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 sixth 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 from wood..but doesn’t look like wood?” Everyone raises their hand. “When I count to three, I want you to give me a thumbs up and share the thing you saw. Ready? 1..2..3.” “I see the easel..I see the bench..the paper....” Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable focusing tools. When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.
For this lesson, I re-introduce the book titled Wood. I’ve used this book for many lessons in this unit. Pages 17-21 focus on the ways that wood is used in our environment. I review these pages, highlighting the parts about the uses of wood. “Remember in one of our last lessons, we learned about ways we could change wood’s form to meet a need .” “I made a triangle to keep the door open!” “Right! You did! Who can tell me something they saw in the book that was made of wood?” “Houses..paper..pencils..” We brainstorm these items to review prior knowledge. As an added element, this helps students apply new vocabulary, particularly valuable for the English Language Learners because it's another way to build context. “Today, we’re going to learn how to use wood in different forms.”
I struggled a bit at the beginning of this lesson to think of a way to tie this material together, collect various uses and explain them in one form. Then, it hit me.“Let’s build a house!”, I share with the class. We will be able to use three materials that come from a tree. Can anyone guess them?” “Ummm..paper?” “Absolutely right! Paper is one of the building materials. Any other guesses?” “Sticks?” “Great idea. Let’s use sticks to support the walls of our house. What else?” When no answers come, I give a clue, “We can also use something we use with our hands..every day..to label….” “A pencil!” “Yes, we can use a pencil to plan and label our house model.
"People who design houses are called architects. Can you say 'architect'?" "Architect!" "There was a famous architect named Frank Lloyd Wright.” I hold up a picture of him, as well as a house that is a great example of his style. When possible, I like to pull up famous people that have a direct relation to the subject we are studying to help the students understand that everyone starts learning about subjects at an elementary level. “He was famous for using lots of natural materials in his designs and connecting them to nature. Who would like to be an architect and use natural materials to design a house?” I plan to do a few other building activities in upcoming lessons, so this is a great way to bridge the study of wood with ways it can be used.
• Wood-based Construction Materials (3-4 pieces/student)
• Glue (optional)
Prior to this lesson, I organized a collection of paper, twigs, popsicle sticks, and toothpicks. My goal is to provide the students with several different forms of wood so they are free to be as creative as possible.
I take a minute to explain the process:
• First, use the paper to draw a plan of your house.
• Next, collect the materials (paper & wood) you think you will need to do this.
• Then, start creating!
• Last, evaluate your design to make changes if necessary.
This last instruction echoed one of the Design Challenges steps. It’s always a good idea to overlap material and instructions form previous lessons to better cement the learning and provide new ways to apply it. When possible, it's always a good idea to provide students an opportunity to create a model like this, one that reflects the process that architects and structural engineers use in the real world. It provides them valuable context and motivation to help see their ideas can have real meaning.
The wood house construction demonstration takes about fifteen minutes, although I allow groups to go on if the activity is purposeful and moves their design forward. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand clap pattern. I ask the students to leave the houses to dry on the table and take their design papers and return back to their carpet squares.
Once we are gathered, I ask, “What are some of the structures that we build out of wood materials?” “Mine was a house.” “What made it a house?” “It has sticks that kept it up and paper walls.” “Sounds like you discovered different forms of wood can have different functions.” I take a second to gently clarify the vocabulary, while supporting the process. This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share their results, thus making the material more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up and again stretch themselves out straight, like a piece of wood, returning to their carpets when they were finished.