I call one table of students to the floor at a time to sit like scientists. I begin the lesson by finding out what the kids already know about desert plants and animals, especially the saguaro.
Think, Pair, Share
I ask the following questions:
For each question, I give the kids about 10 seconds of think time and then have them share their thoughts with their floor partner. I choose 3 random kids to share their partner discussion with the whole class. I do this so all ideas are heard and so higher achievers can model sharing information with others.
I then show the kids a picture of the Sonoran desert on the ActivBoard. If you do not have an ActivBoard or SmartBoard, you can use a large computer screen, project to a TV, or find a suitable photo in a desert book.
After we take a few seconds to silently look at the picture, I ask a few more questions:
Again, we think, pair, share with our floor partners for each question. I again pull random name sticks from the name stick can to have three students share with the whole class what they talked about with their floor partner.
Once we have finished our discussion, I explain to the kids that we are going to explore the attributes of a saguaro cactus and consider why it might be or not be a good home for animals.
I have the kids repeat after me -
After we all understand the expectations, I move on to the exploration beginning with explaining what materials they will find on their tables.
The students remain on the floor for the explanation of the exploration.
I tell the kids that there is a set of materials at each persons' seat. I hold up one item at a time to show them what they will be working with:
Individual, and one for the teacher-
I have the kids transition to tables one group at a time to demonstrate they are ready to begin. They do this by following the expectations shared in the engagement. When I see that all tables are following directions, I guide them step by step through the exploration of cacti.
Now that we have talked about some of the characteristics of cacti, I have my kids come back to the floor one table at a time to bring all the information together into a comprehensible understanding.
I transition the kids back to the carpet by calling one table at a time to come sit down. Kids leave their materials at their tables.
I ask the kids to think about the things we just observed that are characteristics of a saguaro cactus. I give them 20 seconds think time. I then pose the question, "How do those things help the cactus?" "How can those things help animals?" For each question, the kids first think to themselves, then share with their floor partner. I then choose 3 random students to share what they discussed with their partner by pulling name sticks from a name stick can.
I then ask the question, "Could a saguaro make a good home for some animals?" That is the loaded question. I want the kids to start connecting ideas. What they learned about animals while we were studying the other habitats, what they learned about the cactus, and what they know about the desert. I give the kids a few seconds to think about the question and then I call on random volunteers. As the kids answer, I require them to explain their position of whether a cactus would or would make a suitable house for an animal in the desert. I never except just a yes or no answer from students. I want them to be able to defend their conclusions based on evidence from what they've observed or experienced.
I give the students a quick wiggle break then we sit back down. I take out the book, Cactus Hotel by
Throughout the story, we stop for discussions about the cacti, the animals and how the cactus is working like a hotel. We discuss the animals needs and what the cactus is able to provide for the animals. We begin to conclude that a saguaro or other cactus just might be a suitable home for some animals.
I use a powerpoint presentation of saguaro/animal pictures to get the kids thinking about the different ways animals use the saguaro to their advantage besides just as a home. The powerpoint pictures get them thinking at a deeper level and helps them synthesize all that they've learned so far in this lesson.
Students transition back to tables one team at a time to complete the activity of the day.
I have the kids look at their materials. I tell them that we are going to make our own cactus hotels. We need to start by putting a wax coating on our cactus flesh. I ask the kids how we might be able to do that with the materials we have. One student volunteers that we rub the candle on one side of the construction paper. Excellent idea! We make it so.
Next I tell the kids to finish gluing popsicle sticks on the back side of the green construction paper; one stick per fold. I then demonstrate how to wrap the paper to make a "trunk."
I then have the kids glue the toothpicks on the out side of our "cacti" to act as needles. In upper grades I would have them poke the toothpicks through the paper and act as "real" needles, but in kinder that is too dangerous so I have them glue them on flat.
I then walk the room and hand out animals that are to be cut and pasted in and on the cactus. I give the kids only two minutes to get their animals in the "cactus hotel."
Once the two minutes are up, I gather the students back on the floor for a quick closure to the lesson. Students bring their cactus hotels with them and show and tell them with their floor partner. I choose three random kids present their cactus hotel to the whole class. This practice allows every student to be heard without taking up too much class time.
As the kids present their projects, I ask each one a random combination of two of the following questions:
I prompt when necessary, by providing sentence stems, layered questions to drive the thinking or allowing peers to assist. The audience is encouraged to ask the presenters their own questions to gain more information and make connections.
Possible sentence stems:
It is important to have kids share their work at the end of a lesson because kids can learn from each other. Every child interprets learning experiences differently. It also validates the work they've done and supports ownership of information and learning.