Earlier in the year, the students brought baby pictures of themselves to be used during different lessons. I find that using material like this that has a direct connection (and you can't get more connected than pictures of themselves!) provides instant engagement. Additionally, it often helps the students learn more about each other and better develop their class community.
I take a few out now to demonstrate the concept of a leaf’s life cycle.
“Give me a thumbs you if you recognize this picture.” “It’s a baby, but I don’t know who.” “Right, when anything grows from a baby, you don’t always know what it will become. Let’s see what happens to a leaf!”
I briefly return to the book titled Look What I Did with a Leaf. I read the three pages that describe on the life cycle. After I finish, I want to involve them in the review to reinforce a few important terms and better help them process the material. “Remind me how a baby leaf begins. What’s it called?” “A bud” “Right, it’s a bud. This bud is like an egg, where a baby leaf emerges from it. Who can help me remember the next step in development?” “A baby leaf?” “Right again. During the next phase, the leaf grows. Every plant has some in it called sugar sap. This contains chlorophyll that helps provide it with energy to grow and turn green. When this growth stops, the chlorophyll breaks down and the leaf starts to turn colors like… ” “Brown! Red! Yellow!” “After that, the leaf falls to the ground and leaves a scar on the stem, where a new bud will grow in the Spring.” "If you have a choice, you should be a tree because they last a loooong time!" "Right again..funny too! Let's take a minute to practice these new terms."
We have already used a few charts in this unit, so I wanted to use some kinesthetic learning to add variety. Any time I have an opportunity to connect new vocabulary to physical actions, I take advantage of it. Research supports this kind of learning for students this age, particularly those who are English Learners. "We are going to demonstrate the way a leaf grows. Put your arm up. This will be the 'petiole', or 'stem'." Though I identified it by it's botanical name of 'petiole' in an earlier lesson, 'stem' is a more familiar term and suffices for this lesson. "Make your hand into a fist. This will be the..." "Bud" "Right, it's the bud. When it starts to open up, it's becomes a..." "Flower" "Leaf!" "Yep, it's the leaf. At the bottom of the leaf is the..." "Scar" "The scar is the part that gets stronger and bigger. When this happens, the sugar sap that feed the plant stops flowing and the leaves starts to change color. After the season changes, eventually the scar gets bigger and the leaf..." "Falls off!"
With this piece in place, I was able to practice valuable vocabulary, review instructional material, and give the students a nice movement break (it's surprising what a minute or two will do for them!). Although it seems like a simple step, it’s an important element to better provide a foundation shared by most other plant life. “Now, we’re going to create a simple diagram to illustrate and label these stages.”
I ask them to review the stages of a leaf (bud > leaf > scar), show them the worksheet, and explain the diagram process:
• First, cut out the stages of the leaf.
• Next, label them with the correct terms written in the box on the worksheet.
• After, lay them on the paper. Move them around until it shows the accurate cycle.
• Then, once you have an arrangement that satisfies you, glue it on the paper.
• Last, use colored pencils to add accurate details that illustrate the concept.
Creating the leaf cycle takes about ten minutes. The worksheet essentially acts as a pass/fail formative assessment because they show mastery over the material by accurately create and label the diagram. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand clap pattern. I ask the students to leave their papers on the table and return back to their carpet squares.
Once we are back on our carpets, I did an brief review of the lesson. "There are two things I noticed when I took at look at your work. Some of you mixed up the bud and the scar pictures. There is a little part sticking out of the scar and I can see how that looked like a bud. The other confusion is between the baby leaf and mature leaf. The baby leaf is the one with a tiny stem and tiny leaves. The mature one has a bigger stem and bigger leaves." Noticing the confusion, I made a decision to insert a clearer image into my next revision of the worksheet. Teachers have to be humble enough to admit a mistake once in a while!
I then ask the students to do a quick activity to demonstrate the leaf life cycle. “Let’s all curl up like a bud on our carpet squares. Then stand up on you knees and spread out, just a little. Now, stand all the way up and spread your arms out wide, like a big leaf!” Activities like this provide a nice break and way to wrap up the lesson in a way that is enjoyable for all of us.