Next Generation Science Standard Connection
This lesson connects to 1-LS1-1, because the students are going to use their knowledge of plants to determines a solution to a problem. In this lesson I share a specific problem I have with rabbits eating my plants. We read some text about why rabbits eat from gardens, and then I remind the class of plant features we have studied that deter predators. We have studied thorns and plants with resin. These are the two external features I expect the students to base their reasoning on when designing a solution to the problem. Then I show them some current deterrents, and I allow the students to add to their design.
We begin the lesson in the lounge, because it is close and the students need to move frequently. Then we transition to the desks in the center of the room for the explore, explain, and elaborate section. Last, the students present and evaluate each others ideas in the lounge. Keeping these transitions consistent is essential to helping the students persevere through complex tasks. First they get to move often, it creates brain breaks, and they know what to expect.
In the beginning of the lesson I try to excite my class and assess their prior knowledge. Today I project the lesson image on the Smart Board and then I ask the students to think of a time they had a problem. Then I wait about ten seconds. Next, I say, "Tell your peanut butter jelly partner about the problem you had, and how you solved your problem." Then I listen to see if my students really understand what a problem is, and if they know how to solve a problem. After listening I share some of the conversations I heard, and I ask for volunteers to share their thoughts.
Next, I say, "Today we are going to solve a problem that I have at my house by using our knowledge of how plants protect themselves. We know about how the cedar has a resin and roses have thorns, right. So, my problem is that these little rabbits are eating my vegetables out of my garden." This might be a good time to read the story of Peter Rabbit, since it's my son's favorite book I have it memorized. I share, "You may have heard the story of a little rabbit named Peter and he always stole vegetables from Mr. MacGregor's garden. Well, Mr. MacGregor made a pie out of Peter's father, and this always seems sad to me. I think there must be another solution to keep the rabbits out of gardens. Today we are going to learn why rabbits eat out of gardens, and how we can deter them from eating my garden."
To help the class remember the lesson goal we chant it three times: I can design a solution to a problem.
Now it is time to allow the class to learn why rabbits eat my plants. It is just my opinion, but I like to expose my students to complex text as they learn the content. Usually I google the content, cut and paste an article into a document, and then shorten sentences or change vocabulary to meet my students comprehension ability. So, I give each child a copy of the text, and I read it to them three times. Next, I say, "Why do rabbits come to my garden to eat my plants? Please highlight the answer in the text as I read it a fourth time." Then I read the text.
Next, I say, "Please write down why rabbits try to eat my plants in your science journal. Let's make a complete sentence today, since it is November. I am going to write on the board: Rabbits eat from a garden because____. I want you to add to copy down the sentence and add the answer which is in the text." Teaching first graders to learn from text instead of learning to read text is often challenging, so I made a video to explain how I scaffold complex tasks. Another thing I am doing here is teaching my students to find evidence in a text, which is a skill they need to learn. I have a video on how a help my students persevere through complex tasks.
At this time I really want to engage the class in scientific discourse, because it teaches my students to learn to build upon each others idea. This is very powerful, since learning from each other seems to be the most meaningful experience from students. It seems like when they discover the answer and share it with each other they fully understand the content and remember it.
So, I say, "Please turn and tell your partner why rabbits eat my vegetables." I listen to assess their knowledge. Then I encourage more discourse by saying, "Please share you knowledge of why rabbits eat my vegetables across the table." Then I listen, and last I engage the class in a whole group discussion to allow them to talk more about the reasons they read about in the text regarding why rabbits eat my vegetables. All of this discourse and repetition really helps students develop an understanding of the content.
After we discuss why the rabbits eat my vegetables, I say, "Please turn and tell your partner what we have learned about how plants keep predators away?" Then I listen to assess their understanding. The students go through the same procedures as earlier. We talk to a partner, then talk across the table, and last the who group engages in a discussion.
Now it is time for the class to engage designing a solution to the problem: basic student work and proficient student work by using their knowledge of how plants deter predators. Their solution must be based on one of the things the plants we have studied do to keep the predators away. The students work in pairs, which allows them to collaborate and create a more complete solution. As they discuss and come to a conclusion about their design they must really defend their ideas and work together.
My job now is to walk around and make sure the students are working, talking, and designing. So, I do stop to check in with the groups. Some of my questions are: "What plant feature are you connecting your solution to? What is your design? How will it work?"
As the lesson winds down I want to assess my students knowledge, engage them in speaking, and allow them to evaluate their peers work. So, two to three groups to explain their solution to the class. I made a video to explain how the peer evaluation portion of the lesson works.
I use a positive behavior chant and I say, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps, talking no more." If the students want they can chant with me, and then I remind them, "Your eyes are on the speaker. You are listening and thinking about whether their design will work. Is it based on thorns, pointy leaves, or resin?"
When I think about assessments, I am looking to see that the students base their solution on the evidence that we learned about which is thorns, pointy leaves, and resin. Any design that deters animals from my garden using a version of one of these features is acceptable, since those are the ones we have learned about. I just want the students to practice basing their decisions on evidence. The design can be in the form of a illustration they talk about, notes or sentences.