Exploring A River

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SWBAT identify where a river begins and ends

Big Idea

How does a river get its water and where does that water go? Is it fresh water or salt water?

Background Information

This lesson is based upon the book "Where the River Begins," by Thomas Locker. Thomas Locker is an author/illustrator who has written a large collection of beautifully illustrated nature books. "Where the River Begins" is a book about 2 boys who hike along the course of the river by their house to its origins in the mountains. It gives students a chance to think about where a river comes from.

In this lesson the students listen to the book, draw their own illustrations and then look at the actual illustrations and create a list of attributes of rivers.

It is important to connect literature and science in a natural way for students. If every subject is taught in isolation, students begin to think that reading is only for reading, and science for science. I want students to understand that we can learn about science from literature. This lesson uses the literature to teach about where a river begins.


I Can Statement

3 minutes

I begin today's lesson by asking students to read the I Can Statement with me. I want students to be aware of what they are trying to figure out before we begin. Students who know what the target for learning is will have a clearer understanding of how they are doing so I begin with the I Can Statement.

Together we read, "I can figure out where a river begins and ends and where the water comes from."

Introducing the Book

15 minutes

I begin by covering the book with black paper and saying to students, "today I am going to read you a story and I want you to imagine where the book takes place. " (This is the skill of visualizing and to help students begin to form an idea about how a river travels  from place to place, I want them to visualize what the river may look like before I show them the artists pictures. I want students to begin to internalize what it means when we use the term river so I am asking them to take an active role by imagining the pictures rather than just passively looking at them.) "I am going to ask you to draw a picture of one place from the story at the end. I want you to pay particular attention to the river in the story because the story is called, "Where the River Begins."

I read the book without sharing the pictures. At the end of the book I hand out blank paper and ask students to draw one setting from the book. I ask for a volunteer to explain what we mean by the setting of the book (where it takes place).

I am expecting to see the river in each picture, but to see mountains in some, a wide river, a narrow river, possibly a pond or marshy area, hills, and a road. 

An Example of A Drawing That Shows Understanding of the Text  

An Example of Limited Understanding

I give students adequate time to color their pictures. 

Sharing Our Pictures

10 minutes

I say to students, "I would like everyone to get a chance to share their pictures before I share the artists pictures with you. I am going to give you each a piece of tape and ask you to tape your picture to the board and then return to your seat. We will create a mini art museum with our drawings."

Students hang their pictures several students at a time in order to manage the flow of students to the board. When all students have displayed their pictures I say, "you will have a chance to walk by the board now and look at each picture. Think about whether these pictures remind you of the story you heard or not. Pay special attention to the name of the book, "Where the River Begins." Do you think these pictures help us figure out where the river begins?"

I have students file through the museum and then come to the rug.

"How was your visit to the art museum? How many of you think you have an idea about where a river might begin? Is a river just in one place? Is it always the same?" I let students give their answers to each question.

Next I show the students the pictures from the book. We talk about what they notice about the river in each picture. I make a list of attributes of the river on the easel. These include that it starts in the mountains. The rain and snow in the mountains fill up the rivers. A river can be wide or narrow, deep or shallow. It can move through mountains, hills, fields, and even along roads or through cities. A river can have high cliffs or low edges of dirt and grass. There are rocks and dirt at the bottom of the rivers. The water can move fast or slow. 

I ask students to return to their desks and take out their science journals. I want them to write 2 things they know about a river and answer the question, "where does the water in a river come from?" I do this to check on individual understanding.


15 minutes

I ask students to put away their science journals and turn their attention back to the pictures in our museum. I say, "You have all told me how a river begins, or where the water comes from and our book helped us know about the beginning of a river, but now I wonder, where does the water in the river go?"

I point to the various pictures of rivers, and then show a United States Map with the rivers on it. I ask again, "where does the water in these rivers go?" I encourage people to come and point to a picture that might show an ocean or lake at the end, or to trace a river on the map to its end. 

I ask students to share their thoughts with their tables and then I call on several people to share their ideas with the whole group. 

I return to our list of river attributes and add their thoughts about the end of the river to our list. I end today with a check of our I Can Statement. "I can figure out where a river begins and ends and where the water comes from." I ask for a thumbs up if students feel that they figured that out.