Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.
In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.”
By saying “walking feet” I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.
When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them I am going to read them a story about a rabbit that needs to learn how to listen.
“Team 203, I am going to read you a story about a rabbit who does not listen very well. He needs to learn how to listen for two very important reasons. One so he is safe from danger and two so he knows what to do and when to do it. The story is called Listen Buddy and it is written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.”
Now I go ahead and read the story to the students.
I use this funny story to engage my students’ attention. The story helps the students see the importance of listening and this will help them when I begin our discussion in the activity part of the lesson.
Once the story is over I ask the students, “Can anyone tell me one way Buddy could have saved himself the trouble of accidently going to Scruffy Varmint’s house?”
I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.
“Well done Rachel; Buddy should have listened closely to directions.”
“Team 203 there is a difference between hearing the listening. Hearing is when you hear a sound like a voice. Listening is when you try to figure out what that voice is telling you.”
“Can anyone tell me why they think good scientists might need to listen carefully to directions?”
Once again I select a student who is raising their hand.
“Colin that is a good reason; scientists should listen carefully so they do not have accidents. What kind of accidents might a scientist have?”
I point to students who raise their hand to share their idea.
“Okay hands down, you all shared some good ideas. Spilling, burning, making explosions, breaking glass, are all accidents that can occur in a science lab.”
“Scientists not only need to listen carefully to prevent accidents, but they also need to listen carefully so they can follow experiments in the correct order and find items needed for those experiments.”
“Today for one of your work stations I am going to test how well you listen by taking you into the garden and giving you directions to find items based on its attributes.”
“Does anyone know what an attribute is?”
If any students raise their hand to respond I will select them, but that very seldom happens.
“An attribute is something which describes a specific characteristic of something or someone. For example, think back to when we did our facial features. Some of my attributes are blue eyes, brown hair and attached ear lobes. The attributes of this plastic chair I am sitting on are; shiny metal, blue plastic and small.”
“Raise your hand if you can give me an attribute of this plastic shape I am holding up?”
I select a student to respond.
“Great attribute Sebastian; this block is red. Can someone give me another attribute?”
I repeat the process until we have covered as many attributes as we can.
“Now that you all know what attributes are we are going to see just how well you can listen. At your work stations today you will be working on answering the question, “How well do I listen?””
Now I send the students over to the integrated work stations one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;
“Table number one go get ready to have some following directions fun.
Table number two, you know what to do.
Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and
Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”
Once I have my group lined up ready to go outside into the garden I remind them we are going out to work not play.
“Group number one, I would like to remind you that we are going out into the garden to do a job. We are not going to play, we are going to work. This is your first test to see how well you listen. I will know you have listened when I see you working in the garden doing the right thing.”
I try to say only the behaviors I want to see because those are the words that will stick in the students’ brain – listen, work, garden, right thing.
When we reach the garden I get started right away so the students do not have time to lose focus.
“Group one I want you to listen closely to this set of directions. When I say “go,” take 10 steps straight forward, crouch down, and pick up something small, grey and hard. When you have the item bring it to me and check if that is right. Walking feet go.”
The student should come back with a stone from the garden path. I start off with an easy one because I want the students to experience success and develop confidence in their listening capabilities. With each success I increase the difficulty.
After 10 minutes of the students finding items I tell them, “I would like you to record one of your items in your science journal which I have brought out with me. You will need to sketch it quickly and accurately. Label it and give one attribute. You have 8 minutes so I want you to focus and get your work done.”
I hand out the journals as I speak. The science journals I use are composition books. I like the composition books because they have a hard cover which helps the students by providing them with a hard surface to press against when writing/recording. Using the composition books as a science journal means that I do not have to bring out clipboards which would be another thing I would have to worry about and switch out between groups; the less I have to deal with the better. Another advantage to using a composition book as a science journal means the students work is all in one place and I can easily grab it for assessment purposes. The students also like to compare their work from the beginning of the year to the end. As a rule I prefer to just take out pencils for the students to record with and they can add color details inside just before we switch stations.
