When you’ve taught long enough, everything comes back around. We are back to the basics: reading, writing, thinking and talking. One of the things that I love about digging into this in every unit is the way my learners work while we are moving through projects! There is nothing so sweet as the hum of little voices researching and working together!
When I started my unit on plants, I wanted my students to have an opportunity to deepen their own understanding before we went into the text book. I wanted some ‘mini-experts’ at specific plant parts, since our standard requires the students to understand the purpose of each plant part.
I have an AMAZING media specialist that lets me check out tons of books at a time for my students to look at! I pulled out a ton of books on plants and plant parts. Lots of different levels. I broke the kids up into teams of two. Each team of two chose what plant part they wanted to study: roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds. I also pulled out some books on unique plants and had a group choose to research that!
The students were tasked with coming up with a question that they wanted their research to answer and teaching their peers about their specific plant part using key words, illustrations and text that supported their understandings. It took us a few days to come to completion. They were very focused on completing their posters well!
So, how did we incorporate reading, writing, thinking and talking?
READING: The students read about a topic of their choice with differentiated texts both in print and online.
THINKING & TALKING: The students collaborated together on an essential question and discussed how they wanted to share their learning. They practiced their presentation and determined who would share during the jigsaw presentation.
WRITING: Students created a poster with essential information that answered their question. They incorporated key words, illustrations and text related to a topic.
Once the research and collaboration was complete, we shared the information in a jigsaw style. Each team had one person stay with the project and ‘teach it’ in two minutes. The other teammate rotated to each station to learn. After we rotated the first time, the students who were learning took their partner around and taught them what they learned from each station.
Something really cool that happened organically was that the students started giving each teacher feedback on post it notes. Things like: “Creative poster” and “I learned so much about taproots from you” or “Be confident! Your work looked really good!” What a thoughtful bunch they are! Appreciation feels good whether you are 8, 18 or 80.
This style of project can be replicated easily. If you choose to grade it, a rubric works best!
Here’s what you’ll need:
1.) Lots of books related to plant parts on a number of different levels.
2.) A checklist for the students that includes the following: essential question, two illustrations, captions, two key/bold words, text related to the topic that answers the question.
3.) Give them a timeline of how long each section should take. My science time is about 40 minutes daily. We did two days of research and note taking. We did two days of poster making and a day of practice or catch up if needed.
4.) General rules for collaboration and collegiality through the process.
The students really had a great time with the project and learned so much. I look forward to incorporating this type of pre-research to another science lesson next year! This was so much fun!