Plan, Do, Review…What’s Bugging You? (Grades PreK-2): An Information Literacy Lesson Plan for Young Children
Author: Theresa Benson
Early childhood marks a period of brain development that is unmatched at any other time in the life cycle. UCLA researchers note that,“In the first three years of life, the number of synaptic connections in a young child’s brain doubles to approximately 1,000 trillion, many more than will ultimately be present in the adult brain.” (Halfon et.al., 2001) More importantly, over the next ten to twelve years these connections are selectively diminished, based on experiences as well as genetics. This natural selection is integral to cognitive abilities later in life. Too many connections means that there won’t be room for neural maturation in necessary areas; too few means that cognition controlled by certain broad areas of the brain may lose the ability to function. (Halfon et.al., 2001)
So what does all this have to do with bugs and information literacy? Simply stated, there is no better time to begin introducing information literacy processes within the context of daily experience and developmentally appropriate practice.Young children are hands-on learners. Child development principles that inform these practices assert that early learning occurs through interrelated physical, social, emotional, linguistic, aesthetic, and cognitive domains. Development in these domains is sequential and builds upon previously acquired skills; the rate at which this happens varies from child to child. Early experiences have cumulative positive (or negative) effects on children- for example, early positive interactions with other children in a playgroup foster social skills later in life while the absence of these interactions impedes social skills later in life. (NAEYC, 1997) Furthermore, NAEYC states, “children are active learners drawing on direct physical and social experience as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their own understandings of the world around them.” This learning is transactional, and based on the interplay of heredity and environment- the child and her experiences in the world. This lesson plan is offered as an example of a micro component of a larger planning process for 3, 4, and 5 year old children enrolled in an early childhood setting that utilizes project based curriculum in daily activities. It is not meant to be carried out in isolation, but rather to be contextually related to a macro plan developed through observation and inquiry of children’s interests.
The project approach is based on the philosophy that in-depth inquiry about a topic of interest facilitates intrinsic motivation amongst students to develop their own learning needs and goals. (Katz, 1994) Furthermore, the project approach accepts that children are capable of determining the direction and extent of their learning about a particular topic. Projects last as long as interest lasts, and are implemented using a three-phase process: planning, field work, and debriefing. These project design features integrate nicely with Eisenberg and Berkowitz’ Super3 information literacy process: Plan, Do, Review. Furthermore, the similar philosophical underpinnings of each model make it likely that project approach teachers will embrace the Super3 processes during daily project-related activities.
The lesson plan presented here focuses on insects- an often mentioned subject of interest among the preschool set. It is assumed that the Bug Project is in full swing, and that children and teachers have thoroughly discussed the plan. The activities presented here follow a standard early childhood morning schedule, focus on the fieldwork phase of the project model, and are aligned with Washington State Early Learning Benchmarks as well as Information Literacy standards as defined by the American Library Association.
Lesson Plan: What’s Bugging You? A Continued Exploration of Insects (Grades PreK-2)
The objectives and skills in this lesson plan come from Domain 4 of the Washington State Early Learning Benchmarks: Cognition and General Knowledge, Science.
Objective/Outcome: Children who attend school today will:
Skill: Throughout the day children will increase their ability to:
Materials needed: This plan assumes that the preschool classroom has tables large enough to accommodate the adults and children in the room, and includes the following learning centers integral to an enriching environment. (Dodge, 2004) Suggestions for extra subject specific materials appear in parentheses.
Additionally, children will write or draw in daily journals (spiral notebooks) during part of the day.
Program Introduction/Attention Activity: Breakfast with Ladybugs:
The routine in this early childhood setting follows a regular pattern: children will enter the classroom, hang up their coats and sit down to eat breakfast. To capture attention and engage the children in the day’s activities, the educator will point out clear containers in the middle of each table where several ladybugs will be feasting on their own leaf breakfast.
Instructors will explain to children that the class will continue to learn about bugs today and encourage children to discuss their thoughts and questions about the ladybugs in front of them. This discussion time incorporates relevancy in the activity as children relate their past experiences to what is in front of them. Instructors might start these discussions by asking questions like the following examples: Who has seen ladybugs before? Where? What else do ladybugs eat? What do you want to know about ladybugs, and I wonder how we could find out?
Instructors will remind children that discussing their personal experiences with ladybugs is part of planning what they will explore during the day. After breakfast, table groups will release the ladybugs outside with the assistance of an adult.
Next students will go to the large group area to “journal” before story time, according to the regular classroom routine. Teachers will invite children to journal (“write” stories, or draw pictures) about the ladybugs if they wish.The attention activities addressed above allow children to actively engage in the learning process through interaction with one another. The activity keeps their interest from fading (attention) and allows students to take ownership of the learning process (relevance). Both of these characteristics, attention and relevance, are motivating factors according to John Keller’s ARCS model of instruction. Additionally, the activities align with educational standards as follows.
I.L. Standard 1.1 – Recognizes the need for information
I.L. Standard 1.3 – Formulates questions based on information needs
I.L. Standard 1.4 – Identifies a variety of potential sources of information
E.L. Benchmarks – Demonstrate curiosity and empathy, describe characteristics, ask questions, develop generalizations, evaluate experiences.
Body of the Lesson:
The “What’s Bugging You?” lesson integrates project related activities into the children’s existing routine, just as the ladybug breakfast attention activity did. This approach instills confidence in the children because they know what to expect and feel competent and comfortable to explore their environment. As mentioned earlier, the project approach is an inquiry approach. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers (Katz, 1994); consequently, children can experience satisfaction as they successfully integrate the knowledge that they already have into the development of new skills and conceptual abilities. These processes follow the last two components of John Keller’s motivational model of instruction, “Confidence” and “Satisfaction.” (Keller, 1983)
Activity One: Circle time – Bug books, music, and movement (30 minutes)
Standards alignment is noted near each task and Appendix A contains a full description.
