Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Lesson plan - Grade 4 science - leaves.


Breadfruit leaves
During the 1970’s, part of my job as grade coordinator was to check teachers’ lesson plans, on a weekly basis. Some teachers resented this, feeling that once out of college they shouldn’t have to write them. I don’t know how anyone could go into a class without a written plan, unless she had been teaching the same material for decades to the same grade and ability group. Even then, a plan should be available, if necessary for a substitute teacher. I don’t know  how detailed a plan teachers’ colleges require, but below is what I expected in a  lesson plan.

1.      Objectives - stated in terms of what the students should be able to recall or do at the end of the lesson. Objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based.

2.      Related requirements (I will refer to this later on).

3.      Materials. In science, this will include equipment.

4.      Procedure – a detailed description of what the teacher and students will do to meet the objectives.

5.      Assessment -  whatever method you intend to use, such as quizzes, students writing in journals, getting feedback from students.

6.      Reflection – after the class is finished, it’s important to record whether the objectives were met and, if not, what should be done in subsequent classes.

Spanish needle 

I have written several blog posts to explain why I think the National Standards Curriculum is overloaded with content. Teachers are required to write lesson plans based on a template which looks extraordinarily complicated to me. Primary school teachers are expected to write 25 or more such lesson plans a week. To help them, the Ministry of Education provides 'ready to use' lesson plans. I decided to look at one. The full text of it is at the end of this blog post. 

I chose “Functions of different plant parts – leaves  from  the Science Units of Work, Grade 4, Term 1, Unit 3: Plants and Animals.  7 weeks (14 hours) are allocated to this unit, so 1 hour is a reasonable time for this topic. However this plan contained more material than could possibly be covered in one hour. Attainment targets and Benchmarks are included in the lesson plan. Do they need to be stated here, as they are general and apply to the whole unit? The specific objectives, and the learning outcomes  given are not specific to this lesson either – they apply to all the lessons on plants in the unit.  They could be classified as related requirements.

Now to Procedure Activities: 

1.      “Take the children to the school yard for a Nature Walk, on which they should collect leaves and complete an observation sheet with names of plants and numbers, colours and shapes of their leaves.”

 This activity might be possible with a small class but not with 40 students. If a school has very few plants, or even a well-kept garden, it couldn’t supply 5 streams of 40 students.  It would be more manageable to ask students beforehand to bring leaves from  common weeds such as broomweed, morning glory, guinea hen weed, cerasee, coral vine, duppy gun (Ruellia), water grass, and Spanish needle. (The teacher could bring a bunch of these for students who don’t bring.) 

Cerasee leaves

Morning glory leaf

Coral vine leaves


2.     Students should observe the leaves and make leaf impressions in their notebook by placing a piece of paper over a leaf and rubbing with a pencil or crayon to make an outline of the leaf. They are then to make posters and categorize leaves according to mathematical shapes.

Mathematical shapes? I couldn’t do that and it tells you nothing about the function of the leaf.

3.      Students should construct bar graphs of numbers of leaves on plants, from data on observation sheet.

 The range of numbers of leaves on plants would be huge and difficult to plot. If you want children to represent data on a bar graph, it is better to use something with a smaller range of numbers, such as the number of peas or beans in a pod, or number of petals on a flower.

    Students will plan and carry out an investigation to determine the function of leaves.

Finding out that a plant dies if you take off all the leaves, as suggested, would not indicate to a student that leaves make food for the plant. Many plants are deciduous and produce new leaves after a cold or dry season, or survive as underground storage organs.

I have taught 8-year-olds and classes of 40 students aged 14 and over, but never a class of 40 8-year-olds, but here is my suggested lesson plan for this topic:

Objective: that students should know that plants make their own food; and be able to explain how the structure of a leaf is suited to its function.

Related requirements: attainment targets and benchmarks as stated in the curriculum.

Materials: leaves from a variety of plants, brought by students and teacher.

Procedure: Revise the characteristics of living things and differences between animals and plants.

