Scientists Learn From Books and Media

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SWBAT use different media to find the answer to a science question

Big Idea

Scientists do more than experiment to find things out.

I wonder - an Introduction

15 minutes

For this activity, I choose to talk through a puppet. You can use any puppet you have available. The idea is for the puppet to have a squirrel friend who is concerned about the leaves and acorns falling off the tree.

I invite students to come to the rug by calling each table one at a time to tiptoe to the rug. When the children are settled, I bring out a moose puppet. I have the puppet say, " I wonder what is happening to my friend squirrel's tree?" (I have leaves of several colors and chestnuts or acorns that have fallen off trees in the school yard.) "Hmm (the puppet says as he picks up an acorn), I know these used to be on his tree, but now I find them all over the ground. I wonder why that is." (The puppet looks at the nut and then looks up at the sky.) "There must be something making these fall off. I wonder what it is? Do you know? (He asks the students and then calls on a volunteer or two to share their ideas. - This activity will help me to assess student prior knowledge about how trees drop their leaves and nuts each fall. It is important that I know what students already know, and any misconceptions they may have before teaching the lesson. Understanding prior knowledge will help me teach what students need to learn.)

"We wonder about the leaves too," (says the moose picking up the leaves - one brown, one green and one multicolored.) "They sure are pretty, but why are they falling off the tree? Do you think the tree hurts when they fall off? Can you tell me why they are falling? (Again the moose calls on volunteers as I assess prior knowledge and any misconceptions. I do not correct misconceptions at this point, I am merely doing a preassessment of knowledge before beginning the lesson.) 

"I wonder how we might find out what happens to the leaves and the nuts," said moose. "Do you have any ideas?" (Moose takes volunteer ideas and says to me, "could you write these down for me?") "Sure," I say to moose and I write down ideas on our brainstorm list. (I am hoping students will suggest books, videos, computer searches, etc. as ways to find out. If they do not, I suggest my ideas to squirrel as I add them to the list.)

"Wow," says Moose. "You must be scientists. Look at all the ideas you have. Scientists use a lot of these ideas to find something out. They don't always do experiments. So will you help me look for answers in books, computers, or videos?" 

I say to Moose, "Moose, you have some good ideas. I think we can help you find out why acorns and leaves fall off the trees. The class has had some great ideas. Class, here is our I Can statement for today, will you help me read it? (we read together), "I can use books, computers and videos to learn science too."

Collecting Information to Answer A Question

40 minutes

I invite students to return to their seats to begin finding out about why trees drop their leaves and nuts in the fall. I ask them to look at the Smart Board as I project the video from called Learn About Fall. This short video provides an introduction to fall and how leaves fall from trees. 

At the end of the video the moose puppet asks, "did you find out anything that might help me know why leaves and nuts fall off the trees each year? I am going to write down a few notes as you tell me what you found out. I am going to use my science journal." (Moose pretends to open his journal which is the class easel, and holds the marker in his paws. He (we) write down student thoughts from the video.)

After students have shared, I say, "It looks like you found out some interesting information. Notice that squirrel was a good scientist and wrote down your ideas in his science journal so he can remember them. I bet you can find out even more. I am going to ask you to use IPADs and these books (I have found books in the school  at a readable level about fall and trees tree resources). You will work with your reading partner to see if you can find any more information. I want you to read the book, or the information on the IPAD and then try to write down a few sentences in your own words to add to squirrel's science notebook. Do you think you can help him?"

Moose says, "thank you so much. I know you will find out some great things to help me out. I really do want to know why my leaves and nuts are falling."

I partner students up and let them choose the IPADS with the sites bookmarked, computers (see resource section) and or the books Finding an Answer in the Book to find information and record it in their science notebooks.I give students 20 minutes to try to find some new information.

I circulate around the room to talk to students about what they are discovering. I want to make sure that they are writing things down, even just a few words at this time in the year, to show something that they have discovered. For struggling readers, if possible, I invite parents to come in to read with students and help them talk about what they are finding. The parents can also act as scribes for students. If I am unable to get volunteers, I partner a stronger reader/writer with a weaker reader/writer and make sure that I check in with these groups more often. 

Book and Online Resources


1. Plant Leaves, David Schwartz. Creative Teaching Press

2. Plant Growth, Louise and Richard Spilsbury, Reed Educational and Professional Publishers

3. Maple Tree, David Schwartz, Creative Teaching Press

4. Trees have Leaves and Other Questions About Plants, Andrew Charman, Scholastic



Sharing Our Discoveries

15 minutes

I ring the bell and ask students to finish up the sentence they are working on and to return their books and IPADs to the table. I ask them to come to the rug and sit with their working partners an bring any notes they may have made. 

Moose asks, "did you find out any more information about trees and leaves and acorns?" I ask, "can anyone tell me something that they found out? I will write down a few notes to remind us what you say." (I call on students to tell us what they found out and I write a few notes for each one, or star something that is said more than once. I encourage other students to ask clarifying questions if they are not sure what someone else is explaining. If we find things that seem contradictory we stop to discuss them. 

After everyone has had a chance to share, Moose says, "Wow, I think I know a lot about leaves and acorns and trees now. I wish I had a way to share all this with other squirrels. Do you think you could each make a page to a book about how and why leaves and acorns fall from trees or change colors? I could share the book with my friends."

I say, "Great idea Moose. I would like each of you to think about one thing you now know about how leaves change color and fall off trees and make a picture and write one sentence to explain your picture. We will put them together to make a book of all that we have learned. Scientists write papers to tell what they have learned so we will do the same. You might even include a diagram." Squirrel interrupts and asks, "what is a diagram?" "Well Moose it is a picture with labels so someone might show the inside of the tree and label the parts. Someone else might draw a leaf and label its parts."

I ask students to return to their desks for this part of the activity.


Making A Book

15 minutes

I hand out special drawing paper and ask each person to draw 1 thing they now know about leaves turning color and falling from the trees. I tell them to leave a space at the top or the bottom, or on the back to write about the picture.

I remind students that if they can't think of anything, they can refer to the notes I just wrote, or to their own notes.

I give students about 15 minutes to draw a colorful picture or diagram and write a sentence. 

We finish today by reviewing our I Can statement together. It reads, I can use books, computers and videos to learn science too. I ask for a thumbs up if students were able to use books, computers and IPADS to learn something new today about trees. 

I collect all pictures to evaluate student understanding of trees and how the leaves change color and fall off. I use this assessment to help me gauge student understanding for planning future lessons on plants.

I bind the book, read it to the class and put it on the bookshelf for students to enjoy as soon as all pictures are completed.