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 third Science lesson in our unit about cotton fabric. To engage the students, I often start the lesson with a hook that provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone. I ask them to look at me. Then I ask them to look at the person next to them. “Who sees something that is the same about us?” Everyone raises a hand “You both have heads.” “Now, who can see things that are different?” “You are wearing red. They have a flowery dress.” “Sometimes people can have things about them that are the same and different..and so can fabric. We’re going to build a model that compares these things.” Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable opportunities to raise the vocabulary of the students. When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.
For this lesson, I re-visit the book titled From Cotton to T-Shirt. I’ve used 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. As I read, I stop to note the parts where important vocabulary and explanations are highlighted. “Remember in our last lesson, we learned about how fabric is made.” “Cotton comes from bolls!” “Right! Who else remembers a stage of this process?” “Cotton gets turned into thread. Then, the thread os made into.." "Fabric!" "Today, we’re going to explore different kinds of fabric. Before we start, I want you to think about something. How is fabric different? Take a minute and share one way with your partner.” I give them a minute (literally, one minute. It helps keep the instruction flowing…) “It looks different?” “Some are more bumpy.” “Absolutely right! Most fabrics have the same production process, what makes them. The part that can be very different is the form. Like you all shared!”
As smart teaching strategies, I always do a few things at the beginning of a new lesson:
• First, I connect it to prior knowledge to give concrete meaning and extend the learning opportunities.
• Next, I clarify any new vocabulary to give it context to the current lesson.
• Last, I present it with enthusiasm to foster instant engagement.
“Most of you noticed that fabric can be very different. It’s these differences that make them valuable to clothing manufacturing. Thick fabric can be very….?" “Warm?” “Right, warm and strong. Think layers keep the heat near the body, like with a sweater. Thin fabric is…” “Colder” “Yep, cooler and lighter because it allows air to flow in its layers. Why do you think this is good to know?” “So we know what to wear.” “Right, it’s important to know as much as you can about the properties of the fabric so you’ll be safe and healthy.” I remind the class the material from the book. “We are going compare fabrics so we can learn more about them.”
• Fabric Collection (8-9/student)
The great thing about fabric is the variations are unlimited. Prior to the lesson, I collected an assortment of fabric and cut them into 2” squares. In my area, we are fortunate to have a resource that collects past season samples from local decorators. The results in an abundance of things like wallpaper, tile..and fabric swatches. In lieu of a similar resource, you can contact upholsterers and furniture stores. Many are thrilled to help you- both to avoid having to pay to dispose of their surplus and to support a teacher.
My goal is to provide the students with several different forms of fabric so they can get instant gratification when they create their model.
I take a minute to explain the process:
• First, collect four to six samples of fabric that have different textures and weight.
• Next, lay the fabric on the grid in a way so that pieces have a different texture and thickness as the one next to it.
• Then, move them around until you have a design that looks and feels right to you.
• Last, glue them down so your design will stay the same.
The goal is to give the students a fun opportunity to explore fabric textures..and make a cool model. I ring the chime and instruct the students to begin the activity as I mingle around to guide them. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a handclap pattern. I ask the students to take their paper projects, put them near the window to dry, and return back to their carpet squares.
Once we sat down on our carpet squares, I ask, “What did you notice about the pattern?” “It was kind of hard ot make it right.” “Tell me more about that.” “You had to really look to see what kinds were different.” “You’re right. It important to take the time to observe things that are different so the right fabric is used for the right function.” 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 purpose of fabric more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime to end the lesson.