Ask students if they know how plants make their food.  Students should record in their notebooks the fact that all plants including seaweeds, mosses and ferns flowering plants make their food from carbon dioxide (a gas in the atmosphere) and water, using the energy of sunlight. The function of the leaf of the flowering plant is to make food. 

Students should examine the leaves and state the features all leaves have in common - they are green, they are flat and thin and they have veins. How are these features related to their function of making food? How does water get to the leaf? Where does the water come from? Where does carbon dioxide come from and how does it get into the leaf? What feature of the leaf traps the energy of sunlight?

AssessmentStudents should make a labelled drawing of a leaf, with a scale to indicate its size.   

If time permits, students will make leaf impressions in their notebooks by placing a piece of paper over a leaf and rubbing with a pencil or crayon to make an outline of the leaf.

As far as they are able they should record in their own words how features of leaves help them to make food. However, the many children who will not be able to do so should be assisted to make notes as follows.

Leaf stalk and veins carry water to the leaves, and carry food made by the leaves to other parts of the plant.

The green colour of leaves comes from a pigment called chlorophyll which traps the energy of the sunlight.

Leaves are flat and thin to allow carbon dioxide to get to all the cells and for oxygen to get out.

The leaf stalk holds the leaf so that sunlight falls on it.

Reflection: Since I didn't teach this lesson, I have nothing to reflect on. However, I hope that the objective would have been fulfilled. 

Duppy gun


Tropical Primrose
Gully root



 Full Text of Ministry of Education Lesson Plan

 SUBJECT: Science

GRADE: 4

DATE: June 2019

DURATION: 60 minutes

UNIT: Plants and Animals

TOPIC: Functions of different plant parts - leaves

ATTAINMENT TARGET:

 Recognise the variety of living things, their interdependence and their inter-relationship with the environment.

 Gain an understanding of and apply aspects of the scientific method.

 Begin to appreciate the influence and limitations of science.

 Demonstrate a positive attitude towards the use of scientific language.

BENCHMARKS:

 Devise and carry out a fair test in a familiar context.

 Predict the outcomes of events based on their knowledge

 Display curiosity, objectivity and perseverance in their approach to activities

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES:

 Identify and name a variety of common plants

 Investigate the functions of different structures of plants (root and shoot systems)

 Construct graphs and analyse data collected from investigations on plants

 Make labelled drawings of the external parts of plants

 Show concern by being responsible towards plants and animals

 Show curiosity in exploring plants and animals in the surroundings

KEY SKILLS: Observing, record, report, construct graphs, analyse, create, communicate, collaborate, plan and design, draw conclusions,

KEY VOCABULARY: leaf, make food, shoot, leaf vein,

MATERIALS/RESOURCES: leaves of different colours and shapes, pencil, crayon, plain paper, marker, cartridge paper, scissors, glue, tape,

CONTENT OUTLINE:

Leaves come in a variety of shapes and colours and form part of the shoot system of a plant. Leaves play an important role as they make food for the plants and other animals. Leaves contain a green substance which help them to use the light energy from the Sun to make food. Plants would eventually wither and die if they had no leaves.

PRIOR LEARNING: Check that students can:

 Classify plants as living things

 Describe the characteristics of living things

5 E L E S S O N P L A N T E M P L A T E P a g e | 2

Prepared by Science Section, CCU, MoE June 2019

LEARNING OUTCOME: Students who demonstrate understanding can:

 Explain the functions of the basic structures of plants

 Make labelled drawings of the external parts of flowering plants

 Appreciate the need to care for plants

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA:

 Accurate observations noted

 Observation Sheet contains accurate information

 Correct mathematical shapes identified

 Leaf impressions are neat and accurate

 Investigation plans reflect a fair test

 Conclusions supported by evidence

PROCEDURES/ACTIVITIES Engage - How can I get students interested in this? Use of an interesting picture. (15 min)

 Students will participate in a Nature Walk. They will collect leaves from different plants (or use phone/ tablets to take pictures), noting the name of plant and the number of leaves observed on each plant examined. The information collected will be recorded on the Observation Sheet provided.

