All About Leaves - Top 5 Reading Activities November 09 2009

[caption id="attachment_3329" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Photo by Snugg"]Photo by Snugg[/caption]Studying All About Leaves = fun science experiments. In order to do those science experiments, it's essential to build background knowledge.

What better way to lay this foundation than incorporate your students' leaf study into a couple of sessions of reading time? I've come up with my Top Five Ways, including ready-to-go, printable charts for your convenience.

These activities can be used alone, or they can be done over a few sessions during center time. If you choose centers, plan on working with the small groups doing A Tree's True Colors in your rotation. While they may use this resource at other stations, you'll be able to assess their grasp of the information as they cycle through.

The rest of the activities - after brief whole-group explanations - should be appropriate for independent work. Some are more suited for younger kids, while others are geared toward older students.

Vocabulary - Making Words

First, have a list of vocabulary words available (you may want to use a Class Tree) for each student to put in their All About Leaves folders. The list of words will need to be adjusted according to the level of your group, and could include: tree, dark, night, cool, cold, windy, chilly, air, turn, light, leaves, fall, Autumn, colorful, green, yellow, red, brown, carotenoids, chlorophyll, pigments, anthocyanins, temperature, nutrients, oak, hickory, birch, poplar, maple, evergreen, separation layer, glucose, water, and carbon dioxide.

Using a Making Words Mat, have students spell out one of the longer words. Then your students need to make as many smaller words as they can from this big word; for example, from the word Pumpkin, I might make nip, pump, kin, pun, punk, etc. The mat is really good for this activities because it gets students moving the letters around. As they make these smaller words, have your students write them down on a piece of paper to share.

Vocabulary - Predict, Define and Sketch

Using this same vocabulary list, have your students choose five to ten words. Using the Predict, Define, and Sketch chart, they write down their word choices, and then predict the meaning of each word. Establish with your students that these are purely guesses, and there are no wrong ones. The "Define" block is for the dictionary definition, and the "Sketch" block is for students to draw the definition of the word.

A Tree's True Colors - Comprehension

This would be a great center for you to do some guided or expert group reading with small groups. I've made a pdf of A Tree's True Colors from the Environmental Education for Kids website. Read through it with your small groups, choosing a specific reading skill to work on; some of these could include highlighting vocabulary, main ideas/details, an important fact from each paragraph, questioning, or key words.

In this center or the one right after this one, students can complete A Tree's True Colors Comprehension Page to show their understanding of what they've read.

A Tree's True Colors - Fact and Response

Using A Tree's True Colors, students read through the information and fill out the Fact-Question-Response Chart. You will need to stipulate how many facts they need to gather; I usually identify a range (i.e. five to ten), or a fact from each paragraph. Explain that the question must somehow relate to the fact (or, at least, leaves), and the Response needs to be some kind of connection they make with the information. A connection could be a memory, knowledge they already know, or personal experience. Otherwise, you'll get Reponses like, "Cool." And that's not what we're after with this activity.

Your Best Guess

Have several books about leaves at this center, especially a few that specifically identify leaves based on shape and color. Provide a collection of leaves (if you've done Getting Started for this unit, you may already have this collection from your students). Choose 5 to 10 different kinds of leaves and have them laid out at the center.  Give each leaf a number, and photocopy the Leaf Observation Grid (for more room, I make double-sided copies).

On the Leaf Observation Grid, students write down the number of each leaf they study. In the second column, they need to write down either a description of the color of the leaf, or match it using crayons or colored pencils, mixing colors if necessary. The next column is shape, and you may want to consider directing them to sketch a picture of the leaf. The third and fourth columns will require them to find the information in one or more of the books you've provided, and the last column is for any additional facts they know or find about these certain leaves.

These Top 5 Ways are useful as a whole-group, during Center Time, or as independent work for All About Leaves!

Additional Resources

Making Words Mat
Making Words
Making More Words

Making Big Words