Productive Paper-Purposeful Paper

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Students will use their senses to explore different types of paper.

Big Idea

How can a paper be different?


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 first Science lesson in our unit about paper.  While we touched on paper in previous lessons, we now get to look at it in depth.  To engage the students, I often start the lesson with some student-centered activity 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 paper?”  Everyone raises a hand. “When I count to three, I’m going to throw you a piece of paper.  If you catch the paper ball, you stand up and tell us what you saw.  Ready?  1..2..3.”  I throw the paper ball to the first student.  “Books!”  I ask them to throw it to the next student.  “Paper!”   After three examples, I stopped the activity because we had enough to get us started.  Activities like this, as simple as they are, can be valuable focusing tools though can get quickly out of hand (they are Kindergarteners, after all!).  When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.

Whole Group Instruction

10 minutes

For this lesson, I introduce the book titled Paper.  I plan to use this book for many lessons in this unit.  Pages 6-13 focus on different forms of paper and how they are used in our environment.  I review these pages, highlighting the parts about the uses of paper.  “Remember in one of our last units, we learned about trees, then wood.  Now we’re going to learn the next form it takes so we can use it even more.”

“How many kinds of paper do you think we use most days?”  “”  “You’d be surprised.  Every day, we probably use at least five types of paper.  Think about it.  You blow your nose with a…”  “Tissue!”  “Yep, that’s one type of paper.  You write with...”  “School paper.”  “Right again.  Now think of the box your food comes in at lunch…  “Cardboard!”  “You have it!  So, all around us, we see and use paper every day.  There are reasons that certain paper is used for certain function.  Can you think of any?”  When no answers come, I give a hint.  “What would it feel like if you blew your nose with cardboard?”  “Ouch!...It would drip off!”  “So something like cardboard might not be absorbent enough to use as tissue.”  “Noooo!”  “OK, so would you be able to carry your hot lunch on a piece of paper towel?”  “No way!  It would fall off!”  “Perfect way to say that a paper towel needs to be thicker and stronger to carry something like food.   The form of the paper affects its function, right?”  I add this last sentence to access prior knowledge with our design challenge activities form the previous unit.  I felt it would be a good way to help the students connect the concepts of form and function to paper.  

Small Group Instruction

10 minutes


• Paper Collection (3-4 types/small group)

Prior to this lesson, I organized a collection of paper- waxed, tissue, construction, and cardboard.  My goal is to provide the students with several different forms of paper so they can explore the texture, weight, thickness, and transparency.  My goal is to have them explore the various papers, analyze the forms, and use the information to quantify it.  

At first, I struggled how to apply the concept of 'quantity'.  This can be an idea that is hard to grasp at this age, so I decided that it was easiest to use terms with which they were familiar.  I chose 'none', 'a little', 'kind of', and 'a lot'.  While these aren't quantifiable Science terms, familiar terminology helps introduce them to a challenging concept.

I take a minute to explain the process: 

• First, select one type of paper.  Write the type on the space in the Paper Rater Chart

• Next, look and feel the paper.

• Then, note any specific qualities (slippery, rough, thick, etc.) on the chart.

• Last, evaluate your choices with a partner and 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.  

While the terms were familiar ones from prior lessons, some students still need some scaffolding to understand the application of theses terms.  I spend the majority of my time helping them better understand these terms and allow the other students to independently collaborate.  The paper chart takes about ten minutes, although I allow groups to go on if the activity is purposeful.  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.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we are gathered, I ask, “What are some of the qualities you found for specific types of paper?”  “Cardboard was thick and makes good boxes.”  “What made you choose that function?”  “It is thick and strong.”  “Sounds like you discovered different forms of paper can have many different qualities.”  I take a second to gently clarify the vocabulary, while supporting the process and ask for a few more examples before I end the Wrap Up.  This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share their results, make the material more concrete, and practice valuable communication skills.  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 paper, returning to their carpets when they were finished.