Funny Fabric-Fastidious Fabric

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Students will create a diagram to illustrate the stages of cotton processing.

Big Idea

How is cotton made?


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 fabric.  To engage the students, I often start the lesson a movement that connects them to the material.  This provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone.  I ask them to stay on their carpet squares and curl into a ball.  I wait a few seconds before I ask them to sit up.  “Like cotton, you’ve just grown from a seed into a cotton boll.  If you grow more and stretch out your arms, what will you become?”  “A shirt!”  “PerfectThat’s one thing that cotton can become!”  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 From Cotton to T-Shirt.  I’ve plan to use this book for this unit because it breaks down both the growing and manufacturing process of cotton in a way that makes it concrete for Kindergarten level students.  It's a great way to introduce the important concept of 'process', how a specific sequence of steps results in a product.  Books like this support NGSS Science and Engineering Practice #8 as it teaches ways to obtain valuable information.  

As I read, I stop to note the parts where important vocabulary and explanations are highlighted.  “Remember in one of our last lessons, we learned about ways we could change paper’s form to meet a need.  This book did the same thing with….”  “Cotton!”  “Right.  They showed the value of looking at something in a different way.”   To better understand how cotton gets from there to here, it review the process from the book:

• First, the cotton boll is picked from the cotton plant. (Note: I explain a few times that ‘boll’ is not the same word as ‘ball’.  That can get confusing, particularly for English Learners, so it’s important to note the different letter and emphasize the vowel sound)

• Next, the cotton is put into a cotton gin to clean it and take the seeds out.  Before this machine was invented, people had to do this by hand.  It took a long time!

• Then, the cotton is spun (I illustrate this word with a hand motion to illustrate) into thread.

• After, the thread is woven into fabric.

• Last, the fabric is made into you’re wearing right now!

Individual Instruction

10 minutes

To help the students apply this new learning, I created a Google Draw that will help illustrate the cotton stages, put them into order, and label them.  The resulting diagram is a great way for the students to demonstrate understanding of the cycle in a way that will help them explain it to others.

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

• First, cut out the labeled pictures that show the stages of cotton development.

• Next, look at the cotton pictures and labels to decide the order of the stages.

• Then, begin to put them in the boxes in the correct order.

• Last, double check the order before you glue them on the paper.

The cotton cycle diagram takes about ten minutes.  With this lesson, I notice that the mixture of the vocabulary and the fabric cycle takes my English Learners more processing, so I make sure to give them adequate wait time to allow them the opportunity to communicate what they've learned. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand-clap pattern.  I ask the students to leave their papers on the table to dry tables and return back to their carpet squares.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

As a quick review, I do a simple review, both of the vocabulary (boll, cotton gin, thread, fabric) and the process.  After we all gather on the carpet squares, I ask “Who can tell us what comes first?”  “The cotton ball!”  “Sooo close.  The cotton boll comes first.  Then…”  “The cotton gin that takes out the seeds.”  “Then…?”  “It makes into thread.”  “What comes last?”  “Our shirts!”  When possible, I always take opportunities to clarify and support new vocabulary.  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!