This section occurs FIRST thing in the morning:
I call one table at a time to sit on the floor like scientists. I ask the kids to think silently for 20 seconds about everything the know about plants. I then have them turn to their floor partner and share what they know. Each partner is given 20 seconds to speak. I do this to get the kids thinking about the subject matter for today and to get them using scientific explanations.
After both partners have shared, I refer to the KWL chart that we made in the first lesson and edited in subsequent lessons. We review what we know, what we want to know and what we have learned so far. Doing this gets the kids current with everything we've experienced with plants so far.
I then ask the kids if there is anything that needs to be added and call on random volunteers. I record additional information or gently correct misinformation. Now that our chart is current, I introduce today's lesson.
I hold up a carnation for the kids to see. I tell them that today we are going to discover what the stem of a plant does. One student yells out, "It makes the plant stand up!" I ask the kids to think about that for a few seconds and to also think about whether the stem might have other jobs as well. I again have them turn to their floor partner and share their thoughts. Again, 20 seconds each.
I then pull 3 name sticks from the name stick can to share what he or she and their partner discussed. This strategy allows all students to be heard, but also respects classroom time. All get to tell someone their ideas and a few get to share with the whole class.
The kids remain seated on the floor while I demonstrate and explain the exploration for today.
I begin the exploration by telling the kids that we will be observing the work of a stem in plants. I again hold up a carnation. I walk through a demonstration of the exploration for today. I tell the kids that when it is there time to do the exploration I will walk them through it one step at a time.
carnation, one per student, newly trimmed to 6" stem
"mystery liquid" (food coloring), one black deli cup per student
small 2oz cup of water, one per student with one name written on each
one 16oz dark color with dark inside (so color won't show), one per student
I demonstrate how to record what I have done and what I observe. I then explain that we will be doing three separate observations throughout this experiment. We will join on the floor between the observations to share what we observe and our hypotheses as to why it is happening.
Providing a vivid explanation of what the kids are going to do for the experiment is helpful for young children for a couple of reasons. 1) It allows for no surprises. They always want to know what we are going to do next. This method allows them to stay in the moment and focus on the learning. 2) Young children are very concrete. It is helpful for the kids to see things before doing them because it allows them to follow along in the guided piece, which is helpful because they can anticipate what will come next.
I have the kids return to the floor with their recorded observation. They share their observation with their floor partner and then tell them what they hypothesize is going to happen to the stem and the flower.
I refer to the observation record I drew and wrote about on chart paper. I ask random students to share their hypothesis with the class and WHY they think that is what is going to happen. I choose the kids by pulling name sticks from a name stick can. They are invited to use the drawing I made to explain their thinking to the class.
I do this to develop scientific thinking along with using evidence from experience, reading or observation to explain what they are thinking and why. This is done at a very basic level in kindergarten, but many of the kids are capable of doing it when coached and supported.
This section occurs after lunch:
I ask the kids to come in from lunch and quietly sit on the carpet area. I explain that they will be looking at their flowers to observe any changes that may have occurred. I ask them to quietly go to their tables to observe their flowers and see if there has been any changes.
I have them turn to the next page in their flower observation journal and record what they see this time. Some notice changes already and some do not.
They return to the floor, bringing their journals with them. They share their observations with their floor partner. Floor partners do not sit at the same tables so they do not see each others flowers. They only know what their partner shares in their journal. This continues to support scientific communication through speaking and writing.
For the second explanation, I read the book titled, How Plants Grow written by Dona Herweck Rice.
As I read, we stop to have discussion about the parts of a plant and what each one does. We stop on the following pages:
Page 6 - This is where the plant begins to sprout above the ground.
The remaining pages - The stem becomes larger with each page, eventually getting leaves and a blossom. For each of these pages we discuss the role of the stem to the plant and connect it to our flowers taking up the colored water like a straw.
The exciting part of this meeting on the floor is that there are 4 different colors being absorbed in the flowers. The kids are excited to see that some are red, some orange, some green and some blue. They can't wait so see the finished product at the end of the day when we wrap them for our moms!
We close this section by adding what we've learned today to our KWL chart.
This section occurs at the very end of the day:
The kids are once again sent back to their tables to observe their flower. The record their observations on the next page. Everyone is seeing a difference in their flower now. They are very excited!
They come back to the floor to share their observations with their floor partner. They again explain what they saw and why, but this time they have a little more information to work with from the book we read. This supports the kids in making sense of all information coming in to them. They synthesize what they've done, seen and heard and form an idea of how plant stems work. Then they communicate their idea(s) to others. The goal is to get the kids where they can bring information all together and give it to others.
After the kids have shared, they put their flower observation book in their cubbies to take home at the end of the day.
I end this section with demonstrating the evaluation that the kids will be doing.
With some of my classes, I have had the kids leave the flowers overnight to soak up a deeper color. We observe and record one last time first thing in the morning.
The kids remain on the floor for the demonstration. The evaluation is done on a separate sheet then glued into the science journals.
The kids are asked to cut out the pieces of the plant and glue them in their proper places. They are then asked to take a blue crayon and draw how the water goes up the stem on the completed plant diagram. The last piece is to label the parts with the cut and paste labels and then write about the plant stem and how it works below the diagram. See image in resources.
I do this evaluation because it encompasses everything learned about plants so far, which supports the synthesis I am trying to get the kids to reach for. It shows me if they understand not only how a plant stem works, but also if the child has retained understanding of the anatomy of a plant. I roam the room as the kids work. I ask questions and offer assistance as needed.
When everyone has completed their entry, we sit back on the floor to share our work with our partners. Each child shares their work with their floor partner. Each partner is given 20 seconds to speak. I then pull three sticks from the name stick can to share their work with the entire class. This allows everyone to be heard and have their work seen without taking up too much class time. It also helps to keep kids accountable for getting their work done because they all want to sit in the teacher's chair. If their work isn't complete, their stick is returned to the can and another one is chosen. It is not embarrassing or punitive, it is just a rule that the kids know and they honor.
The engagement for the ending of this activity is just plain enjoyment! It takes place at the end of the day. I provide each student with a folded sheet of tissue paper. I use one color because I don't want to take up class time with kids deciding which color to use. I asked the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to donate some plain tissue paper and they did. I always use local business connections whenever I can.
Once everyone has a piece of tissue paper, I call one student to come up and get their colored flower. I walk them through how to fold the paper over it and how to tie it with a ribbon. They leave on their tables while they get their backpacks ready to go home. When the bell rings, the flowers and flower observation book go home with the kids.
The extension is a take-home reader that encourages the kids to share what they've learned with their families. We practice the reader together.
I do it this way to support language arts skills as well a science understanding. I want the kids to feel successful in reading the text independently as well as be able to explain what we did, why we did it and how it happened.
The kids are asked to read their flower observation journal and then the reader to their family for homework. If they bring back both signed by a parent verifying that they shared it with their family, they get to pick a prize from the treasure box.