Lower performing students may have difficulty labeling so I assist them by either acting as a scribe or sounding out with them.
Allow the students 18 minutes to work on this activity. After 18 minutes are up, the timer goes off and the students clean up ready to switch stations.
I set the visual timer and remind the students to look at it so they can use their time wisely.
In this activity the students are exploring how to receive information, evaluate the important pieces of information and communicate they listened by locating the correct item. .
At another station the students will play “Hide and Go Listen.” This game has the students focus on and become aware of their sense of hearing. Have the students sit quietly for one minute. At the end of one minute ask them, “What did you hear?” “Could you hear things we cannot see?” ‘Do you think you could find the things you could not see by using your ears?”
Select a student to be the “seeker.” Have that student hide his or her eyes. Give the other students a small musical instrument – bells for one, an egg shaker for another, sandpaper blocks for another, and rhythm sticks for another. Tell those students to hide. Have the seeker open his/her eyes and tell the hidden students to begin playing their instruments. The “seeker” must find all of the other students based on sound alone.
When all of the hidden students are found, ask the “seeker” which was the easiest sound to hear and if that was the person he/she found first (science – anatomy).
At another work station the students play an attribute guessing game called “Guess my Block.” One student selects an attribute block from a container of attribute blocks in the center of the table while the others have their eyes closed. The one student says, “I have a shape.” All of the other students select one shape from the container. The one student says, “I have a red shape.” All of the other students can make a switch if the shape they have is not red. The one student says, “I have a red thin shape.” Once again all of the other students can make a switch if they need to. Play continues on this way until the entire group has the same shape as the one in the selector’s hand. This game needs an adult assistance to begin with, but the students get better over time (ELA and math).
At another work station the students are sorting buttons onto plates labeled with different attributes. This gives the students practice at recognizing different attributes of a singular item – buttons (math). I use the attribute cards from the Making Learning Fun website. A parent volunteer can read the cards for the students and they listen closely to what they say to make sure they find the right buttons.
These activities provide the students with the opportunity to apply and expand their understanding of the concepts within new contexts and situations thus elaborating on the information they have been presented with.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.
“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair and take a spot on your dot.”
Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to share with us one item they found in the garden and one attribute it has.
“For today’s exit ticket you need to share with us one item you found in the garden. Show us what you drew; tell us what the item is and one attribute it had that helped you find it. For example, in my journal I drew a tomato. One attribute I used to find it was the color.”
"This kind of work is exactly what scientists do when they go out into the field to collect data. The scientists go out, collect data or evidence, and then bring their work back to the science lab to share their results with other scientists."
“When you have shared your item with us you may use the hand sanitizer and get your snack.”
I use the Fair Sticks to determine the order of the students.
If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.
I use this exit ticket process as a way for the students to analyze what they know about the importance of listening to directions and explain to me how they used my attribute clues to locate different items in the garden. During integrated work station time they experienced different activities which required them to listen closely to directions and clues so they should be able to explain one attribute. This quick assessment process allows me to see if the student is able to take information learned in one format can be transferred by the student to another format.
In order to assess if my students have successfully understood and retained the information presented in the lesson I evaluate each students performance based on the item they bring me while searching in the garden. I take a photo of what they bought me and then video them explaining why they bought me this particular item. Each student’s explanation is the most important part because it shows me how well he or she listened to the directions and attributes given. Using the i-pad makes this process easier because I can use an app such as Teachers Notes to record the image and video under the student’s name. When it comes to report card writing time I can open the student’s file and see all of the notes I have recorded. I can also use these recordings as evidence of learning, or in some cases lack of learning, during parent-teacher conferences, IEP and PST meetings.
The student’s explanation will also determine what kind of directive I can give them next. Some students may be able to handle many directions at once and some may still need step by step directions. Knowing my students listening abilities gives me the information I need to group my students into effective working teams.