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 first Science lesson in our unit about wood. To engage the students, I often start the lesson with some movement because it provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone. I ask them to look around the room. “Who sees something that is made of wood?” Everyone raises their hand. “When I count to three, I want you to walk backwards and touch the thing you saw. Ready? 1..2..3.” To avoid potential injury, I include the instruction about walking backward because I know this age and how fast they can move and the backward part slows them down a bit. “After you touched something made of wood, come back to your carpet square and share your item with your partner.” Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable focusing tools. When the Sharing is complete, we are ready to move on.
For this lesson, I introduce the book titled Wood. The author, Abby Colich, has written a fantastic series of books about a building materials for our age of students. I plan to use this book for many lessons in this unit. It has a great page on a wood’s resource that provides me with guidance as I teach this specific lesson. I review the page, highlighting the parts that refer to a tree’s growth. “Thumbs up if you remember when we learned about the origin of wood?” I move my hands around in a circle as a visual cue for the students, particularly the English Language Learners. “Today, we’re going to learn how to observe the ways that a tree is put to use in our environment.”
This lesson is purposely designed to be a simple introduction to the use of wood. Since we already did an in-depth study on trees, it doesn’t make sense to go into the origin of wood itself. We will access that valuable prior knowledge, though we won't focus in it. However, since the ways wood is used is often overlooked and taken for granted, it’s worth the time to take a closer look at it to set a foundation for subsequent lessons.
“Based on our tree observations and what we heard in the book, what do we know about the wood that comes from a tree?” “It comes from a tree.” “Great place to start. Let’s put that on our chart.” I even added an arrow to make the idea more concrete. KWL charts are a great way to begin simple lessons like this because they provide an opportunity to organize information in a way that can grow as material is added. To expand on this organization piece, I always make the chart color-coded to help retention and organization. “What else do we know about wood?” “It’s hard” “Some wood is very hard. Some not so much. We’ll explore that later, so let’s put that on the chart. Anything else?” “Houses are made out of wood.” “That’s true, too. Wood is a material that is used for many things. So we’ll add that." I add a few more ideas before I wrap it up. "Now, who would like to do some observations to find out more about the ways that we use wood in our classroom?” “Me! Of course!”
I show them the pictures of applications of wood in the book and explain the process:
• First, work with your group to locate something in the room made of wood.
• Next, discuss the function- the purpose- of it.
• Then, record this on your paper so we can add it to our KWL chart.
• Last, repeat this step until the activity time is up.
The activity takes about five to seven minutes. I limit it because the process and connection between wood and it’s function is the focus and I expect to see many repeated examples. This activity, as simple as it is, works perfectly to help the students illustrate the Shape and Stability Cross Cutting Concept in student friendly forms. Essentially, they apply these engineering concepts without knowing it. Additionally, a few examples are sufficient to illustrate the concept for our KWL chart. 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 gather back, I ask, “Can anyone share their example of a way wood is used in our class?” “Table” “Bookshelf!” “Coatrack” “Those are great examples. Let’s add them under the ‘Learned’ section of our KWL Chart because we learned another function of wood.” I continue on with this step until the original ideas are shared. This step reflects the simplicity of the lesson because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share the results of their observation and recording, thus making the material more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime to end the lesson.