Next Generation Science Standard Connection
Now we are into the fourth lesson in the plant unit, and I am laying the foundation for the students to be able to complete the entire standard requirements. But, I feel that when I break the standard down into achievable parts the students are able to develop knowledge, build upon their knowledge, and eventually master the standard.
The standard I am working on is 1-LS1-1 and the students are going to solve a problem for humans by mimicking the external features of a plant. At this point we have labeled the parts to a plant, described the function of the parts, and now we need to develop an understanding about what plants need to survive. With this knowledge I feel that the students will be prepared to begin designing solutions to human problems, but they first need to really understand plants. Since, the solution in the standard says that the solution needs to be based on an external features of a plant or animal.
By reading about the needs of a plant, and then making observations students are learning what needs have to be met to keep the plant alive. When they understand how water, sunlight, and nutrients affect the growth of the parts of the plant the students can be more prepared to design different solutions to problems facing humans. Really I feel that the students need to fully understand the function of the parts and how the parts are dependent on certain things: sunlight, water, and nutrients. This experience allows students to be capable of making connections between the plants needs and the function of the plants parts.
I do keep the flow of my lessons consistent, because students need to know what to expect. I also think that frequent transitions help students engage in brain breaks and persevere through a very complex lesson. We begin in the lounge for the engage section. Next we move to the center desks for the explore, explain, and explore sections. The lesson winds down in the evaluation section back at the lounge.
In the beginning of the lesson I typically try to excite the class, but I also want to assess their prior knowledge. Assessing their prior knowledge teaches the students to reflect upon what we have learned in prior lessons which is a good habit. It also lets me know how much support I am join to have to give the class based on what they remember about the parts of the plant and their function.
So, I ask the class, "Please tell your peanut butter jelly partner what you know about the names and functions of the plants parts." Listening to their discussion really helps me know how much support I am going to have to add to the lesson to help the students reflect upon what we have learned. Since their prior knowledge is going to be essential to helping the students meets today's goal. When the students finish talking I ask several students to share their knowledge. Allowing students to learn from each other is empowering and it makes learning more meaningful to students.
Moving on, it is important to tell the students my expectations, so they know what we are going to be learning. Plus chanting the goal helps students remember the lesson goal. So, I say, "Please chant: determine what plants need to survive."
In this section I allow the students to learn from reading a piece of text that tells us what the plants need to survive. Each child gets a copy. To find great resources I basically google the content. For this lesson the text is age appropriate.
I read the text three times aloud, since most of my students are just learning to read. This is one opportunity for them to learn from reading. I ask, "Will you please highlight any information that tells you what plants need to survive as I am reading?" Now, I read really slow, and usually pause a second after the answer. This is how I help my students learn to find evidence in text. Another thing I do is track for some learners, and others I just give one copy and pair them with a student who can track for them. This is my video of how I help students persevere through complex tasks.
Now the students share their understanding from the explore section. This is the perfect time to help students develop their communication skills, and engage them in scientific discourse. As students begin talking they learn to bounce ideas off each other and build upon their peers' ideas.
To get them talking I say, "Please tell your partner what information you highlighted, and what plants need to survive." After I listen I ask, "Will a volunteer please share with the group across the table." Now, we have had partner talk, table talk, and I want to encourage a class discussion. I begin again, "Will a volunteer please share what you have learned about what plants need to survive?" Then I ask, "Will somebody add to that?" This is my way of getting my students to talk about science. It does take practice, but with consistent practice first graders really become excellent at communicating. I often restate what they say in a complete sentence and ask them to repeat it. Many ELL really just need many experiences talking in complete sentences.
Now the students are going to take their knowledge of what plants need to survive and plant their very own seed. Based on their new knowledge, they must determine what type of soil to use, where to put the plant, how much water to give it, and how deep to plant the seed. I also read the seed packet information to share the specific needs for their seed, and I am using the bean. The bean is an easy plant to grow.
I distribute the seeds, water, and cups. Then I give the students the choices of how to plant the seed, where to plant it, and how to plant it. The location choices could be on the window seal: plants or on the teachers desk. I am going to ask, "Why?" This lets students explain their reasonings. By asking the students to elaborate and justify why they chose to put their seeds on by the window I am expecting to hear them reflect upon evidence in the text. "This is where there is the most light in our room." We actually put them on a cart by the window seal, because there is a cool draft there and the concrete blocks are cold.
Over the next few weeks we actually chart: plant observations and document the data on each child's plant. The chart has their choices on it, so we can determine which choices ended up growing the biggest plant. But, I thought it would be fun to add some predicting to the lesson. I had one child plant two seeds that are my mystery seeds. Each day the student predict what the mystery seed is based on their observations of the seed packets of carrots and parsley. These two have very different leaves, so the class can have an answer in at least two weeks about which plant is which. By incorporating predicting into our lesson I am increasing the level of higher order thinking, and teaching students to make predicitons based on evidence.
This is the time in the lesson when the students present their work, and they evaluate: peer evaluation the decisions of their peers. The students present their choices about how they planted their seed, what soil they chose, how much water to give the plant, and where they choose to place it in the room. This is when the students really have to orally defend their choices, but the students listening also practice evaluating the content. Both skills require higher order thinking and engage students in an activity that really helps them develop a deep conceptual understanding.
As I think about assessing the class, I am looking to see that they chose to plant the seed based on the guidelines in the text from the explore section. Students need to learn to base their decisions and argument on evidence presented in a text. I use a simple spreadsheet to document who has presented, given peer feedback, and needs work on their speaking and listening skills.