 Students will be asked to handle plants with care and why this is important.

 Teacher will clarify any misconceptions and direct students to form groups to carry out the next activity. Explore - What tasks/questions can I offer to help students puzzle through this? Use of a simple investigation. (15 min)

 In groups, students will carefully examine samples or pictures of the leaves collected, noting their colour and shape. Students will use a magnifying glass to note the structure of the leaf. These structures will be identified as veins and midrib.

 Students will make leaf impressions in their notebook by placing a piece of paper over a leaf and rubbing with a pencil or crayon to make an outline of the leaf.

 Teacher will assess how each group is carrying out the activity and offer guidance as needed. Explain - How can I help students make sense of their observations? Class presentation and discussions. (15 min)

 Leaf impressions will be placed on charts/ posters for display in the class. Students can also arrange pictures taken for presentation using poster or PowerPoint.

 Students will present their posters and discuss the different leaf shapes and colours. The leaves will be categorized using mathematical shapes. Students will recall the function of leaves and will suggest why leaves are important to plants.

Poster will be assessed using a teacher-prepared rubric.

5 E L E S S O N P L A N T E M P L A T E P a g e | 3

Prepared by Science Section, CCU, MoE June 2019

 Teacher notes information presented by students on the board and offers clarifications of any misconceptions held and provides additional information to students. Elaborate - How can my students apply their new knowledge to other situations? Application of what they learned. (10 min)

 Students will use information on the Observation Sheet to construct graphs showing the number of leaves present on different plants (or use Microsoft Excel to generate graphs)

 Students will be introduced to a scenario where two similar plants are presented (or using pictures). One with leaves and the other without. Students will predict what would happen to the plant without leaves. Students will plan an investigation to determine the function of leaves. Students will discuss what will make it a fair test and present plans to the teacher.

 Students will carry out the investigation over a number of weeks and present their findings using spreadsheets/ graphs. Students will make conclusions as to the importance of leaves to plants.

 Teacher offers guidance during the process of planning the investigation and instructs students to use the Designing Investigation Template. Misconceptions will be clarified by the teacher. The need for proper care of plants will be highlighted and discussed. Evaluate - How can I help my students self-evaluate and reflect on the teaching and learning, and how can I evaluate the students learning of concepts and skills. Assessment (10 min)

 Leaf poster will be assessed using a teacher-prepared rubric.

 Observation Sheet will be assessed for accurate observations and information.

 Plans for investigation will be assessed to determine if they reflect a fair test.

 Bar Graphs constructed using data from the Nature Walk will be assessed for correct labelling and display of information.

EXTENDED LEARNING: Students will use Internet to research plants which do not have leaves and determine how the plant makes food for itself.

LINKS TO OTHER SUBJECTS:

 Visual Arts, Mathematics

POST-LESSON REFLECTION:

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________

5 E L E S S O N P L A N T E M P L A T E P a g e | 4

Prepared by Science Section, CCU, MoE June 2019

Activity 1: Plants and their leaves

Aim: To determine the number of leaves on plants in the school environment

Skills: Observing, manipulating, calculating, collaborating

What you will do:

Go on a Nature Walk in your school yard.

Explore the environment and note the names of plants and the number and colour of their leaves.

Complete the Observation Sheet below.

Observation Sheet

Plant Name

Number of leaves

Colour of leaves

Shape of leaves

Questions:

1. What number of leaves is most common on plants?

2. Which is the most popular leaf colour?

3. Which leaf shape is the most common?

4. Use the information to construct bar graphs when instructed by your teacher.


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Health and Open Burning

 


Should we be burning leaves and other garden waste?

If tobacco smoke is toxic, wouldn’t other kinds of smoke be toxic also?

Attitudes to smoking have changed over the last hundred years. In the 1990’s, doctors proved that tobacco smoke causes lung cancer, not only in the smoker but also in other people. So, countries all over the world, including Jamaica, have placed bans on smoking in public places.

