Would You Marry Me?-Wood You Look Closer?

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Students will investigate the properties of wood.

Big Idea

Is the way wood looks important?


5 minutes

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 second Science lesson in our unit about wood. “Put your hand out in front of you.  What do you see?”  “Ummmm..my hand?”  “Look closer. What else do you see..or smell..or feel?” “Lines..hairs..” “So when you look closer and use all your senses, you learn more about things, don’t you?”

Whole Group Instruction

10 minutes

For this lesson, I re-introduce the book titled Wood. Today, I focus on pages 12-13 that describe the different properties of wood and what makes them different. 

When we learned about trees, we saw lots of different types. We even saw different kinds when we explored our playground. Who remembers some of them?”  “Pine”  “Oak”. “Those were some. We saw that these trees had different kinds of leaves, needles, and bark. What else was different?” “Some were bigger?” “The bark felt different.” “Those things are right. Remember how we learned that some trees grow best in different kinds of places?” ”I remember pine tree grow in the mountains.” “The places where wood grows effects the tree’s hardness, smell, and color. We’re going to use all our senses to explore some of the ways that wood is different and the same.

As I read the book, I stop briefly to ask questions as a way to help the students better process and retain the new material.  If they don't immediately understand the answer, it's likely that a classmate's input will help extend their learning.  I continue on until I covered the relevant part of the book.  While this piece of the lesson seems short, it serves the purpose of accessing prior knowledge to create a foundation to facilitate the upcoming activity.

Small Group Instruction

10 minutes


• Wood Collection (8-10 varieties provide good comparison)

• Sticks, pins, etc. for scratching

Prior to this lesson, I gather twenty or so pieces of different varieties of wood. To make it more specific, I labeled each piece with the variety’s name.  They are somewhat small samples of wood that I collected from the shop teacher at local middle school. While everyone may not have a similar resource, you might look to a local arborist, lumberyard, craft person, or wood shops for some of your own. Even if you get a few varieties, it’s worth it for the students to have a hands on exploration of wood.    

I show them the pieces and explain the process: 

First, examine the wood samples with your eyes. 

Next, use your nails and toothpicks to scratch the sides to test hardness.

Then, use your fingertips to feel the texture of the wood.

After, smell the wood to experience their different scents.

Last, record any unique properties about the wood to better describe it later.  

As the activity begins, I add, “The things you notice will tell us many things about the wood. The heavier the wood, for example, the harder and stronger it will be. So you could use it to create things like furniture. If a wood was softer and lighter, it’s used for things like frames and decoration because it is lighter and easier to cut and lift. Once you make an observation about a certain kind of wood, take a minute to write the variety at the bottom of the paper and add one purpose for that specific wood.” I add that they need to share what they wrote with people at their table, hoping that this would turn into a simple discussion that could help teach each other about different wood applications. This step gives students an opportunity to better apply things they observed about the wood. After about ten minutes, I give a one minute warning to wrap things up and bring their papers to their carpet squares.


Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we are gathered, I ask, “Can anyone explain something they noticed about their wood?” “Ours was really hard. We couldn’t even scratch it!” “Did you think about a good purpose for wood that hard?” “It would make a good chair because it felt strong.” I stopped at one example because much of the discussion had been done in small group. Once this step was complete, I again ring the chime and asked the students to stand up and put their papers away, returning to their carpets when they were finished.