Trees, Trees, What Comes From These?- National America Recycles Day

1 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to print many lower and upper case letters as they attempt to spell words phonetically, drawing on sound-letter relationships.

Big Idea

Practice purely phonetic spelling


10 minutes

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.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I have the students stand up and allow them to free dance to the video Harry Kindergarten’s song Going Green.


Once the song is over I have the students take a seat on their spot on the rug. 

Sit Down Song

I use this video as a fun way to give the students an idea of what the lesson is going to be about. Of course the video does not introduce the students to ELA part of the lesson, but the students will have a reason to practice their phonetic spelling skills as they connect to the reason behind the activity.  


45 minutes

“Today is National America Recycles Day. Can anyone tell me what it means to recycle?”

I use the fair sticks to select a couple of students to respond to this question. Fair Sticks

“Can anyone tell me where the recycle bin is in our classroom and what we recycle in it?”

Once again I use the fair sticks to select a few students to respond to this prompt.

“Those were all great responses to the question. Today we are going to read a book called Michael Recycle, written by Ellie Bethel and illustrated by Alexandra Colombo. Why do you think I am going to read this book?”

“Your right Kallee it is because it is National Recycle day. Here we go.”


 During reading we discuss new vocabulary words as we come across them in the text; words like, slimy, crusader, etc.

We also discuss how the book has rhyming text to give it rhythm. We find the rhyming words on the pages as we read them. 


After reading the story I briefly read the green tips in the back of the book. I condense some of the longer explanations. Sometimes I choose to read these tips later in the day so we can get on with the lesson itself.


“Who thinks they can tell me what the number one item used here in the classroom is?”

I allow anyone to have one guess at what they think the item is.

“Well boys and girls those of you who said paper are correct. We use lots of paper here in the classroom. Can anyone tell me what paper is made from?”

“That’s right Robert it is trees. It takes one average sized tree to make 16 reams of copy paper (information retrieved from Conservatree).”

Here I show the students what a ream of copy paper looks like to give them a visual. I usually also have a box of copy paper (one box usually holds 10 reams) for the students to better understand what 16 reams might look like.

“Recycling paper is very important. Why do you think it is important?”

“That is right Sara. When we recycle paper we save trees. What have we been learning about over the past two weeks?”

“Yes Finn, the Maryland forest. And what do you think makes up most of the forest?”

“That’s right – trees! What do you think would happen to the Maryland forests if we did not recycle paper?”

“Too true Owen, too true. We would lose all of our trees. That would be sad for us, but who would be even sadder?”

“Well done Justin, the Maryland forest animals.”

“Did you know that not just paper is made from trees but there are many other products made from trees. Can anyone tell me something else that is made from trees?”

I allow any of the students to respond to this question.

“Those were all great responses. As you can tell there are many products made from trees. When you go home I want you to look around and see just how many things in your house are made from trees.”

“When you throw away items made from trees that means more trees are used to replace those items.”

“Does anyone know what we used to make the tables in the school garden out of?”

I take a couple of responses because most of the students do not know.

“The middle school students used old wood pallets from Lowes. Those pallets were going to be thrown away and we reused them to make a functional item in our school garden. So what did we do?”

“Yes we saved more trees from being cut down because we reused an old item.”

“Now I am going to have you be tree product detectives and search through magazines and catalogs to find products made from trees. Once you find a tree product I am going to have you cut it out and glue it onto your recording sheet. Next you are going to label the item. Can anyone give me suggestions as to how you would label the tree product?”

“Yes Rachel I could “tap out” the sounds.”

“I could also use the labels in the magazines and catalogs. Nice suggestion Carson.”

“I could ask a friend or a grown-up to help me. Well done Ryan.”

“Those are all great resources to use to get your work done.”

“When you get to your station you will find a copy of the recording sheet, which is made out of what? That’s right trees so treat it respectfully. You will also find magazines, made from what? Well done trees, so what will do when we are done cutting them up? That’s right – recycle them. There will also be scissors and glue. You will find the date stamp and use a pencil to do what?” Items that come from trees recording sheet

“Yes Amy you will write your name and date the recording sheet. What do you think I will do with the recording sheet if I find it with no name on it? That’s right I will recycle it.”       


Once the students understand the directions I send them over to the work stations one group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom environment. It sounds a bit like this:

“Station number one go have some wood detective fun.

Station number two you know what to do.

Station number three hope you were listening to me.

Station number four shouldn’t be here anymore.”

These are not always done in that order so the students have to pay attention to when their station actually gets called.  


Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 

As the students are working my paraeducator and I work with the small groups on their phonetic spelling skills. I make sure to model how I would go about sounding out an item I have found in a magazine. Modeling tapping out sounds Working this way allows me to have more one-on-one interactive time with the students and really target the skills they need in order to progress as spellers and writers.   


10 minutes

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.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time. Stages of spelling     Student sample high     Student sample high 2     Student sample middle     Student sample middle 2     Student sample middle low     Student sample middle low 2

Looking at the students samples you can see evidence of the different stages of inventive or phonetic spelling. The high and middle students tended to sound out the words with little to no adult assistance and you can clearly see they worked strictly with the sound-letter correspondence part of purely phonetic spelling. The high students are still omitting the unheard vowels and nasals before consonants. Whereas the middle students are emitting many vowels altogether. The middle low students requested adult assistance while sounding out the words which increased the number of letter sounds they "heard" and recorded a letter for.    

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one product that comes from a tree. “Today you will need to be able to tell me one product that comes from a tree. Here is the deal though, once someone has told me a particular product, that product is off the menu for everyone else. I am going to give you thirty seconds to sit and think of two or three products that come from trees so if someone else uses your product you will have another one ready to go.” I look at my watch and start timing.  

“Okay the thirty seconds are done. I hope you all thought really hard and came up with more than one or two products that are made from trees. I am going to use the fair sticks to help me pick the students. Here we go.”

Once a student has told me his/her tree product they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on a tree related product together.


10 minutes

Call each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

For this lesson I like to use the assessment “Representing Phonemes with Letters” assessment from the book Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum, written by Marilyn Adams Ph.D., Barbara Forman Ph.D. M.A.T., Inqvar Lundberg Ph.D., Terri Beeler Ed.D.

I simply follow the directions given on the assessment page. Using the results I can determine which students have got the basic idea of phonological spelling and those that only have initial or final sounds. From that information I can then decide whether I need to repeat lessons on beginning and ending letter sounds, or if I can move onto the more complex medial sounds.       

Once the assessment is completed I will place a copy of the results in the student’s working portfolio.


Phonemic Awareness in Young Children: A Classroom Curriculum 

ISBN-10: 1557663211

ISBN-13: 978-1557663214


Make recycled paper for the students to see what it is like. - Have the students take paper from the recycling container, shred it in the blender, add enough water to moisten it, blend until it is smooth, pour it through a strainer, press it out flat on old newspaper, use a rolling pin to smooth it out and let it dry. Making recycled paper this way it is more like cardboard and it is not very flexible. You can write on it with markers.

Students then write a list of the steps to make paper to share with others. We have also made the kind of recycled paper where you press seeds into the paper so you can plant the “paper” and have a garden grow in spring.   


Have the students write about an environmental super hero of their own creation. What would they call their superhero and what would their super hero do to save the Earth from pollution?


Students write down one green tip to share with their family and friends. They can make this into a poster to share information and educate others on our responsibility as stewards of the Earth.


Find and label animals that rely on trees for food and shelter. Students should be highly encouraged to find and use books to label animals accurately. 

Student sample     Student sample 2     Student sample 3