Vocabulary can be a very tricky area where students need to begin using these words in their daily lexicon. One way I do this is to choose very specific words that are needed for concept development and can be used regularly in the classroom. We are beginning to study erosion and I have chosen erosion, weathering, and deposition.
I ask the class to take out their white boards and markers so that they can draw after I teach them the words. I ask the class to draw lines so that they have three columns. I begin by showing a PowerPoint that contains pictures and brief descriptions on what each of the words mean with examples. After each new word, I give them time to write the word and draw an example. They also need to try to add a couple of words that might help them remember what the word means.
Now that we have a good base for our new words we are ready to take a walk outdoors. Our playground has a great example of erosion and this is where we head. Before we get outside, I go over a few rules. I remind them that we are outside to make observations and to do so we need to be able to use our senses. If everyone can be respectful, then everyone will be able to observe and have something to share when we get back to class. I do explain that I will be talking and they can ask questions, it just needs to happen with respect to others and their thinking processes.
When we get to the area where the erosion damage begins I have the class circle around me. I tell them to begin thinking about the new words we have learned, and to observe for just one minute. I then ask them to turn and share their thoughts with a partner. We then have a mini discussion about erosion and I allow partners to share their thinking with the class. In this area, I begin to explain the channeling that has begun and relate it back to the conversation we just had on erosion.
The class and I then move to another area of the playground, where erosion is really taking a toll. I ask them to make observations again, but this time they need to think of vocabulary, and also for a possible source for the erosion issue. I again have them do a turn and talk so that they can connect and confirm ideas. I do not lead them with a discussion, we will do this when we are back in the classroom.
When we get back to class, I pass out a lined piece of paper. I want them to write down their first thoughts on what might have caused our erosion problem. For the writing piece, I am not looking for water as an answer. Instead, I want them to determine how water cut through our playground. I give them a few minutes and then we begin to discuss it. I start by asking for possible causes. It is apparent that water and erosion as a reason is clear, but the cause is harder to determine.
I begin by asking them about their two observations. I ask them to explain what they observed and then pose the following question to each of the answers given, "Could that possibly contribute to our erosion problem?" They begin to get what might be an actual cause, but are still unsure about their answers.
The next set of questions I ask relate to them trying to remember what the playground looked like when they were in Kindergarten. Immediately, a student says that it did not look anything like it does now. I then ask them to try to think of the variables that could have possibly changed to impact our land that way. One student finally says something about our new parent pickup parking area. Once this is said I ask the class to use their white paper again to brainstorm why the parking lot might have effected the playground. To challenge them, I ask them to include any prior knowledge or new vocabulary into their writing.
The final piece is a discussion about our observations, the parking lot as an issue, possible solutions, and the overall concept of erosion and its impact on the earth.