and look at. I also check if any of my kids are allergic to any variety of seeds.
It was fun to have the seeds out before I started the unit. Students began to notice the same seeds in their neighborhood and brought them in to add to the collection.
Question posted on the board: What do we know about seeds?
While students are at the their desk, I say, "We will be botanists for the next couple of science classes. We will be taking a close at seeds in the classroom and when we are in our garden. Botanists are scientists who study and investigate plants. For this first unit, we will only be looking at one part of the plant, it's seeds."
I point out the different science disciplines each time we start a new unit, so the students begin to identify and associate the labels with that discipline.
Before the botanists come to the rug I ask them to write on at post-it what they know about seeds. I give them 2-3 minutes to write. After they are finished writing, they are to meet me on the rug.
I chose to have students write on a post-it rather than share out, so that they are not sitting idle while I write their responses. They will have an opportunity to share their ideas and place the post-its on the class log book. Later I will write what they said on the chart.
I signal students to take a seat on the rug, and ask them to read the question: What do we know about seeds? Then through a pair share, students share their thoughts on the question. I listen to what they say. Then call everyone's attention back to me.
"I heard lots of information about seeds, I will call volunteers to share, if a classmate has the same information as you, hold the post it in the air so that I can place it on our class log book too."
This helps to move the lesson along, and allow everyone an opportunity to participate too.
We refer and add to the logbook for each seed lesson. Referring to the class logbook helps to bring closure to our lesson and allows students to synthesize their learning.
"As we learned in our last unit, Our Scientific Community, scientists make observations to learn more about a topic. So today, we are going to look at a variety of seeds and make observations about them, to discover what is the same and different about seeds. You may have more questions about seeds too. Scientists ask lots of questions. "
"Some of you may have questions now, if you do, return to your seat and write that question on a post-it and then place your post-it here." I point to the next 'page' in our log book that says, "Our Questions About Seeds".
Then I dismiss the remaining students back to their seats.
"You will be working with your table partner today, so please return to your desks and say hi to your partner."
How this lesson connects to 2-LS2 - Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dymanics
This is an exploratory lab, through sorting, students will observe and note the myriad structures of seeds. This experience provides a reference point for my students as we consider seed structure and function for seed dispersal and how seeds interact with their ecosystem to be dispersed.
Setting the Stage
Lab materials have been prepared for teams of two: one bag with assorted seeds and seeds that students brought in for homework, construction paper laid inside a cookie sheet, to use as a sorting mat, and a magnifying lense.
Students will be making observations of the seeds they brought in and the seeds I am supplying. I have seeds still in their pods, seeds with burrs, large seeds such as coconuts or avocados and pine cones with seeds intact. I supply cut up fruit with seeds intact so students can see the seeds within the fruit as well as seeds in the flower such a sunflower or dandelion.
I considered bringing in fruit to cut up to show the seeds in the plant, but I noticed with the homework that many students brought in seeds that came from fruit. This was evident on the label they had with the seed. When we talk about seed dispersal I will bring in fruit, but I do not think it is necessary for the seed sort.
"You all found so many interesting seeds in your neighborhood or around your house. I cannot wait for you to look at them up close."
"Scientists use tools to help them see things up close. Raise your hand if you may know of a tool that helps scientists see objects up close, turn and tell your shoulder partner your answer, then give me a thumbs up after each of you have shared ."
Rather than me say the answer, or call on a student, I ask them to turn and share to encourage whole class engagement.
"I heard some of you mention a telescope which is a tool that helps us see tiny things up close and big, we will not be using that today. I also heard some of you say that scientists use magnifying lens which is another tool to help us see small details. I want to show you how to use a magnifying lens so that you and your partner can use this tool to help you see small details on your seeds."
Under the document camera, I show students how to move the magnifying lense to bring the object in focus.
Since this is the beginning of the year, my kiddos need to hear directions in small chunks, with movement breaks. With the students we talk about how we are building our listening stamina. So I have broken the lesson into 2 parts, which can also be helpful if you only have 30 minute time frame for science.
Up Close with Seeds
For this part of the lesson, students will have an opportunity to take out the seeds and look at the seeds with the magnifying lens. As when students have any new material, they need time to explore the tools and materials before the work can begin.
After I see that most seeds have been moved to the tray, and the kiddos had a chance to look at lab partner's seeds. I signal students to the rug and ask if they have any questions about seeds, now that they have had a chance to look at their seeds. I note these on post its and add these to the question board.
Introducing the Lab Vocabulary: sort and attributes
"Before I pass out your lab paper, I want to make sure you understand a couple of words that you will see on the lab. You will be asked to sort the seeds. (I write this word on the board), this means that you will group seeds together because they have something in common, an attribute that they all have. For instance, you can sort these unifix cubes by color." ( I am demonstrating this under the document camera).