In Jamaica, we like to tidy the yard by raking up leaves and other garden waste and burning them. Perhaps we should reconsider this practice. Smoke produced in this way is even more toxic than tobacco smoke. It is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, many different chemicals, and particulate matter (PM or soot). Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina.

 Heat from a fire makes the smoke go up in the air, but when it hits cooler air, a lot of the chemicals condense and gradually fall to the ground. The smoke is spread out by wind and air currents in areas where people live, so it is hard for them to avoid breathing it in.                   

Source: Particulate Matter Basics US EPA


Very small particles are those which measure 2.5 microns or less. (10,000 microns = 1cm.) They are about a quarter the size of a red blood cell and would even look small under a microscope. They can seep through cracks in closed doors and windows. They can get deep into the lungs and possibly into the blood.  Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

Other health impacts of open burning include increased infant mortality, low birth weight of babies, onset of childhood asthma, coughs, and wheezing. While the seriousness of these depends on how close people are to fires, how long fires persist and the number of fires people are exposed to, open burning increases risk of death among the general population, particularly the elderly, children, and those with preexisting respiratory and cardiac illnesses.

The alternatives to burning garden waste include:

1.      Composting – all garden waste will gradually decompose. It will decompose more quickly if it is broken into smaller pieces, kept moist and layered with kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings, in a compost pile or bin.


2  








 di      In districts where there is garbage collection, it can be bagged and put out to be collected.

N.B. We should never burn garbage. The smoke from it is more toxic than that from garden waste. It should be bagged and put out to be collected. Where there is no garbage collection, it should be buried far from water sources.



Friday, August 7, 2020

On Jamaican Hair and Language

I don’t normally write on what’s trending, but my interest was sparked by the debate on the ‘hair’ issue, particularly the question of the right to self-expression. The case in question relates to a child whose mother was told in 2018 that she must undo the locks or cut her daughter's hair or she would not be allowed to return to Kensington Primary School in September. The parents took the matter to court on the grounds that the school had breached the child’s constitutional rights. An injunction was taken out preventing the school from barring the child. She has in fact been attending the school since September 2018. However, on Friday, July 31, 2020 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the school. This led to widespread condemnation of the court and a vigorous discussion about the ruling and about hair. I listened to some of this on RJR's Beyond the Headlines hosted by Dionne Jackson Miller. Much of it was in legal language which left me confused. 
         Following this, on Friday, August 7, 2020, on RJR's Hotline, hosted by Emily Shields, the eminent constitutional lawyer,  Dr. Lloyd Barnett’s  responded to her questions.  I understood him to say that no argument was presented by the parents to counter the school’s reason for not allowing locked hair i.e. that it is not properly washed and leads to outbreaks of lice. They could have, but they did not, argue against this reason with facts about hair washing and lice. I understood him to say that had they done so, the case might have gone differently.
       Incidentally, head lice do not discriminate against any kind of hair.
They thrive in all kinds of hair, clean or dirty, curly or straight, long or short, locked or plaited. Like the corona virus,  they simply need to get from one human being to another. Children in close proximity in schools assist in their transmission. 

I don’t have a problem with how children wear their hair, provided that it is kept clean. In relation to self expression, I’m not sure that in the case of children it is theirs or that of their parents. I know of girls who have wanted to cut their hair, but have been prevented from doing so by their fathers. It would be hard to gauge the effect of being told to change their hairstyle would have on their self-esteem.

How do children express themselves apart from hairstyle and dress? In many ways including art, music, movement, speech and writing. The right to self-expression seems to me to be breached far more in every school in relation to written language.  Children are taught that their mother tongue, Jamaican Creole or ‘patwa’ is their home language which they speak among friends and family, but they are not taught to read it or write it. They are allowed to play roles, sing and express themselves orally in patwa, while at the same time being encouraged to speak Standard Jamaican English. This is the language they are taught to read and write. In order to read and write in patwa, a child must first learn to read and write in the English Language. The injustice meted out by this system is not so much that it’s harder to learn in a language that is not of your thoughts, but the implication that this language is superior to yours and by extension, those who have command of this language are superior to you. This surely must affect your self-esteem.

