To begin this lesson, I have the kids gather on the floor. I do this by calling one table at a time to sit like scientists. They are asked to come sit on the floor crisscross applesauce, hands in lap, mouths closed, ears, eyes and brain ready.
I ask the kids if they know what a tricycle is. Of course they all yell out that they do. I call on a student to explain what a tricycle is. She says, "It's a bike with three wheels. My little brother has one."
I ask the kids, "Can someone tell me what makes the tricycle go?"
I call on a boy to answer. He says, "The wheels."
I ask, "How do the wheels work?"
The kids yell out, "They go like this!" They all draw air circles over and over.
I tell they kids to think about the words tri-CYCLE and bi-CYCLE. I then ask them to be silent and think about what a life CYCLE might be.
I give them 30 seconds of silent think time. I then ask the kids think a life cycle might be. I call on random volunteers to explain what they think. One student said, "A life cycle is something that is alive that goes round and round."
I provided specific feedback, "That's great thinking! A life cycle is about something that's alive, and it does go around and around. It never ends. Today we are going to look at the life cycle of a tree."
I explain to the kids that each table is going explore the life cycle of a tree. Each table is going to get an envelope with pictures in it and they are going to put the pictures in order for the life cycle of their tree.
The table leaders will come up and get an envelope that has pictures in it. Table leaders, make sure the envelope stays closed until I ask you to take the pictures out.
I will call one table at a time to go sit at the table like scientists keeping your hands in your laps.
Once we are all ready, I will ask the table leaders to take the pictures out of the envelope.
You will work as a team at your table to put the pictures in order. I am not going to tell you what the pictures are about because I want you to look at them and try to figure that out on your own.
Once your team is in agreement with what order the pictures go in, raise your hand. I will come to your table to check your work. If the pictures are in the correct order, I will give your table a large piece of construction paper to glue the pictures to. Take turns gluing the pictures on to the paper in order. I give each table a paper that is the same as their table color. If you do not identify your tables by color, then do what works for you, e.g. numbers, team names.
I check the work again as soon as they begin gluing to ensure they glue the pictures in order. I revisit frequently to make sure the finished product is correct.
I have the kids engage in the life cycle before we do anything else because I want them to develop their own ideas before I give them any information. This makes the discussions much richer and it provides my struggling students and my ELL students with an experience and table discussion before I present information. This provides them with a background knowledge and vocabulary that they may not already have. It is provided by the discussions with their peers at the table.
After the task:
I collect the posters from the table leaders.
I have the kids come back to the floor one table at a time and sit quietly with their hands in their laps.
I ask each team to come up and share their work with the class. They are all given an opportunity to speak. It’s always exciting to hear them talk about their work. Somehow someone in the group knows just how to start off and the others follow their lead.
If the group struggles to share what they did and what they’ve learned, I ask them open ended questions like, “Can you tell us about your poster?” “What do you think these pictures are about?” “Why is it important to put the pictures in the correct order?” I also provide sentence stems when needed such as, “We learned ……about our tree by……”
I then ask the class if they have any questions about the poster for the group. This encourages the students to learn from each other and begins the development of stating, defending and dialogue. It is the onset of argumentation based on evidence.
When the groups finish their presentations, I have the kids stay seated on the floor. I ask them what they can tell me about the life cycle of a tree. For this section of the lesson, I call on volunteers. Kids do listen to each other to gain information.
As the kids share their ideas, I create a flow chart that represents the life cycle of a tree. If the kids give information out of order, I simply ask them what happens first. This jogs their memory and gets them on the right track of thinking for the flow chart.
Creating this flow chart is vital for the kids. The flow chart organizes thinking and provides a clear process of understanding. When the kids see the flow chart using the work they did in their groups, it brings the learning into focus. It also makes the learning accessible to all due to the nature of organizing information. My ELL students and special needs kids get the most from the creation of charts.
We continue to stay seated on the floor and we watch this video. It shows the life cycle of a tree with simple description.
After the video, we act out the life cycle of a tree (see video).
We then watch a quick Youtube video on the life cycle of a tree two times. The first time we watch it to gain general information and entertainment. The second time we watch it, I pause it at each step in the cycle.
We then go over the flow chart of the life cycle of a tree, which leads directly into their independent work and evaluation of understanding.
To close out this lesson, I have the kids cut glue four pictures in order that depict the life cycle of a tree. I roam the room as they work to intercede with any issues before the kids glue them down. I also ask the kids to explain their life cycle to me as best as they can. The video shows a young man telling me about the life cycle of his tree.
Most of my students get it correct without my assistance. This tells me that they learned what they needed to through this lesson. This lesson is used to expose them to the idea of a life cycle. This is simply a place to build upon when other life cycles are studied. This in fact builds their background knowledge.