How to use living books for science with elementary students

How to use living books with elementary students for science | Sassafras ScienceDo you love the idea of sitting on the couch, cuddling up and reading? But you have no idea how to use living books to teach science.

Well, look no further.  Today, I’m happy to be back on the Sassafras blog to share more about how to use living books to teach science to your elementary students.

Let’s start by chatting about your goals for science during the elementary years and what you can use to reach those goals.

What elementary science should look like

Your goals

Keep in mind that elementary students are like an empty bucket begging to be filled. So, your goals for elementary science education are relatively simple.

  1. First, you want to create an interest in the students for learning science.
  2. Second, you want to fill the students’ minds with fascinating, but basic scientific information.

Living books are excellent tools to help you fulfill these goals!

The components

When you are teaching science to elementary students, you want to include the following:

You can also add multi-week projects and memory work to round things out if you desire.

How to use living books for science with elementary students

So, now that we understand our goals for teaching science to elementary students and what we need to include – let’s get to the nitty-gritty!

I’m going to use a week from volume one of the Sassafras Science Adventures series to show you the plan in action. This is the Sassafras Science blog after all!

That said, you can certainly apply these principles to another book, like the Burgess Bird Book or others from this living books for science list.

Psst…Don’t miss the infographic summary at the end of the post!

Day 1 – Science-Oriented Living Books and Notebooking

First up – reading. Start by reading the first section of Chapter 2 of The Sassafras Science Adventures Volume 1: Zoology.

This part of the chapter introduces the student to the grasslands as well as lions. After you finished reading the section, spend a few moments discussing what you just read with the students.

You can do this by asking two different types of questions:

  1. Leading – This type of question is designed to pull out the most important information. (E.g. What is different between male and female lions?)
  2. Broad – This type of question will help you to see what material the students have absorbed. (E.g. What one thing that you have about lions in this chapter?)

After you have completed the reading and discussion time with the students, you will want them to complete a notebooking page on lions. A typical first grader might include the following information:

“Lions roar. Male lions have a mane. Lions are cats. Their cubs have spots”

You could also have the students define grassland or mammal and add those definitions to a glossary they have created in their student notebook.

Day 2 – Science-Oriented Living Books and Notebooking

Today, you would begin by reading the second section of Chapter 2 of The Sassafras Science Adventures Volume 1: Zoology. This part of the chapter introduces the student to the cheetah. After you finished reading the section, spend a few moments discussing what you just read with the students using both leading and broad questions.

The typical fourth grader might dictate or write:

“Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world. They can go up to sixty miles an hour. Female cheetahs can have up to four babies at a time. Their babies are born with coat of long gray hair.”

You could also have the students define food chain or carnivore and add those definitions to a glossary they have created in their student notebook.

Day 3 – Scientific Demonstration and Notebooking

Now that you have finished reading the chapter for the week, you can do a related scientific demonstration with the students. In the Sassafras Guide to Zoology, it suggests that you do the demonstration “Cat’s Eyes.” This is designed to help the students see why a cat, like a lion and a cheetah, has eyes that seem to glow at night.

Once you complete that demonstration, you can have the students fill out a lap report that covers the following:

  • Our Tools – This section will list the materials that were used during the demonstration.
  • Our Method – This section will contain the procedure for the demonstration in the student’s words.
  • Our Outcome – This section will contain what the student saw and record any data they have collected.
  • Our Insight – The final section of their lab report will contain a sentence or two about what the student has learned from the demonstration. Ideally, this will relate to the science being studying, but it is fine at this level for their sentences to be more superficial.

You could also have the student fill out a habitat sheet about the grasslands if you would like to add a bit more writing to this day.

Note – Before we continue onto what you could do for day 4 and 5, let me say that what follows is optional. So, in other words, you can skip this stuff, or if your students are really enjoying what they are learning, you can keep going!

Day 4 – Science-Oriented Books and Projects

On day 4, you can look to the library for related books on lions, cheetahs, or the grasslands. Alternatively, you can look these topics up in an encyclopedia.

After you read, let the project fun begin! Have your students create a shoe-box diorama of the grasslands, adding in the lion and cheetah. You can complete the project in one week, or stretch it over two if you would like.

Basically, the students will take a shoe-box and cover or paint it with a grasslands backdrop. Then, they will add several 3-D versions of the plants and animals that are found in the grasslands to complete their diorama.

Day 5 – Multi-week Project and Review

On the last day of your week, have the students create an animal diet chart. This will have three categories based on you guessed it – animal diet. So there will be one section for herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores.

This week they will place the lion and cheetah under the carnivore side. As they continue to read the book, they can place the various animals they study under the appropriate section.

Finally, you can have your students begin to memorize the definitions of a food chain, grassland, and mammal or the characteristics of a mammal, i.e. “Mammals are warm-blooded, feed their babies milk and have fur or hair covering most of their body.”

The end of it all

Whew . . . if you made it all the way through this post, I trust that you now have a complete picture of how you can structure your week when you choose to use living books to teach elementary science.

Here is a handy infographic summary for you to use:

How to use living books to teach science to elementary students {Infograph by Sassafras Science}

by Paige Hudson

Psst . . . I would be remiss if I did not tell you that we have already done the work of pulling together the resources and scheduling the week for you! So, if you are reading one of the novels from the Sassafras Science series, be sure to check out our activity guides, logbooks, and lapbooks!

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