The ineffectiveness of this system is shown, not by the large numbers of Jamaicans whose command of the English Language both orally and in writing is better than that of many native speakers of this language, but by the large numbers of children who don’t learn to read, and those who have difficulty expressing themselves in their own words both orally and in writing. They can learn swathes of text by rote, but struggle to write a description, explain a process or recount an event.

Another way in which schools damage children’s self-esteem is by the system of assessment – testing and grading and failing children. It’s not entirely the school’s intention – parents and the whole society are programmed to judge children’s performance in relation to one another. But that is a topic for a future blog post.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Cutting the curriculum - Grade 1 Math

I’m writing a series of blog posts to highlight that the primary curriculum is overloaded with content. With pressure to cover this content, teachers are unable to give the less able children the help they need and they get left behind. I welcome comments and feedback on these posts, especially from teachers who have developed methods to overcome the hurdles I have described. I confess that math teaching isn’t my forte.
Mathematics must be the most challenging subject to teach, if one is aiming to ensure that all the children in the class reach the level of numeracy of which they are capable. There is such a wide range of ability among children –  several years above or below the average in a given class. In a grade 1 class there could even be children at Piaget’s stage 1. They can count in the sense that they can recite the numbers in order, but not in the sense that they can count objects. Young children, when they are learning to count, are liable to move more than one object when saying one number name. They also say that there are more in a set of objects when they are spread out than when they are close together. No amount of telling them will convince them otherwise.
However, there comes a point in their mental development when they are said to conserve number – they understand that the quantity doesn’t change if it is rearranged. At this point, and not before, they are ready for the concept of addition. So, in a grade 1 class, there could be some of these children, and others, probably the majority, who already conserve number. This presents a dilemma. Ways need to be found to help the stage 1 children, by presenting them with a variety of situations requiring counting, without making them feel that they are failures. They need to find what they are doing is fun and interesting to build up their confidence and motivate them to persevere. That is not to say that the majority of the children are ready to race through the curriculum at breakneck speed, only that there are some children who are not ready.

Now to look at the curriculum, for Grade 1, Term 1, taken from Mathematics Scope and Sequence Grades 1-3, August 2016 Version 5  (in blue. My comments in black.)
September
Number strand
a.    Identify numbers 0-10.
b.    Identify set with up to 19 members