"So when we sort the unifix cubes by color, then I say the attribute of this group is that they are red. I can name the group based on something that the group has."
To check for understanding for the term, attributes, I ask what the attributes of our class pet.
"When you work on your lab you will be asked to sort the seeds and tell me the attribute you used to sort the seeds by."
"Think about the first botanists who started to look closely at seeds, they would want to organize and sort the seeds so that they could talk about them and study them. We are doing what a botanist would do, looking closely at seeds to discover the attributes, or patterns they have in common so the seeds can be sorted into different groups."
To help you think about different attributes that you could possibly sort your seeds by, I have made a Seed Word Bank."
I project the word bank, "When you make observations about seeds, you are looking at the attributes of the different seeds."
One team chose to circle the attribute words on their word bank that they would use for their seed sort. The next time I do this lesson, I will suggest that students circle the attribute words they may use. This helps to tie in the word bank vocabulary more directly to the lesson. Yes we can learn from our little ones on how to improve our lessons!
I ask students to read the word bank with me and explain the lines below are for any other words they may want to add to their word bank.
Providing students with a word bank helps promote more careful, precise observations, along with developing their vocabulary and sight words.
This would be end of part 1 of lesson.
Next time, I plan to take pictures of the student's final sorts to include with their lab write up, so I can get a better idea of what the students noticed on the seeds. When I walked around to view sorts, I could not always tell how the seeds were sorted, until the students shared their reasoning. Having the photos would allow us to review their sorts at a more leisurely pace.
One of the lab steps asks students to share one of their sorts with another team, which encouraged students to articulate what attributes they used to help sort the seeds.
I ask students to return to their desk and I pass out the seed sort lab. I am choosing to make this a directed lab so that students learn my expectations for how to fill out the lab. I think it will also help with pacing and to keep students on task.
Students are sharing seeds with their table partners, but each one is required to fill out their own lab paper. I call on students to read the observations and hypothesis section of the lab. Then ask them to discuss their hypothesis with their lab partner. After they have agreed on how they could sort the seeds, I direct them to write their hypothesis.
Then I explain the procedure and show them how they can spread the seeds out on the 9 x 12 construction paper, can move them into sorts and draw a circle around their sorts and label them, based on the seed attributes for that group.
As botanists work on their lab, I am walking around the room noting how students are sorting and asking questions to help them consider other sorts besides color or size, such as texture and shape, bringing their attention to the idea of monocots (seeds that do not have a seam to split the seed in half, like corn seed) and dicots (seeds that do have a seam, like lima beans ).
When I see most teams have finished their sorts and have noted their data, I signal students to meet me on rug to review the next part of the lab, sharing data and writing their conclusion. I chose to have students move to the rug so that they are not distracted by the materials and seeds on their desk. After directions, students return to their seats to complete their lab.
At about 10 mins, before wrap up, I call out the time so students are not surprised when I say it is time to pick up. Letting students know how much more time is left for them to work, helps them pace their work and gives them a sense of what is 10 more minutes like.
I spot check Early Finishers' work for thoroughness and will ask questions about sorting words if I feel like the students could have been more exact with their description. I send these students to help other teams or to read our seed science books in the classroom library.
Be sure to give yourself enough time for students to return their lab materials. I ask students to put the seeds back in the baggie or fruit on the paper plate. Students will place seeds and sort mat in the tubs that I have on the back table.
After materials are returned, completed lab papers are placed in the Best Work Today basket, or in their science folder, if the lab is not finished. The observation word bank is also placed in the students' science folder which they keep in their desk. I call students to the rug and ask them to sit with their team partner.
I refer to the question of the day and ask the students if they have new information to add to our logbook, responses are noted. If the lab helped to clear up a misconception this will be addressed in the logbook too.
Some students observed that some seeds could be split or peeled while other could not. Which was the perfect opener to talk about monocot and dicot seeds, because it easier to open a dicot seed since it has a seam. This compelled some students to take their lab paper back and to include this as a sort.
I ask students to raise their hand if they thought of any other questions about seeds. These questions are included on the class logbook, along with the post-it questions students wrote earlier in the lesson.
I ask student to think about their conclusion, "Which sort worked the best and why?" Then turn heart to heart to share.
Not many students referred to the number of seeds in the sort to support their conclusion. Next time, I will ask students about the number of seeds in the sort and if there is anything we can learn from this data, i.e. if there are only 2 seeds in this sort what does this tell us about this attribute?
I point out how they acted like scientists today, making observations, using precise descriptions and asking questions. I end with complimenting them on what I saw went well, such as " I was so impressed to see my botanists use their observation word bank to help them describe their sorts."
I will review the lab paper to assess understanding of scientific process, noting attribute words chosen and completeness. All lab papers for this unit will be saved and put together in a book at the end of the unit.