This lesson is a part of a unit on Apples that is required in my school district; because I live in a community dependent on apples. Our economy is directly tied to the apple industry. My school district requires all teachers to teach about the history of the apple in our valley. Of course, you cannot teach about the apple purely in a social studies perspective. It is necessary to address the scientific side as well. The seasons play a direct part in the cycle of the apple and offer a great understanding of Scientific Knowledge based upon Empirical Evidence (Nature of Science).
SP8 explicitly explains that students be able to read grade-appropriate texts to obtain scientific information to determine patterns about the natural world. This lesson provides practice for students to do this.
"Boys and girls I want to talk about our reading that we have been doing for the last few days. We have been working really hard on understanding all the elements of the story Apples to Oregon and we have learned so much about the history of one families journey to get apples out west. But I want us to look at this from another perspective. I have another passage I want us to explore. It is a bit different, but I think we will see there are quite a few similarities."
I bring up the power point with the passage on it. The passage actually comes from Readworks.org. I love this site, it has so many great non-fiction reading passages that are leveled with Lexile reading levels. The site offers so much for teachers to be able to utilize in their classrooms when it comes to reading non-fiction, addressing Common Core reading standards and incorporating reading into the NGSS.
I show the students the story and I read it to them one time. After I have read it, I ask them to read it with me. I explain that most of a scientists working day is spent reading non-fiction text. That they use this reading and any new information they learn and incorporate that into their own work. But being able to read is not the only thing they must be able to do. They need to be able to read the work and know what is the important information they are trying to pull out that will help them in their work.
This doesn't just happen. We have to really work at it. So we are going to take this passage and learn how to pull details (evidence) from the text that may help us learn more about the apple and the growth of the apple tree.
I show the children the Two Column Note Taking power point. I created this in order to explain to the children exactly how we would organize and set up our writing and organization of concepts. In my school district we use the Step Up to Writing curriculum. This is a format that I have taken and adapted a bit to fit the needs of my students.
After I explain the steps that will be included in our writing, I hand each child a piece of paper. I show them how to fold their paper in half. This in itself can be an entire lesson. So we go a bit slowly, methodically taking the time to fold the paper and practice the creasing.
I am very careful to explain that when we analyze the information from the text we will need to interpret that new information to describe patterns in nature. (SP4)
When all the children have their paper folded, I go back to the screen with each of the steps on slide two. Explaining that the steps on the screen will help us to read the text and logically pull out the information that will help us to continue our learning about the apple tree.
I also give each child a copy of the passage to have in front of them as well as on the screen. Some students need to see the language and text on the screen where I can read it with them and touch words. While other students need to have the passage in front of them. By having it available in both modes, it ensures that all needs are being met.
I ask, "What is the passage all about?" I get lots of different answers ranging from each individual season to trees. But what I am listening for is the idea that the entire passage is about all the seasons and how the apple tree changes within each season because of the weather. Once I hear this, I am ready to move on.
"OK, the topic is the seasons of the tree. Do we all agree upon this?" I get a resounding 'yes.'
I then ask, "Why would I want to read about this passage if I were a scientist?" Reminding my students that scientists are always asking questions (SP1)? I am hoping that someone will say, "we want to know what happens to an apple tree in each of the seasons."
"Yes, we do. I am pretty sure that we could find out if we continue to keep reading. Look at the passage and tell me how the author organized the important points in the writing?"
Immediately, the children notice that the organization is by the seasons themselves. I point out if the author organizes the writing this way, perhaps that would be the best way for us to organize our note taking. I am leading them through this step by step. The children have not been exposed to this type of organization before and I know it will be expected that they can do this independently as Third Graders next year. I want to make sure that I completely and explicitly teach these skills.
I show the children how to write the word, "spring" on the left hand side of the paper. I make sure that fold is in the middle of the paper. The fold creates a natural partition in the page so the children do not have to draw a line that most likely will not be straight and may frustrate the children.
On the right hand side of the paper, we add a bullet for each piece of information from the passage that is pertinent to remember for later lessons. We continue through this process through the first two seasons. After listening and watching the students really take to this process, I quickly made a a decision to see if they would be able to complete the last two seasons from the passage independently.
I explain to the children, that we have read this passage several times together and I feel they are ready to try this strategy independently. I explain to them that I would like them to attempt to read the last two sections and practice taking notes alone. While they are doing this, I am circulating throughout the classroom. Offering support or help where needed.
Another extra side effect of the working on reading like a scientist is ability to demonstrate to the children how authors use many of the same skills that a scientist will use. Comparing and contrasting data is one example that jumped off the pages in this lesson.
I teach the skills of comparing and contrasting earlier in the school year during both a science and reading lesson. With a tiny bit of a reminder the children pick up the cues that this passage has a lot of opportunity for us to bring those skills in back in and explore some more.
I really wanted to be able to also demonstrate for my students that scientists will not just read a passage of text to gather more information, but that they will also begin to organize or compare the information immediately. One way to do this is to use a Venn Diagram. Venn Diagrams fit into that category that Robert Marzano specifies as being a highly effective strategy. His work shows that students who engage in this type of strategy will increase by 45 percentile points.
I quickly bring out some Venn Diagrams that I have made ahead for those "just in the moment" teaching chances. And as we continue to read I ask the children if we could compare some data about the season of the apple tree from this passage. Of course, they all realize that there are many similarities.
I explain that a scientist could easily become overwhelmed by all the information in a text written by another scientist. So it is important that when they are reading, they are logical in the way they gather all the new information and how they document that so that it is helpful for their own further learning.
I ask the children, if we have four seasons, should we compare all of them, or should we choose two and go from there?" They suggest just comparing the first two makes sense. We go back to the passage and read and reread the passage. As a group, the children help me to include all the information on the Venn Diagram.
I want to gather my own formative data to verify that the students have understood that scientists use this skill of comparing and contrasting in order to help them make strong observations.