To begin this lesson, I have the kids gather on the floor in a whole group. I do this by calling one table at a time to the floor. I remind them to sit like scientists with their hands in their laps, mouths closed, ears open and brains ready to learn.
I ask them to think about trees they've seen during different times of the year and what it feels like outside during that time of the year. I give them about 20 seconds to think. I then ask them to think about their favorite time of year and what trees look like during that time of the year. I then ask them to turn to their talking partner and tell their partner about the tree. I ask them to tell their partner if the tree has leaves, what color they are, if there's flowers or fruit and anything else they remember about that tree.
I then ask the kids if they can tell me names of the different seasons of the year. I draw a four-square on a piece of chart paper and label each quadrant as the kids tell me the names of the seasons. Top left is winter, top right spring, bottom left summer, bottom right fall.
Once each quadrant is labeled with a season, I ask the kids to tell me the characteristics of a tree during each of the seasons. We talk about one season at a time.
I do this to get them thinking about the changes most trees goes through during the different seasons of the year. The goal here is to gain the understanding that some trees can tell us what time of year it is. This is important as it can assist in determining a setting in a story as well as assist the kids in understanding the world around them.
Once the four-square is complete, I hang it for reference during the engagement portion of the lesson.
We explore the seasons of the year through a story. This helps the kids gain a deeper understanding of seasons and trees, I do an interactive read aloud with the book, A Busy Year by Leo Lionni. It's a delightful story about a mouse and his tree throughout the seasons of the year.
As I read this story, I have the kids interact with it. They play the part of the mouse. As the mouse, they are asked to respond to what they experience with the tree and the discuss the changes they see in the tree as the seasons change and why the changes might be taking place. This story is a great tool for engaging and explaining the seasons of a tree at the same time.
I may ask something like, "Okay, mice, what do you notice about your tree now? Turn to your talking partner and tell them how the tree has changed." I give them a minute to share what they notice about the tree and then I randomly choose three students to share with the class what they and their partner notice about the tree.
The random students are chosen by having their name sticks pulled from a name stick can.
As I read through the story with the kids, I ask them to keep a picture of the tree in the different seasons in their mind.
After we explore trees through the seasons using the story by Leo Lionni, I we review once more the four-square of the seasons of a tree poster with the kids. This is a very quick whole group review. I do this to keep the seasons in the working memory as it will guide them through this section of the lesson.
I then have the kids go sit at their tables by calling one table group at a time to sit quietly at their tables with their hands in their lap. I tell them we are going to make an art project that we will hang up around the room to reflect the characteristics of trees throughout the seasons of the year.
Once all the kids are seated at the tables, I hold up the quadrant page that they will be using and explain to them how the first part will be done:
"One, two, three. All eyes on me! Hands up, hands in your lap." This calms down the excitement of anticipation and gets the kids focused. I do not go on until everyone is quiet and ready.
I hold up the quadrant paper. "This is the first paper we will be working with today. Please notice the outline of the tree trunk and branches in each quadrant and the dotted line words in each one. We are going to use these outlines to create an art project that shows how a tree looks during each season."
Once everyone has one of these pages, you will have 3 minutes to color the trunk and branches outline with a brown crayon. What color?" I wait for choral response. "How long will you have?" The kids choral response, "Three minutes." I tell the kids to wait to begin until everyone has a paper and I start the timer. This helps keep the "fast kids" from getting done too much earlier than the rest when if they get their papers before the others.
I go from table to table passing out the papers face down. I do this so the kids who get their paper first aren't tempted to begin before everyone else. Once everyone has a paper, I set the timer and ask them to get a brown crayon out and hold it up. I show them an example of what it should look like at the end of the three minutes. I tell them to turn their papers over, take a moment to write their name at the top of the paper and begin. I then start the timer.
While the kids are coloring in the trunk and branches outlines, I deliver a container of materials to the center of each table. Soda flat boxes work best for this activity. They have enough room to keep the materials separate and easily accessible.
Once the timer goes off, I tell the kids to return their crayons to their crayon boxes. If they did not get finished in the three minutes, that's okay. They will have time at the very end to make up what they didn't get done during the allotted time. This is important to say AFTER the timer because the timer is intended to keep them on task and not waste time.
Now that the trunks and branches are colored, I have the kids tell me what dot-line word in the first quadrant says. We sound it out together (blending, not sound by sound)in two syllables, /w/ /i/ /n/ - /t/ /e/ /r/ to support kindergarten ELA standards. I ask the kids to take a few second to think about what a tree looks like in winter. I have them trace the word, winter in quadrant one. I ask the kids to think in their brains for a few seconds about what a tree looks like in the winter.
