Next Generation Science Standard Connection
In this lesson I combine 1-ESS1-1 and 1-ESS1-2 to help my students understand that the season winter happens because of the earth's orbit and tilt. In addition, there are patterns created in the season winter, and the amount of daylight is shorter in the winter. I use text for the students to read, a picture that we analyze, and I create a model in the classroom using a globe and a flashlight. By combining all of these sources my students develop the understanding that earth tilts, the sunlight is decreased, and we get less heat in the winter. They also need to see that this all happens for a reason.
This lesson begins in the lounge as all of my lessons do, because I find that first graders work well with consistency. For the explore, explain, and elaborate section we move to the desks in the center of the room. But, if several students are struggling during the explore or elaborate section I will move them to a small table. Then I can help them all at once. Last, we all come back to the lounge for the closing of the lesson.
As the lesson begins I try to excite my class and connect to their prior knowledge. Now, I have taught several lessons about the earth, sun, and the seasons, so I anticipate my students remember some things about the seasons. I expect them to remember that seasons happen because of the earths' tilt and orbit. I do expect them to use this vocabulary, because we have read and written using these words. In addition, I feel that learning is more meaningful when it connects to the students prior knowledge. I guess this is why units in content areas are so popular.
To connect to my students prior knowledge I ask, "Please tell your partner why we have the season winter, and how much sunlight we have in winter?" I listen to assess the students knowledge. Then I allow my students to share their knowledge, because when they engage in discourse. When students talk they seem to learn more and remember the content. Then I remind the class of earth's orbit and tilt for spring, summer, and fall. I show them this on the globe in my class. Having this real model in the room really helps the students remember the information.
Last, I need to share the plan for the lesson, because it helps the students persevere through the long and complex lesson. So, I say, "Class we are going to read, take notes, and create an illustration showing the sun and the earth in winter."
In this section I read a selection of a text and explain a diagram. Then the students take notes in their science journal. The notes are specifically answering a question that I write on the board. I like to google text and modify it to meet the needs of my students. So, I found a great text, shortened sentences, and changed some vocabulary.
The text does contain some very complex vocabulary: Northern Hemisphere, solstice, vernal equinox, astronomy, and radiation. Now, I just explain the terms as we get to them in the text and I show the students the locations on the globe. For words like astronomy and solstice I try to break the words down into things my students can understand. I say, "The solstice is in summer when the equator is the closest to the sun, and in the winter when the equator is farthest from the sun. I like to think of astronomy as studying the stars, sky, or moon. The vernal equinox is in the spring when the amount of day is the same as the amount of night. Radiation is like the energy, light, or heat the sun gives off."
Now, I focus the class on my two questions on the board. I ask, "What pattern do you see? What is the amount of daylight during the winter?" Then, I read the text to my class three times. After I read each of the complex vocabulary words I stop and explain what they mean or show their location on the globe. In addition, I encourage the students to look closely at the diagram and highlight anything they think looks important. The students record their notes: student work in their science journal. I do ask, "Will you please make sure the answers are numbered to match the question? Be sure to just make notes, because writing complete sentences might take too long."
Now, I do find that first graders really do not know how to generate questions, and that can be explicitly taught in small group. But, answering a specific question in a text can be just as overwhelming. I ask the students to listen to the questions first, because it gives them something to look for in the text. It's like going on a scavenger hunt, because we need to know what we are looking for in the hunt. When we read we need to know what we are looking for, and it takes several readings to do this. Well, it actually takes months of practice too. I usually begin with a sentence. After students can answer specific questions in a sentence, then I allow them to read or listen to a paragraph. After listening to the paragraph, the students answer a specific question. Last, I begin reading a lengthy text, but I always tell them the question first.
Another way to really eliminate the frustration of decoding is to read the text to the class, and then let them answer a question. But, the question has to be told to the students up front. It teaches them to listen for evidence in a text.
At this point I want to engage my students in some scientific discourse, so they learn to communicate their ideas. But, I am really teaching the skill of bouncing ideas off each other which is a huge component of developing a complete thought of understanding about the patterns and daylight in winter. If a student misunderstands usually another child corrects them, or I can explain anything the students are missing.
So, I first ask the students to discuss the first question with their shoulder partner. I say, "Tell your shoulder partner what pattern you see." Then I listen and frequently engage in their discussion to guide them. I also write what they say on the board: notes. Then, I say, "Now share with the group opposite your table." Then, I listen again to assess their understanding. Here is a neat video: conferring that shows how this work. Last, I ask the students to share their knowledge about the pattern they see in the season winter with the entire class. After somebody shares I ask, "Will somebody add to that." This specific question guides students to build upon their peers ideas.
Now, in this section the students watch me do a model demonstration: model instruction and then they illustrate the sun with the correct amount of light on the earth. I feel like I need to create a real live model in the class, because I think students just don't understand unless they see it in person. We can look at diagrams, pictures, and even watch videos, but unless we make something students just don't fully understand. In addition, I am not a real fancy person, but I did consider buying this really neat model. I decided not to buy it, because I wanted the lesson to be easy to create. Plus when students use material they have access to in their life it seems more relevant. Many young learners have access to a globe and a flashlight, so this model is easy to create.
For the students illustrations, I do get very specific. I show them how to illustrate the orbit and tilt by labeling the axis and coloring the section of the globe yellow that gets the most sunlight. As they work I am up walking around and really observing how their illustrations are taking shape. I expect to remind the students to label the sun, earth, and the North and South Pole. You can see what my students created by this example of student work.
Now, my lesson is winding down and the students are preparing for their favorite portion of the lesson. I allow about three students to present their illustration and explain it to the class. This is a great opportunity to teach students how to really communicate their understanding. In addition, I ask the students listening to give their peers verbal feedback. The listeners need to respond to the presentations with comments by agreeing, disagreeing, or telling their peers things they can add to their work. I even encourage the students to reflect back on their notes and our text to help them really support their evaluation.
Another thing that makes this section work well is my use of positive behavior support. I begin this section by reminding my students what I expect behaviorally out of them. We chant, "Criss cross apple sauce, pockets on the floor, hands in our laps, talking no more." Then I add, " Your eyes are on the speaker. You are listening to what they say, and you are really evaluating if they are giving you the correct information."
As far as my assessment goes I am looking for three things. The students should have accurately answered the questions, created an accurate illustration, and they need to speak loud and clearly. I typically make a spreadsheet with the students names on the left and the columns named across the top. The goal for the students is 3/3, and I usually just put that beside their name. After I analyze the data from the lesson I plan new lessons. My new lessons are small group lessons that really help the students master the area where they are weak on the spreadsheet.