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 second Science lesson in our unit about trees. I often start the lesson with a question because it provides quick engagement and sets a positive and collaborative tone. I refer to the chart we recorded in the last lesson, “Who can point a shape in one of these trees?” “I see a triangle.” “So, what parts of a tree do you think makes them look that way? Let’s explore this more...”
For this lesson, I introduce a book titled Tell Me, Tree. The author, Gail Gibbons, is a fantastic source of books about a variety of Science subjects for our students. It has a great section on tree parts (amongst many other subjects!) that provides me with guidance as I teach this unit. I review the book, highlighting the parts that refer to a tree’s structure. “Remember in the last lesson when we learned that a tree’s shape is created by its…” I touch the top of my head as a visual cue for the students, particularly the English Language Learners. “Crown!” I review this terminology to deepen the experience. I keep it to one Science term though to keep things simple. This acts as a good starting point to the KWL Chart.
“Let me start by asking you dendrologists a question. Based on our tree observations and what we heard in the book, what do we know about them?” “They have roots.” “Great place to start. Let’s put ‘roots’ on the chart. What else?” “They grow from a trunk?” “They do. Let’s put ‘trunk’ on the chart.” “The crown gives the tree its shape.” “ ‘Crown’ is a common feature, so we’ll add that too.” “Trees have leaves.” To show that teachers are learners too, I often add an interesting fact to my lessons. “I learned the needles from the pine trees in our yard are actually leaves. Needles are formed in bunches survive in areas that have cold times of the year and conserve necessary nutrients.” Since the objective of the lesson is reviewing tree structure, I end it here because I know the remaining part of the lesson will go into creating a diagram to further identify the parts of a tree. It helps to keep the both the lesson pace moving and students from losing interest!
As a review, I briefly go over the tree parts we discussed. “We observed that trees all have a root system, trunk, crown, and leaves. Anything else?” When no responses came, I ring a chime and announce, “We’re going to return to our tables and create a diagram of a tree, putting the parts together like a puzzle to make it easier to see how these parts create a whole tree.” I dismiss them to their tables and finish up the instruction.
I show them the worksheet and begin the direction:
• First, create a foundation to the tree with the roots.
• Next, give structure to the tree with a trunk.
• Then, add a crown made of branches to give the tree a shape.
• Last, further identify the tree with the appropriate needles or leaves.
With these specific instructions, I not only review the parts of a tree but also the function of them. I purposely provide only the parts of a tree (roots & trunk) that are common in all trees. Since the crown and leave is what makes a tree unique, I instruct the students to sketch- rather than copy- additional parts (crown, leaves). The diagrams essentially act as a pass/fail formative assessment because they showed mastery over the material by accurately depicting a 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 repeat these two common answers for two reasons- 1. Accuracy is key so students can better apply the material for future lessons and 2. Explain to others has been shown to be a great way to process and cement new material.
The diagraming activity takes about 8-10 minutes, longer for the more detailed ones. 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 the tree they created?” “Mine was a pine tree.” “What makes the pine tree different?” “It has a triangle kind of shape.” I take a minute and ask the students to share their tree diagram with a partner.
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.