Next Generation Science Standard Connection
This lesson connects to 1-LS1-1, because the students are going to deepen their understanding of plant parts by comparing plants with similar parts. This is the second lesson in the unit, and I want to engage my students in a higher order thinking activity before we move on to learning more about plants. Engaging in a higher order thinking activity will ensure that my students know the plant parts.
In this lesson the students also develop a solution to a problem for humans by mimicking how plants use their external parts to help them survive. Developing a deep understanding of how the external features of plants help them survive is really building an understanding that is going to be required in later lessons.
When I approach the standards I try to break them down into parts, and I look for any prerequisite knowledge that is needed. Then I look at my class and determine what they know and do not know before I teach the lesson. This makes every lesson interesting, because I am not teaching something they already know. It also makes sure I am not overwhelming my students with knowledge they are not ready for. 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.
I think consistency in transitions and frequent transitions really helps students persevere through complex tasks like this lesson. The lesson starts in the lounge where I engage the class, then they compare the plants parts, explain their understanding, and begin to elaborate given a scenario about mimicking plants external parts. After productive creating, I share some existing designs, and the students add to their work. Then they present their design and explain their reasoning behind their solution.
As the lesson begins I excite the class by projecting the lesson image on the Smart Board. Then next thing I want to do is connect today's lesson to previous lessons, because I am trying to teach my students to begin the habit of reflecting on prior lessons in the lessons we are working in. So, I ask, "Will you please tell your partner what you remember about the parts of a plant, and how they help plants survive?" I listen to assess their knowledge. If several students share correct information I ask them to share what they remember, but if they don't I simply remind the students of what we learned. "We learned about the different parts to plants like thorns and how they keep predators away. Today, we are going deepen your understanding of plant parts by comparing the parts to different plants, and you also get to create a solution to a problem for humans by mimicking the parts to plants."
To make sure my students remember the lesson goal I say, "Let's chant the lesson goal three times: I can identify the parts to plants, and design a solution to a problem."
Each pair of students get two different plants with unique features that really enable their survival. We look at cedar trees, which have a hard bark and resin. The other plant is a holly bush, which also has a hard bark, but it has spiky leaves. First, the students illustrate: student work their plant and label the parts. Then, the students compare their plants and list the things that are similar and different: student work in their science journal. Science journals are great for students to keep a collection of all the things they have learned, so we can reflect upon the information.
Next, the pairs read an informational sheet I give them explaining how the external features of these plants help them survive. Working in pairs is a great way to allow students to learn to work as a team, but it also allows students support in reading or higher order thinking. I find that using pairs teaches collaborative working habits, and it allow students to build upon the ideas of their peers. When they work together their ideas seem to be more complete and both students seem to have a better understanding of the content.
At this point I try to engage the students in some scientific or academic discourse. It is my experience that first graders struggle with communicating about science. So, I often have to prompt them. I first say, "Please tell the pair across the table from you the how your plants are similar, different, and how do the parts help them survive."
As I walk around I stop and check in with the table, and I break the question down by saying, "How are they alike, or what is the same about the plant?" Then I wait and listen. Then I ask, "How are they different? What is not the same?" Then I listen, and if needed prompt students to look at their notes. Last, I say, "So, how do these parts help them survive?" Again I listen, and direct students to their notes.
Then I ask, "Will somebody please share with the class how your plants are the same, different, and how do their parts help them survive?" This is when I am allowing the students to learn from each other which is a very meaningful way to teach the content I want my students to learn.
This is the time when I give the students a scenario, and they design a solution to solve the problem. So, I say, "Class I have a problem in my garden. The rabbits are eating all my plants. So, I need you to design a solution to help keep the rabbits out of my garden. Remember I want you to use a design that mimics a natural defense we learned about on the plants."
As I walk around I check in with different groups and I ask things like, "How can we keep the rabbits away from my garden? Remember to think of what you have learned about plant and the way they protect themselves from predators." I am basically leading the students to think of a design that mimics plants external features: student work.
As the lesson comes to an end I need to assess the students learning, allow them to present: presentation and evaluation their argument supporting their design and how it will work, but I also want the students to evaluate their peers work. I have a video explaining how peer evaluation works.
One issue here is that students are reluctant to evaluate each other, and the same students seem to do all the evaluating. So, I have a rubric I tape on the board, and I put a check by each child's name as they present, evaluate each other, and speak loud and clear. This makes sure everyone gets to present, I know who needs help talking louder or more clearly, and I also know who I need to prompt. So, if I notice a particular student has not participated in evaluation I just ask them to comment by saying, "So, Owen what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what was presented? Will it work?" Then I wait. After the child speaks I ask them, "Will you tell me more, like why you think that?" Sometime it takes courage to speak, and sometimes I have to model evaluations. But, most importantly I support each child in learning to communicate about science.
I am looking to see that each child's solution is based on the external features we have learned about in this lesson. It is my experience that students just want to create really neat designs that are not based on evidence in the lesson. Specifically asking the students to remember and base their design on a plant feature we learned about today really help students meet my criteria.