At the beginning of the unit, we explored the different layers of the forest, the words deciduous and coniferous were used often. We even created physical signs to use each time one of the words was used in conversation. The total physical response is so powerful. It really puts the new language into the mind and imprints it in the brain of the learner. At times, the words can be used so often, I feel as though I am playing charades.
Because these words were so prevalent in the earlier lessons, the children knew right away they were looking at a branch from a coniferous tree. It made the perfect connection to the unit itself, but also offered a real object that could be investigated and used to explore making scientific analogies.
I very strategically planned to teach an earlier lesson in my reading block that very explicitly taught my students about analogies. It was a well planned lesson and set the stage for this lesson beautifully.
I began this lesson by reminding my students about the earlier lesson of the morning. They instantly remembered what I was referring to and acknowledged this with lots of heading shaking and smiles.
I instructed them to look at the screen and see the Observing Tree Analogies Power Point. Instantly, there were more smiles on their faces. I had made an instant connection for them and they were feeling pretty excited.
I quickly moved to Slide two and we jumped in. Having already taught what analogies were in reading and writing, made this very easy for the children to transfer the skill and think like a scientist with analogies.
We moved on to Slide three and reread a larger version of what a scientific analogy does. This was simply to reaffirm why we were discussing these in science.
I quickly moved on to Slide four and showed the children the materials we would be using for this investigation. I quickly heard excitement ripple through the classroom when the students saw the jewelers loop on the screen. The children really love to use these tools.
I called my high school Agricultural Department and asked if I could have some clippings of their left over Christmas wreath projects. (High School students in our shop area, work in a horticultural program and make wreathes each year during the holidays to sale as a fund raiser. How fortunate for me, because I do not have to go and search out samples, they have them cut and ready for me).
I passed out the Douglas Fir Examples on the plastic picnic plates we use for everything along with a jewelers loop. The children can barely contain themselves waiting to get to their observing. I also pass out the 'observing tree analogy student work' and explain what I want the children to accomplish.
I only give the children the left hand side of the paper and save the other two sections until a later time in the lesson. I explain that the first sketch and observation is with their naked eye. The children love this phrase, but know it well by now. I remind them that this means they are observing the object with an unaided device. Nothing that can magnify what they are observing.
During this conversation, it is always brought up that certain students wear glasses and this is not fair. This brings in a new conversation about the use of glasses and that the glasses are simply that persons way of having the same ability to see what a person who does not wear glasses can accomplish. Silly, but when you are seven it is important.
The children begin sketching their sample in the top box. By this time in the school year, we have had so many opportunities to practice sketching the children remember to label their sketches. I am pleased to see that they do this without any reminding (SP2).
I allow the children to do this for about five minutes. I do not intervene in any way. The children are so engrossed in their work I allow them time to complete their sketch without any interruptions from me. When they have completed this, they happily move onto the sketch with the loop. They continue to work and sketch quietly for another five minutes.
I am circulating and observing their work. I really do not need to do any prompting or redirecting during this phase. It is incredibly engaging and the children are highly motivated.
When all the sketching has been completed, I ring my bell and ask the children to look at the screen and listen carefully for a few moments. We have moved to Slide six which reminds the children that making analogies in science requires they use their senses.
Right away,,,,,without fail, someone will say, "But in science we never ever taste!" I reassure them they are correct about this statement. I am very happy that this concept has sunk into their brains!!!
I quickly move on to Slide seven and explain that now it is time to really think like a scientist and look at this Douglas Fir sample in the way a scientist would. That we will need to think about each of our senses to help us make connections to our own personal world and write those ideas down on the sentence frames.
I demonstrate for the children what I mean with my own connections. The children are ready to go in a matter of minutes. Some have even begun before I have finished my own connections. They need only about five minutes to compete this step.
After they have finished writing, I have them share their connections with their shoulder buddies. Reminding them that when they read it out loud it may sound differently than what they had thought initially in their mind when they first wrote their idea. I encourage them not to change any ideas, but to leave them intact, because their first instinct is the one they connected with.
I think it is important that the students have confidence in their own ideas but it is also important that they learn how to co-construct and develop ideas in their brain. Part of this is listening to others’ ideas. Therefore, it is ok that they change because this is how they learn and the basis for developing arguments and explanations (SP6 & SP7).
Connections are so important in science, but it is the next step that proves the children can make it more meaningful to their learning. It is the analogy phase. This is the place where I know they have understood how to connect what they are observing with all their senses (except taste) to something that they have prior knowledge about.
Again, the writing is fast and furious. The children can barely wait to get going on this. Which definitely proves they have internalized what I was hoping they would.
As I am watching their writing unfold, I can see the analogies the students are making. When I see that they have been able to connect the observations of the Douglas Fir branch to their own connections using their senses, I am feeling more confident they they understand the concept of analogies and using them to make connections. When I see a student who has not had an easy time finding the words to describe the connections through their senses, I ask myself these questions.....
My next step is to figure out what has kept them from finishing and know that I must continue to use the language of analogies within my lessons to continue to provide the practice and experience for them to learn from.