Next Generation Science Standard Connection
This lesson is connecting to Next Generation Science Standard 1-ESS1-2 which is about understanding that there can be a different amount of day light at different times of the year. In this lesson we observe how the seasons are different. In the the next four lessons the students read text, take notes, make observations of diagrams of each season, and observe a model that I create in the class with a flashlight and globe. I use a flash light to symbolize the sun, so I can show the students the way the earth moves and how that changes the daylight.
I find that thinking about prerequisite skills prior to teaching the standard really helps my students when I begin teaching the standard, because they are prepared. I usually think about what they need to know in order to do the task the standard requires. Then I create a plan that allows me to teach the skills in an appropriate order. In addition, I like to break the standard down into small lessons and goals that can be accomplished in an hour. So, this lesson is a good example of how I prepare my students to learn about the changes in daylight. After they understand the seasons I begin teaching a series of lessons on each season where the students learn more about the position of the sun in relation to the earth and how this can determine the season. Then they make prediction about what the earth will look like in that season the following year. I decided to hold off on making predictions to later lessons in the unit, because it is a higher order thinking skill. Making predictions also requires some prior knowledge, and I feel that my students really are lacking the prior knowledge to make a prediction.
In this lesson the class begins in the lounge, moves to the desks in the center of the room, transition to the center tables for the elaborate section, and closes back in the lounge for the evaluation. Keeping these transitions the same for most of my lessons helps my students persevere through complex tasks. They get to move, and they can anticipate about how much time they will spend in each section of the lesson.
As the lesson begins I try to engage the class and assess their prior knowledge when they are seated in the lounge. First I assess their knowledge and I say, "Please tell your partner everything you know about the seasons." Now, I am predicting my students tell each other details about specific seasons like it snows in the winter, and I am pretty sure they do not know the names of all four seasons. But, it is important to allow them to share their current knowledge with their peers, because it lets me know what they know. When I know what the students know I can determine how much extra explanations I am going to need to provide throughout the lesson. In addition, if I do have a student that knows a lot about the seasons I want to allow them to share, and I am going to be sure to recognize them throughout the lesson. Students find it more meaningful when they learn from their peers rather than when I tell them information.
Since, I have assessed their knowledge I need to tell the students the plan for the lesson. Sharing the plan allows students to understand my expectations which really helps them persevere through very complex task. So, I say, "Today you are going to read about the four seasons, and create a poster sharing your knowledge."
I read several piece of text: winter, spring, summer, and fall to my students then they take notes in their science journal. After each page the students record notes. I read each page three times then I ask a series of questions to prompt them to take the correct notes. The notes need to be based in evidence for the text.
After each page I ask the students, "What do you notice about this season? What does it say about the amount of daylight and dark? What is the temperature like?" These questions help the students notice important information that they can use to help develop their understanding of the seasons. Then I show this model and give a verbal explanation.
Now, I am teaching this in the first part of December, so I am prepared to scaffold my instruction. After I read the text three times and explain the model I walk around and help the students record their notes by rereading the specific sentences with the answers, and modeling how to write the words. Sometimes I write the words they need to spell on the table or a piece of paper for the to copy. We use bullets in our notes and I have modeled this enough that my students really know how to organize their notes well. I do encourage students to just make notes, and avoid worrying about complete sentences at this time, since I want to get them focused on making notes about their observations and what we read.
This is the time in the lesson when I make sure all of my students understand the fours seasons and can describe them. I do this by engaging the students in partner sharing, and they tell their partner what they recorded. Sometimes they cannot read what they recorded and I step in and read it for them. But, the idea is to get the partners to first compare notes. I say, "Talk to your partner about what you recorded about the seasons." After I listen to assess what they know I say, "Now, add or change anything you think you need to in order to improve your notes." So, students are comparing their notes and making necessary changes, and really they are learning from each other at this point. Another plus to this section is that students really seem to remember the information when they engage in discourse with their peers.
After they compare notes with their partner, I say, "Now share your notes with the group across the table from you." Again the students are comparing their ideas, building upon the ideas of their peers, and most importantly learning to communicate about a science topic.
Last I engage the entire class in a whole group discussion by saying, "Will a volunteer share their notes with the class." After somebody shares I say, "Will somebody else add to that?" I am encouraging the students to add to what their peers say. This is my planned approach to teaching my students to build upon what their peers say.
In this section the students make a poster: work that illustrates each season, and they write one sentence about each season. The criteria is that the must have each season correctly represented with accurate colors, and there must be one sentence describing the season. To ensure that the students meet my expectations I show them a model of what I want their format to be like. Modeling is essential to help students in the primary grades avoid frustration. I keep in mind that they really do not have a lot of experience in school and need to see what I am really thinking their design should resemble.
While they are working I walk around and check in with each child. I watch to see that the illustrations are the correct color like the leaves are different shades in the fall, and there are leaves on the trees in the summer. I also look to see that the people in the illustrations are wearing the appropriate clothes. These are clues that tell me whether my students really understand the seasons.
As the lesson winds down back in the lounge I ask about three students to present their poster to the class. The students seated evaluate the presenter's work and give them academic feedback. When students have to analyze or evaluate their peers work they really have to engage in critical thinking.
Now, I do use a lot of positive behavior support and try to be proactive in discipline in the class. So, we all chant, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps talking no more." Next, I say, "Keep your eyes on the speaker and think about what they are saying."
I do have expectations and criteria that I want my students to meet. I typically use a rubric that has one column for speaking loud and clear. One column is for the students ability to present each season correctly and write a sentence about the season. Finally, I want each child to provide verbal feedback during the evaluation. I do have a spreadsheet I use to document student achievement, and I try to plan instruction to meet the needs of the students that do not meet my expectations.