I then have them talk as a table and take turns sharing their ideas. Each student is identified by a sticker on their name tag according to their academic levels. I always have the med-high kids share first because they don't dominate a conversation and I always have the low kids share last so they can hear shared information repeatedly before having to share their own ideas. It is also okay for them to repeat what someone else states as it helps them to "own it" themselves. Sentence stems are provided for the struggling kids and the ELL kids. For this lesson I provide the kids with this sentence stem:
A tree in __________ looks _____________ .
I pull a random name stick from the name stick can and I ask the the student to describe a tree in winter. The student says that is has no leaves or flowers and is all bare. If it's snows, then it has snow on it. I give the student immediate specific feedback, "Excellent! I like the way you explained that and how you used the snow as an example because that is exactly what we are going to put on the tree in the first quadrant that says winter."
I ask the kids to look in the box I placed on the table. When they see the cotton balls, they are to raise their hands. tell them that they are going to have one minute on the timer to pick up one cotton ball at a time and pull it apart and glue it on to the winter tree. I demonstrate what the work time should look like.
I ask the kids to get their glue sticks out and ready. I use glue sticks instead of liquid glue because it's a lot less messy. I set the timer and have them begin.
Once the the minute is up, I have the kids stop where ever they are at and hold up their papers for me to see. I affirm their hard work and move on to the next quadrant.
We read the word "spring" together in the second quadrant just as we did "winter" in the first quadrant. I have them trace the word.
I ask the kids to look at the materials in the box on their tables. I ask them to think quietly in their brain about what a tree looks like in the spring. I ask them to think quietly to themselves about what they might use to make the tree look like in the spring. I again pull a random name stick from the name stick can. This avoids subconscious bias in choosing students to call on.
The student says we should use the pink paper. I ask why and she says because in spring the trees have flowers on them and some flowers are pink.
I tell the kids I'm going to set the timer for another one minute. They will glue pink tissue flowers on the tree in the spring box. I roam the room to monitor progress and intercede problems, such as wrong quadrants, as they work.
I set the timer and tell them to begin. I start the timer. When the timer goes off, I have the kids hold up their papers for a quick check.
We move on to the next quadrant and repeat the read and trace we did for the prior two. I again have the kids think about what a tree looks like in this season, summer. I again pull a name stick and have the student describe what a tree looks like in summer.
I affirm what the students says, green with leaves. I ask the kids to look in the box and think about what they might use to make the tree look like a summer tree.
I again set the timer for one minute and have them begin. I roam the room as they work. I have them hold up their work when the time goes off.
We move on to the last quadrant, fall. We again read and trace the dot-line label. Again I have them visualize the tree in that season followed by calling on a random student using a name stick. The student says we can use the yellow, orange and brown tissue paper in the box.
I again set the timer and they get one minute to glue on the yellow, orange and brown tissue. I roam the room as they work.
I do not include red tissue in the box because we will glue on red "apple" tissues onto the summer tree at the very end.
After the timer goes off, I again have them hold up their paper after the timer goes off.
I ask the kids in which season apples start to grow on a tree. I take volunteers to answer this one as we haven't discussed it explicitly since we read the Leo Lionni book in the explore and explain section of this lesson.
Eventually a student says, "Apples start growing on the trees in the summer." I say, "Yes, excellent! That is exactly when apples start to grow on trees."
I am going to come around to your tables and put red squares of tissue paper in your box. The squares are bigger than the ones you've been using because you're going to roll them into little apples and glue them onto your tree. This time you are going to use liquid glue to put the apples on the tree because they have a harder time staying on with a glue stick because they don't sit flat.
When we are done gluing on the apples, please leave your paper flat. Do NOT pick it up to show me. It will need to dry first so I will have you bring them one table at a time to the counter to dry at the very end. Is everyone ready? Get your liquid glue out. I hold up a bottle to show them. Remember to use very little glue. Only one small drop.
This time I set the time for two minutes because they have to roll and glue the apples on. This takes a bit longer than the other gluing activities.
Drying the art:
I call one table up at a time to carry their work up carefully. I place their papers on the counter so they are not touching each other or overlapping so they don't accidentally stick together.
Once all the papers are dry, I mat them onto blue construction paper and post them around them room. They are beautiful, and every kid in my room knows the seasons of a tree!
**I used die-cut tree bases for my class. If you don't have access to tree die-cuts, I've uploaded a pdf of tree outline cut-outs for you to use. The kids can color them brown and then cut them out.
The evaluation portion of this lesson is so easy! I give each student a strip of paper that has four pictures of trees on it. I ask them to put a 1 in the box under the picture that shows a tree in winter, a 2 under the box that shows a tree in spring, a 3 in the box that shows a tree in summer and a 4 that shows a tree in fall.
I quickly go around the room to check and correct. I then pass out the science journals and have them place the strip on the next available page in their journals.
I meet in a small group with any kids who are still struggling with the idea of a tree changing through the seasons. There are only one or two.