I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the fourth Science lesson in our unit about trees. To engage the students, I often start the lesson with a some movement that illustrates our lesson because it provides quick engagement and sets a positive and collaborative tone.
I refer to the chart we recorded in the last lesson, “Who knows the season that we are entering this month?” “Winter?” “Winter is just ending. That's when trees are bare." I rub my arms to act out the concept and invite the students to join in. "What comes next?” “Spring!” “Right! We’re about to enter Spring, when trees begin to grow more and look different." I use my fingers to pop out, like new growth. "What's next?" "Summer!" "It gets warm in the Summer, with lots of leaf growth that creates shade." For this season, I wipe my hand over my head, like it's hot, then put my hands over my eyes to represent shade. "After that comes.." "Fall..." Right, let’s explore this idea of seasonal effects on trees more...”
“Let me start by asking you dendrologists (the name for scientists who study trees) a question. What happens during the year?” “Weather changes.” “Right, the climate changes. Remember what we studied in the weather unit? We talked about seasons. Season change as the Earth…” “Rotates!” “Right again. Seasons change as the Earth rotates around the Sun.” I purposely do a few things here. First, I review previous material to connect it to prior knowledge. Then, I review specific vocabulary. Last, I use hand motions (partly on purpose, partly because it’s my nature!) to better illustrate the concepts. All these strategies support concrete learning for English speakers and learners.
To capitalize on a section about seasonal trees, I introduce the book Seasons. It has several pages that I read to take advantage of the broader view, yet visually detailed, descriptions of the effects and appearance of trees during the four seasons. I also take a few minutes to re-introduce a book from a previous lesson titled The Tree. It has a more detailed, closer view on the effect of seasons that illustrates the stages that a chestnut takes throughout the year. I limit what I read to this section and stop to focus on the description about seasons. This combination of books gives a quick- yet comprehensive- view of this subject at a Kindergarten level as a review.
“In both these books, we see that Spring is the season where tree growth is new. That’s caused by something called chlorophyll (kind of like blood for a tree) that creates the green that we see in the tree. The Summer tree looks more full and darker green because the energy of the tree is fruit, not leaves. The fall tree is darker still when this energy in the tree slows down and changes color. The winter is an empty tree, after the leaves are all fallen and the tree goes to sleep, resting up for the Spring. Remember in the last lesson when we learned about a tree’s life.…” I move my hand around in a circle for the students, particularly the English Language Learners. “Cycle!” I review this terminology to connect back to the concept that life and seasons are both cyclic, deepening the experience. I keep it to one Science term though to keep things simple.
• 11"x17" Paper
• Small brown paper strips (1/2"x4")
• Twigs pieces (optional, but fun!) 1"-2", 3-4/student
• Paint (light green, dark green, brown/red/yellow, white)
Prior to the lesson, I needed to: Fold the paper into four sections, cut the brown paper strips, break off adequate twig pieces, and prep the paint containers.
“As we learned from the books, each season has a specific purpose for the tree. Consequently, the trees will look very different during each season. It’s one of the ways that we can tell that the seasons are about to change!”
I briefly review the seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) we discussed, counting them off on my fingers. “We observed that trees do different things during each season. Should we make a chart of the things we noticed in the trees?” “Spring makes the trees green.” “Right, there is a lot of new growth in the trees so they look more green. Let’s put that under Spring. What else?” “They change color in the Summer and Fall.” “Very observant. The changes in temperature slow down the growth of the tree, so the leaves turn different colors. Let’s put that under Summer and Autumn.” Then I announce, “We’re going to create a model that shows how a trees appearance changes over the course of the year.” I dismiss them to their tables and finish up the instruction.
I show them the paper and begin explaining the directions:
• First, use the brown paper to create a foundation for the tree with roots.
• Next, give structure to the tree with a paper trunk in one of the squares.
• Then, use real twigs to add a crown made of branches to give the tree a shape.
• Last, further identify the season with the appropriate color on the tree.
With these specific instructions, I not only review the seasons but also the effects they have on the tree. Then, I add some answers to anticipated questions:
• “Yes, you may color it, as long as it’s…” “Accurate!” (They’re used to hearing that from me!)
• “Yes, you may take this home, as long as you….” “Explain it to someone!) (They’re used to hearing that from me too!)
I model how to take the small brushes and (carefully) dip them into the container of paint and wipe them off on the edge just enough paint to apply to the tree model. To make this part of the lesson easier, I rotated the containers of paint rather than the students. This change make it easy to control applying one color at a time. The process for the students to create their seasonal tree model takes about ten-fifteen minutes and provided them with a valuable visual way to demonstrate and explain these seasonal changes. With this formative assessment, I'm looking to see if the students can accurately illustrate the seasonal changes of a tree. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand clap pattern. I ask the students to take their papers and return back to their carpet squares.
Once we are gathered, I ask, “Can anyone identify and explain the season they demonstrated?” “Mine green so it was a Spring tree.” “Mine had no leaves because it was Winter.” I take a minute and ask the students to share their tree model with a partner to deepen their absorption of the material.
This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and describe their diagram to a partner, thus making the material more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to put their papers in their bag and return when they were finished.