Next Generation Science Standard Connection
This lesson connects to 1-LS1-1, because the students are going to label the parts to a plant. Later in unit they develop a solution to a problem for humans by mimicking how plants use their external parts to help them survive. So, as I think about the prior knowledge the students need to be able to do this I must break the standard down into parts, and eventually end up with a lesson that specifically allows students to develop a solution to a problem for humans that can be solved by mimicking plants external features. One huge part of mimicking external features of plants is to learn what the external features of plants are, and researching their function. This is the first lesson in this unit, and learning parts to plants is an essential component of being able to master the standard. I find that most standard are much more achievable if they are broken down into smaller parts that lead up to meeting the entire standards expectations. Most of the parts or lessons that I plan last about an hour and the number of lessons that it takes to master a standard really is determined by the class and the standard.
We begin the lesson in the lounge where I engage the class, then they explore the plants parts, explain their understanding, and lablel the parts to a different plant. Then they present their design and explain their reasoning. Keeping consistent transitions like these really helps my students persevere through complex tasks, because they get to move frequently.
In this section I try to connect the lesson to previous learning, excite the class, and assess their prior knowledge. So, I say, "Class we have studied how animals use their external features to help them survive, and now we are going to learn about plants external parts. Today we are going to specifically learn about external parts to plants. I want you to tell your peanut butter jelly partner everything you know about plants."
Now, I have told them what we are going to do, so they know what to expect. I connected this lesson the previous lessons, and I am going to listen to assess their prior knowledge. Now, by listening I can determine how much support and extra explanations I am going to need to add, or if there is a specific child who can share a lot of information. It is always more engaging if the students can teach each other, rather that listening to me. So, I share some of their conversations and ask, "Will somebody please share their conversation?" I am basically trying to engage the students in more discourse where they can learn from each other, and begin to speak in scientific discourse.
This is the time I provide an opportunity for the students to learn about plants on their own. It seems more powerful and the students really retain the information when they discover it, and have time to explore an actual plant. You may enbjoy this video: routines and procedures which shows how I make this section go smoothly.
Now, I have collected a variety of plants and I give each child a different plant to analyze. Now, I selected plant that I know have an obvious defense, since this will help me in later lessons. So, I selected a rose (thorns), briar (thorns), and yucca (points). I love plants and actually have these in my yard, but most greenhouses can provide a sample of similar plants. In the lesson, the students are in pairs and they illustrate their plant in their science notebook.
First, the students illustrate their plant. Then I read to them from a text, The Story of a Rose, by Samantha Rabe, Each group has a copy of the text. After reading the text they label the parts to their plant. The text has an image of a plant with the parts labeled. Now, some students cannot read and I have a variety of strategies that help my students persevere through complex tasks. Learning from text is kind of a new concept in the primary grades, since many students are still learning to read. I often google to get my content, shorten sentences, and delete really big words to make the content clear and readable.
Now each group shares their information with the group that is directly opposite the table to them. This is again to encourage students to engage in specific scientific discourse. They need to learn to bounce ideas off each other, learn from each other, and it helps me check their understanding.
It sometimes takes prompting and I have to stop and check in to see if they actually talk. If they did not talk I just prompt them with, "So, what do you think? What did you find out about your plant? How does it stay alive?" Then they usually begin talking, but if they don't I make a statement and ask the students to repeat it. This is my method of scaffolding and modeling my desired expectation.
After the table sharing, I ask, "Will one or two students share with the class what the group opposite them said?" I listen, but this is a great strategy to really hold students accountable for engaging in discourse and really listening to their peers.
During this section I give each child a flower. They have to illustrate their flower using the accurate colors. They also need to label the parts to the flower. This gives the students an opportunity to apply their knowledge independently, and I find that giving students application activities builds memory. Plus they are indirectly learning how plants are similar, but appear different.
So, I give them time to work, and I walk around to see that everyone is thinking. I stop and check in to see if the students are on track and one of my questions is, "Is that the color of your plant? Are you sure the label is correct? Do you need to look at the model again?" These are indirect ways to tell students they are not correct, and need to take another look at the model. Using this type of questioning really keeps a positive atmosphere in the classroom.
The last part of the lesson involves an activity where the students share their illustrations with the class and explain their work. So, about three students present: presentation and evaluation their illustrations by explaining their labels. The other students engage in peer evaluation.
I want to see that the students labels are correct and the illustration is the accurate color. In my experience I find that many first graders tend to refer to prior knowledge instead of evidence they learned in the text. The only other expectation I have is that the students actually provide evidence based peer feedback that connects to the information they have gained in this lesson.
So, I use a spreadsheet I keep taped to my white board that I check off to see who's turn it is to present. This makes sure each child gets to practice speaking and listening, and they all work on their individual communication skills. On the spread sheet I give a check or minus for correct content, speaking loud and clear, and for giving evidenced based peer feedback.