c.    Place number 1–10 in serial order
d.    Use objects to create sets 

e.    Identify objects which belong/do not belong in a set.
f.     Count the number of objects in a set
g.    Matching members of a set- same/fewer/more..
h.    Compare sets.
i.      Partition 2-10 members in two or more sets.
j.    Identify whole set.
k.  Identify parts of a set.
l.    Identify the empty set.
Geometry strand
a.   Identify geometric shapes in natural and man-made objects (eg. natural objects: tree, man, hill, sun       
     manmade shapes: roof, window, ruler, ball, book 
Is it realistic to expect  to cover all these topics in September, when the children are settling in to a new school, and teacher and students are getting to know each other? Teachers are expected to review each previous lesson before presenting each day’s topic. What if the review reveals that re-teaching is necessary? Also, children in grade 1 need plenty of practice in writing neatly in exercise books or workbooks and forming their numerals.
October
Number strand
a.   Use Ordinals up to 10th.
b.   Write number words 0-19. Why are numbers above 10 being introduced so early?
c.   Write numerals 0-19.
d.   Associate number with numerals.
e.   Identify set with 20 through 100 members. Grade 1 children have little or no concept numbers 20 – 100. Are they expected to count 100 objects before learning about place value?
f.    Join two sets (up to 10 members) using mathematical sentences.
g.   Use +, -, and = correctly to complete mathematical sentences.
Measurement strand
a.  Identify measurable attributes of objects for eg. A box  has dimensions (length, width, height), weight, volume (non-standard)
b.  Use comparison and describe objects using
o   long/short
o   wide/narrow
o   thick/thin
o   heavy/light
o   large/small
o   tall/short (use concrete, semi concrete and  then abstract to do the comparisons)
c.  Identify objects of equal/unequal length.
d.  Estimate and measure
the length of various objects using non-standard units           . (for eg. Hand span, foot prints, fudge sticks, finger width, paces, connecting cubes, paper clips)
Geometry strand
Use any simple shape to   make pattern by repetition (e.g. Ink blobbing, tessellation, potato-printing)
Again, there is too much for one month.
November
Number strand
a.    Know ‘one more than’ facts. Many examples of these can be given, such as how old they will be next year.
b.    Recognize and make ten facts
c.    Memorize and recall addition facts up to the sum of ten. I’m sure I can’t be reading or understanding this correctly. Do they really mean that the children should know all the addition facts for all the numbers 1 to 10? There are 45 such addition facts!
In “Mathematics we Need” (the text used in Jamaican schools in the 80’s) grade 3 students were learning the addition facts for the number 7. I am very much in favour of children learning addition facts, (too many children are counting on their fingers in later  grades), but they need more time to get a feel of a number before  learning its addition facts.  For example, for the number five, they can know ‘fiveness’ in relation to an arrangement of dots; to the subsets of five in pictures on a page; in counters which can be  moved around; in units of measurement and in ordinal numbers. I would suggest that addition facts up the sum of 5 is the highest number they need to learn at this point.

There is an app called “Calculation Time” which uses dominoes (without the 6) to help students with mental arithmetic. Some, but not necessarily all, students will love it and learn from it. Furthermore, as yet not all students have access to this app.

d.    Know addition facts (commutative property). This should be taught before “c”.
e.    Associate the addition of up to three numbers with the joining of sets.
f.     Adding zero to any number.
g.    Use +, -, =, ≠, correctly to complete mathematical sentences.
Measurement Strand
a.    Use concrete materials to investigate the relationship between the size of a unit and the number of units needed to measure length. E.g. compare the number of paper clips and pencils needed to measure the length of a table.
b.    compare and order objects by their linear measurements using the same non-standard units. E.g. using a length of string equal to the length of your forearm, work with a partner to find other objects that are about the same length.
Geometry strand
a.    Identify straight and curve path and associate them with longer and shorter paths.

December
Number strand
a.    Identify greatest or least of a set of numbers. (0 – 19)

b.    Compare numbers: greatest/least.

c.    Use +, -, = correctly to complete mathematical sentences.
Measurement Strand
a.  Identify days of the week and months of the year.
b.  Use a calendar to calculate days and weeks for specific events.
c.  Tell time on the hour,   half an hour on a digital and analog clock.           
d.  Show time given orally on the clock face.
e.  Associate time on the hour or half hour with daily events.
f.   Use estimation to compare times spent on various activities.
g.  Associate months with school activities and holidays.

There are fewer teaching hours December, because of end-of-term review and tests, Christmas activities and Christmas holidays, so there's not much time to introduce new material. Most of the activities in the measurement strand are covered from time to time in the Integrated Studies Curriculum.  Furthermore they don’t need to learn the half hours until grade 2.
Any changes in the first term of grade 1 will set back terms 2 and 3, and ultimately the ensuing years, but unless a solid foundation is laid in Grade 1, children will struggle in later grades or give up completely. We should try to make math interesting and fun for all children so that they continue to be motivated.
I think this curriculum was implemented in 2017. It's worth noting that performance in the Grade 4 Numeracy Test has been showing steady improvement from 53% mastery in 2012 to 74% in 2018, so something good must have been happening in grade 1 classes between 2009 and 2015 before the introduction of this curriculum. Perhaps we should try to identify what that was.
In a subsequent blog post, I will compare grades 6 and 7 curriculum, where there is a great deal of overlap, to show that many of the topics in the grade 6 curriculum can in fact be left until grade 7.