Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.
In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.
The students then clear their space and walk to take a seat on their assigned spot on the rug.
Once the students are all seated I ask the students, “Who can explain to me what a life cycle is?”
I use the Fair Sticks to select a few students to respond to the question.
“Those were all good responses to the question. Now who can give me an example of a life cycle?”
Once again I use the fair sticks left in the can to select students to respond to the question.
“I like Emily’s example of the apple life cycle which we learned about last week. She gave us some of the stages of the apple life cycle too. I am interested to know how do we get the seeds and start the life cycle all over again?”
I select a student or two to respond.
“Okay those were both good ideas. I could buy a packet of seeds and plant them or I could eat the apple and save the seeds to plant. Well in today’s story we are going to see another way to start a life cycle.”
I use this line of questioning to get my students thinking about plant life cycles. This gives me an idea of the students prior knowledge. Based on the replies I get during the question session I know where to create the starting point for my lesson.
Show the students the cover of the book Pumpkin Jack written and illustrated by Will Hubbell. “This book is called Pumpkin Jack and it is written and illustrated by Will Hubbell. Can anyone tell me something they notice about the cover of this book?”
I select one or two students to respond to this question.
“I agree with you Bryan the picture of the pumpkin does not look quite right. There is definitely something odd about it.”
“Good observation Rachel. It does look like the pumpkin might be rotting. Does anyone know the scientific word for rotting?”
I seldom have any students who try to respond to this question, but you may have one who says decompose or decay. “You are right. The scientific word for rot is decomposing. In this story we are going to see a pumpkin decompose.”
Now I go ahead and read the story. We discuss any vocabulary words we come across; words like fierce, lopsided, dew, etc. Discussing the vocabulary words in the story helps broaden my students vocabulary bank and aids in story comprehension. We also make comments on how Pumpkin Jack’s appearance changes as he decomposes.
When the story is over I ask, “Who can tell me another way a life cycle can begin?”
“That’s right Lesley. I could put the fruit out on the ground in the yard and watch it decompose. Then I would put a little bit of soil on top of it to protect the seeds and wait for spring. Well guess what? We are going to make our very own class Pumpkin Jack and put it out in the garden. We will make an observation and record our observation in our science journal. Then about every two or three weeks we will go out to check on Pumpkin Jack and update our journals with new observations.”
I tell the students to go ahead and sit around the edge of the rug by singing the Edge of the Rug Song
I quickly carve a pumpkin just by cutting out some eyes, a nose and a mouth. I do not bother to cut off the top or take the seeds out as I want to increase the chances of the seeds sprouting in the spring time.
I have the students’ line-up and we go outside to put Pumpkin Jack in the garden.
When we return to the classroom I have the students take a seat around the edge of the rug and I let them know that we are going to make the life cycle of our Pumpkin Jack using a prop made out of two paper plates. I show them how the plates are joined together with staples except one side it is left open with a little piece of green yarn sticking out.
“Can anyone tell me the first stage of the pumpkin life cycle in our story?”
“That’s right Robert, the main character started off with a pumpkin.” I point to the paper plate pumpkin in my hand. “So here is our first stage. What came next?”
“Yes James Pumpkin Jack decomposed. We are going to pretend our Pumpkin Jack has decomposed and what do we see left on the ground?”
“Good remembering Rachel. Tim saw seeds.”
I slowly pull out the “vine” and the students are able to see the first stage of the pumpkin life cycle.
I repeat this line of questioning until all of the stages have been pulled out of the pumpkin and the students are confident they have recalled the information correctly.
“At the Pumpkin Jack work station you will find the paper plates you painted this morning, along with all the parts and tools you will need to make you Pumpkin Jack life cycle. What do you think will be the first thing you do?”
NB – I had the students paint the back of two paper plates as they arrived at school this morning. I did not tell them why I just said, “We are using them later today in a project.”
“That is right Elizabeth you will join the two plates together on one side with the stapler and then you will write your name on it.”
“Once you have completed the first part of the Directions you will be told the next step in creating your Pumpkin Jack life cycle.”
Now I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;
“Table number one go have some pumpkin life cycle fun.
Table number two, you know what to do.
Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and
Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”
Give the students about 15-20 minutes to get this assignment done. Remind the students they can look at the visual timer to check how much time they have left.
Why use a non-fiction text to teach a scientific concept?
Young children relate easily to experiences and in this book there is a young boy who experiences the plant life cycle in a very realistic way. The students are easily able to relate to the events in the book because many of them have had a Jack-O-Lantern, or seen a Jack-O-Lantern, at home or in their neighborhood. Sometimes it is better to select a book which reflects the students experiences rather than one that will show the information in a much more clinical way. The students begin to feel a kinship with the main character and they feel connected to our pumpkin as we call him Pumpkin Jack; just like in the story.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above.
“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”
I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin to be completed whenever the student has spare time or during free choice center time.
Once everyone is seated on their spot I show the video clip It’s Not Scary, It’s Decayed, sung by Ms. Suzy from the show Sid the Science Kid, produced by PBS Kids.
After the video clip I tell the students their exit slip to get their snack is to tell me one thing they think decays. I use the fair sticks to select the student order.
The following morning I place a copy of the blank recording sheet and the pictures of the various stages of the pumpkin life cycle on the table. As the students arrive I explain to them that their morning work for today is to recall the information they learned yesterday.
I tell the students they will need to place the pictures of the pumpkin life cycle in the correct order. Once the pictures are in order they are to label the stages as best they can. For some students just putting the pictures in order is all I require, for others I will provide a Word Bank to use as a resource (I intentionally leave off the word “decompose” because I want the students to tap it out, use a friend, or use a book) and my final group I will leave out books and they will have to find the words for themselves or “tap out” the sounds to write the labels.
Measure the height of different sized pumpkins using snap cubes.
Measure the girth of different sized pumpkins.
Pumpkin seed counting book – group by tens.
Do the sink or float test and predict whether a pumpkin will sink or float. Use a scale to show weight comparison with a variety of items first.
Show pictures of abstract art and discuss how the images can be distorted. Make some abstract Pumpkin Jack art to display on the bulletin board.