“We’re going to read a book about our next Science unit.” I purposely do not mention the subject, wondering instead if they will pick up on it as I read the book. I begin to read We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger. While the book isn’t an instructional text about leaves, it does introduce a variety of leaf environments, along with some great repetition of words that enforce a growing vocabulary. I purposely read the book with great expression, along with adding illustrative motions. This combination of auditory and kinesthetic instruction will help the English Learners better process the new vocabulary words, as well as introduce and enjoyable interactive element for everyone.
After I read, I stop to ask questions about the leaves and their environments, “What did the leaf look like? Were they all the same?”. I continue to the end, at which I asked the students what we will be studying..“Leaves!”.
I tell them “It’s time for us to go outside and look for leaves. We get to be 'Naturalists' again today. In order to be Naturalists though, we need a specimen to study. Based on what we learned about leaves, I think the school playground is a good place to start to look for them? Do you agree?” “Yes!”
I say “Let’s review some rules first:
• First, walk on the grassy area and the dirt near the trees.
• Next, respect living things and only pick leaves from the ground.
• Last, be gentle to the plants, animals, and each other.
Although it seems like this might be a great lesson to do in the Fall, our environment in San Jose provides us with leaves year round. Some recent windy days have made this a great time to hunt leaves and I want to take advantage of the bounty. I use the chime to dismiss the students by table group to line up at the back door. We straighten our line as I ask them to remind me “Lines are…“straight”.. “and”…“together” ..“and”..“calm”. We'll collect leaves in the paper bags I had prepared in advance and put next to the back door. The class and I begin our walk to the playground.
When we arrive at the playground, I model what I would look for by thinking out loud “Where would I be if I were a leaf? Let’s look under the ground. Look! There is a leaf!”. I then model how I would use my thumb and pointer finger to gently (“like I was holding a feather”) pick up the leaf and set it down in the paper bag. This way, it will stay whole and we can better study it. I dismiss the children one at a time to look for a leaf. Once they find one, they join me at the line to deposit their leaf in a bag.
The leaf collection essentially acts as a pass/fail formative assessment because they show mastery over the material by looking in the right place and locate, gather, and deposit a leaf in the bag correctly. The collection takes about ten minutes by design since we now have an adequate number to use for future lessons. I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern. I assign one person per table group to carry the bags. We line up again, check our form (“straight, together, calm”) and head back to class.
Once we are back in the classroom, I have assigned (usually Daily Helpers or other responsible choices) students to put the paper bags on the tables. After everyone washes their hands, I ask them to head back to their carpet squares. “Let’s share some of the places we found our leaves.” “On the ground” “Near the trees”). We do this group sharing so each students is able to demonstrate a success ("Yeah! I found a leaf!"), as well as review some places that others may not have discovered, adding to our resources for future leaf lessons. As each idea is shared, we orally review it to better retain the information before we end the lesson.