Funny Fabric-Friendly Fibers

Print Lesson


Students will investigate a cotton ball by observing individual fibers creating a diagram.

Big Idea

Where does cotton come from?


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 fabric.  To engage the students, I often start the lesson an activity that connects them to the material.  This provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone.  I ask them to look at the clothes they are wearing.  “Look close- really close- at your shirt or pants.  Who can see something coming out of the material?”  “I can see little things poking out!”  “PerfectThose little things are the fibers that create the fabric in the clothesWe’re going to take some time today to study these fibers more so we understand what goes into the clothes we wear.” Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable focusing tools.  When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.

Whole Group Instruction

10 minutes

For this lesson, I introduce the book titled Cotton.  This book does a great job- in few pages- of describing the form and function of a cotton fiber.  It's important to break concepts down to their most elemental form in order to build a strong base of knowledge.  As I read, I stop to note the parts where important vocabulary and explanations are highlighted.  “Remember in our last lesson, we learned the origin of cotton.  Who remembers what the first form is called?"  "It's a boll!"  “Right.  The boll is where the fiber starts.  And that fiber is what's at the beginning of everything.  What else can you think of that starts from something smaller?"  "Food?"  "Smart idea.  Lots of food needs ingredients before they can become something else.  Anything else?"  "Paper?"  "Great thinking!  Paper starts from wood, and changes it's form to be useable as something else.  Let's look closer at cotton so we can understand how it can be used to help us in a different form."

Individual Instruction

10 minutes


• Cotton Balls (1/student)

• Magnifying Glasses (1/student or small group)

Prior to this lesson, I had a bag of cotton balls ready for the investigation.  Any kind will work well, though I admit that I prefer the organic 100% kind with tiny lumps of cotton in them (it just feels more realistic to me!).  My goal is to provide the students with an opportunity to look at the cotton ball so they can better understand the components of cotton fabric. “If we look at the cotton with a magnifying glass, what do you think we’ll see?”  “It will look different.”  “Tell me more about that  How different?”   “We’ll see the little strings that come out.”  “So let’s use our equipment to look closer and see if you’re right!  How’s that sound?”  “Yessssss!”  

I take a minute to explain the process they will follow: 

• First, select the cotton you will use.

• Next, use a magnifying glass to look closely at the cotton.

• Last, use the paper to draw and label two pictures- how it looks far away and close up.

I've attached a link to the Compare Cotton paper so you can make adjustments that suit your needs.  The cotton investigation takes about ten minutes.  As they complete the process, I mingle among them and ask questions about their observations.  As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern.  I ask the students to leave their tables and return back to their carpet squares with their papers.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

After we all gather, I ask, “Who can come up to the front and explain their example of a cotton fiber?”  When I get a volunteer, I ask them to point to their paper when they explain their observation to the class.  “What makes a cotton boll different form a fiber?”  “Bolls are round and big.  Fibers are short and skinny.”  “So we found out that It looks very different depending on our perspective- the way we look at it?”  When possible, I always take opportunities to clarify and support new vocabulary, as well as ‘translate’ new ways of stating information.  “Yes….”, they agreed.  This step is short by design because my intent of the lesson is to give the students an opportunity to recognize the process of examining the cotton fibers and labeling the diagram was complete. I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up and stretch.  Perfect way to end the lesson!