Overview: The instructor will present two books during circle time: Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug, and Judy Allen’s non-fiction book,Are You A Ladybug? In addition, one interactive song, The Insect Song, and one interactive chant, We’re Going on a Bug Hunt, will help to keep the children engaged with the instructional theme.
Activity Two: Outside play – Bug hunt and free play (45 minutes)
Task: The bug hunt described here is open-ended and will be loosely facilitated by the instructor moving between groups of children. When children choose not to “bug hunt” they will engage in alternate outside play activities.
Activity Three: Center time – Integrating the bug project into free play (45 minutes)
The next part of the morning involves inside choices for children in the learning centers of the classroom. Below is an example of how the “What’s Bugging You” unit is integrated in learning centers. Through everyday play, children are invited to:
1. Art center – create “butterfly prints” by painting in the center of a piece of paper, folding it in half, and then unfolding it to reveal a symmetric pattern. Draw or paint (free form) something that they’ve thought about during the day.
2. Blocks – create structural representations of bugs or bug habitats.
3. Dramatic play (plastic bugs, spiders, butterflies, ants) – act out stories using props.
4. Sensory table (see-through table, damp sand, tools like straws and scoops to build tunnels and hills, plastic ants, spiders, and bugs) – explore burrowing and insect movement.
5. Clay table – create sculptural representations of bugs.
6. Manipulative items (realistic butterfly and bug puzzles) – manipulate puzzles; notice differences between types of bugs.
7. Science center – magnifying table with dirt, leaves, plastic ladybugs and live ladybugs from the garden store (children will release ladybugs outdoors during “clean up” time) – explore ladybugs and ladybug behavior in a close up, controlled environment.
Remind or ask children which stage of “plan, do, and review” they might be in at any given time. In the art center, for example,- How will they choose the colors for their butterflies? (plan)- What mediums will they use? (plan)- Will they create real butterflies or pretend butterflies? (plan)- Which colors will work best for what they want to do? (plan)- How did their color combinations turn out? (review)- Are they happy with their plan and print? (review)- Did they learn something new? (review)- What do they want to remember from this activity for next time? (review)Standards alignment: (I.L- 1.1-1.5, 2.4, 3.1-4, 4.1-2, 5.2, 6.1-2, 9.1; ELB – C, Em, Q, P, Ev) Transitional activity: clean up.
Evaluation and Conclusion
After the children clean up, join together for a circle time before lunch. Take time for broader evaluation of the activities of the day with children. Topics of discussion might include – “What were your favorite parts of the day?, What would you (children) like to do in the future?”
Mention more specific questions about the day’s learning such as, “How can you tell if a bug is real or pretend?”, “What kinds of bugs like to hide in nature?”, and “Where could you find bugs in your own backyard?” The children’s answers to these questions provide insight on the success of the micro-plan and contribute to the development of future lesson plans. Broader, cumulative assessment measures are important for evaluation of a micro plan as well.
Researchers Chittenden and Jones note, “A teacher with whom we have worked remarked, “It’s the many little conversations among children that really count for something in promoting their ideas and observations.” (Chittenden and Jones, 1999) The social nature of young children can be documented through written observations, class notes, displays of drawings, and records of class discussions. (Chittenden and Jones, 1999) Instructors may synthesize and review such information to gain a richer perspective of the learning that is taking place in the classroom.
Allen, Judy. Are You a Ladybug? (2000). Kingfisher Publishing. New York, NY.American Association of School Librarians. “Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning.” (1998).
Carle, Eric. The Grouchy Ladybug. (1996). Harper Collins. New York, NY.
Chittenden, Edward and Jones, Jacqueline. “Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education: Science Assessment in Early Childhood Programs.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1999). [Electronic version].
Dodge, Diane; Colker, Laura; and Heroman, Cate. The Creative Curriculum for Preschool. (2002). Teaching Strategies. Washington, DC.
Eisenberg, Mike and Berkowitz, Bob. The Big 6: Information Skills for Student Achievement, with focus on “Super3 – The Early Childhood Version of the Big6 Skills (Grades K – 2)” and Super3 activity pages.
Halfon, Neil, Schulman, Ericka, and Hochstein, Miles. “Brain Development in Early Childhood.” UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities. (2001) Retrieved from http://www.healthychild.ucla.edu/Publications/Documents/halfon.health.dev.pdf
Kagan, Sharon, et.al., “Early Learning and Development Benchmarks: A Guide to Young Children’s Learning and Development from Birth to Kindergarten Entry” (2005) Washington State Early Learning partnership. Retrieved from http://www.k12.wa.us/EarlyLearning/pubdocs/EarlyLearningBenchmarks.pdf
Katz, Lilian. “The Project Approach.” Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. (1994). Retrieved from http://ceep.crc.uiuc.edu/eecearchive/digests/1994/lk-pro94.html
Keller, Cynthia. “What are the Information Literacy Skills Needed by Early Learners to be Successful in School?” School Library Media Activities Monthly. Vol 22, No. 3, (2005). [Electronic version]
Keller, John M. “Development and Use of the ARCS model of Motivational Design.” Report No. IR 014 039. Enschede, Netherlads: Univ. of Technology. (1983) (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 313 001)
Lawhon, Tommie and Cobb, Jeanne. “Routines that Build Literacy Skills in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.” Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol. 30, No. 2. (2002) [Electronic Version]
National Association for the Education of Young Children. “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.” (1997)
Preschool Education Songs and Fingerplays (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.preschooleducation.com/sbug.shtml
Appendix A – Standards and Benchmarks Washington State Early Learning Benchmarks – Domain 4 – Science
Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning
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