Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández have had a chance to reflect on the nature collections they have carried out with their classroom. They have noticed the children were very excited to collect many items from the ground. However, the children were so eager to find a variety of items that they began to pull branches, leaves, and bark from the trees. The teachers want to help the children understand the difference between collecting items from the ground and pulling items from the trees. They realize this would be a great opportunity to talk with the children about respect for nature and to create rules for exploring nature and the reasons behind the rules.
About the Classroom
Ms. Jones and her teaching assistant (TA), Ms. Hernández, are responsible for developing learning activities that meet the needs of diverse learners and address the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). Ms. Jones knows most children in her class will meet the standards and benchmarks. However, she will have to make adaptations for those children who need more individualized instruction.
Ms. Jones is the state-licensed head teacher in a monolingual classroom of 15 children with diverse ages (3–5 years old) and learning needs. There are 10 typically developing children with age-appropriate skills and behaviors in the class. These children act as peer models for the remaining children in the class.
Three children, Raúl, Luis, and Esther, are dual language learners whose home language is Spanish. They started school with little understanding of English. Ms. Jones’ TA, Ms. Hernández, is bilingual and uses both Spanish and English in the classroom. Two children, Joey and Hailey, have special needs requiring an individual education program (IEP). Joey has significant speech delays and is learning to use an adaptive and augmentative communication (AAC) device. Hailey has cerebral palsy (CP) resulting in significant motor delays, especially on the left side of her body. She uses a walker and wheelchair for mobility. On occasion, some children exhibit challenging behavior during small group lessons. Ms. Jones would like to implement strategies to address challenging behavior in the classroom.
Ms. Jones’ district uses a state-approved developmentally appropriate curriculum. Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández perform universal screenings three times per school year (fall, winter, spring) for preschool children.
This lesson addresses a primary benchmark. A secondary benchmark is included to offer ideas for addressing an additional benchmark within one lesson. Teachers are encouraged to be creative in thinking of ways to address multiple benchmarks within one lesson.
- Chart paper
- Digital camera
- Nature collection baskets
During morning circle, Ms. Jones talks with the children about their nature collections. The children talk excitedly about finding leaves, nuts, and pinecones on the playground. Ms. Jones asks the children, “How do you find nature items to put in the basket?” The children talk about picking up items from the ground and under the bushes. One child comments that, “You can take the bark from the trees.” Another child then responds, “That hurts the trees.” Ms. Jones then asks, “Why do you think that would hurt the trees?” The children suggest reasons it might harm them. Ms. Jones explains that trees, like people, are alive. She explains that things that are alive grow and change. The conversation continues about the importance of taking care of and respecting living things.
Secondary BenchmarkSocial/emotional Development
Ms. Jones proposes creating some rules about collecting nature items while still being kind to living things. The children suggest picking up fallen items, taking pictures with a camera, and drawing pictures of what you see. Ms. Jones adds that making crayon rubbings of the bark is another way to “collect” information about the textures in nature. She tells the children that during outside time, they will continue their nature collections and take photos of how they can collect nature items while being kind to living things and use those photos in creating a poster of the rules.
Outdoors, the children continue their nature collections while Ms. Jones takes photographs with a digital camera. Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández praise the children for collecting items and exploring nature in a way that is kind to living things.
Secondary BenchmarkSocial/emotional Development
During planning time, Ms. Jones and Ms. Hernández create a poster that has photographs and simple words. The poster lists the rules for being kind to living things on the playground. They also make a booklet version of the poster, which can be brought outside in the nature collection basket. This way the teachers can refer to the rules the children agreed upon for kindness to living things when out on the playground to redirect children who may have forgotten the rules.
The teachers keep anecdotal records of children’s activity and comments on the playground about caring for trees and respect for nature. They also use photos to document the children’s activities on the playground.
Ideas to Extend Children's Learning
The children begin to talk about other rules that are in the classroom. In the writing center, the children are often seen making their own rule posters using scribbled writing. The teachers support this emerging interest in rules and help the children write a rule poster about kindness at the lunch table and when playing on the playground.
Individual Adaptations for Children in Your Classroom
This lesson was written in the context of Ms. Jones’ and Ms. Hernández’s classroom. We now offer some general suggestions of adaptations you can use in your classroom.
Individual adaptations for young 3-year-olds
Some of the younger children in the classroom have trouble participating in longer conversations during large group time. They have trouble making comments that are on topic.
The teachers make a point to talk about kindness to nature when the children are on the playground. Also, when they notice children are looking at the classroom-created poster, they use this as a chance for one-on-one conversations about their rules for kindness to nature and the reasons for these rules.
Individual adaptations for a child requiring communication supports
Child has significant speech delays and is learning to use an adaptive and augmentative communication (AAC) device.
The teachers use the class-created poster as a tool. When the child approaches the poster and points to the photographs, the teachers make a point of speaking with him about the meaning of the photos, saying things such as “That picture shows you and your friends picking pinecones off the ground instead of pulling them off the trees.”
Individual adaptations for a child requiring mobility supports
Child has cerebral palsy (CP) resulting in significant motor delays, especially on the left side of her body. She uses a walker and wheelchair for mobility.
The teachers ensure that child has opportunities to participate in the nature collection activities by choosing areas of the park where her walker can roll easily. They also help seat her on the grass so she can explore the nature items on the ground alongside her peers.
Individual adaptations for children exhibiting challenging behavior
Some of the children have a hard time waiting their turn to add their ideas to the conversation.
The rules for circle time are posted in the circle area. The teacher will sometimes point to the picture corresponding with “Listen with your ears,” to silently cue the children to wait for a turn and remind them that they need to be quiet, raise their hands, and wait their turn. The supporting teacher also quietly moves next to children who are having a difficult time waiting for a turn. The teachers also are mindful of how long the children can sit for the large group conversation without difficulty and plan to continue the conversations outdoors in an informal manner.
Individual adaptations for English language learners
Three children speak Spanish as their heritage language.
When the children use Spanish during circle time, a Spanish-speaking teacher responds to them and then translates for the children to add their ideas to the conversation in English. The teachers also add some Spanish words to the poster about rules for kindness toward nature.