Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Observing and Narrating a Process

When my oldest daughter was little, her aunt gave her a butterfly garden.  What a delight for her (and me) to watch the process of metamorphosis! Of course, even though she was five, I couldn't let the writing opportunity pass us by!  I asked her to keep a record of her observations which then went into a book she illustrated. This assignment worked so well that I did it with my other daughters when they were old enough to make their own books.

Who: preschool and elementary-aged children

What: To connect writing with science, students watch the process of metamorphosis, keeping a record of their observations and making a  simple book.
Excerpts from Janessa's dictated text:

April 13
When we came home from church, my mom noticed that there were two cocoons on the lid, and me and my sisters were really excited because we knew they would be coming out soon.

April 15
Today there was a problem. One caterpillar on the bottom was very confused about where to make his cocoon. But there was another problem.  It wasn't that he was on the bottom; it was that his cocoon didn't have the color it should. It was green.

April 22
Today one of my butterflies has a broken wing. My mom, my sisters, and I were all sorry for my little butterfly. I was about to cry when my mom noticed it because I didn't want my little tiny butterfly to be dead.

Today one of the cocoons dropped from the lid and went under the grass, so my mom, my sisters, and I couldn't see him. And he changed under the grass so we wouldn't see him so he would have privacy.
The entries were good practice with non-fiction writing, but with interest in the butterflies high, I also asked them to write a fiction piece, a short story about a caterpillar-turned-butterfly.

Michaiah's story:

Once there was a caterpillar named Katie. One day she decided to make a cocoon and she took a hammer and nails and began hammering the nails around herself.  Then she stayed there for sixteen days and on the seventeenth day she decided to try to get out of the cocoon.  Then she nibbled and nibbled but she could not get out.  So she hollered for help but no one came so she kept hollering for help but still no one heard her.  Finally, she gave up and wiggled so much that the cocoon fell and broke a hole in it.  Then she got out and was a beautiful butterfly.   The End.
We couldn't miss out on good published books that explain and illustrate metamorphosis. Here are some titles:

From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman
Butterflies and Caterpillars by Barrie Watts
The Caterpillar and the Polliwog by Jack Kent
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

PictureA Related Idea
My husband said he knew we were homeschoolers when we incubated chicks in the dining room of our townhouse.  That incredible process was also recounted in a small book, this time with transitional words (i.e. then, next, now) instead of dates.

A Related Story
We also watched tadpoles become frogs. Seemingly not keen on his home, one jumped out and landed behind the faucet of our kitchen sink, his transformation halted. (Uh, he died.)  Not finding a single man in the neighborhood to remove him, I scraped and flipped him to the first place I could think of: the disposal.  I dropped some other scraps down there and flicked the switch, trying hard not to think about what was happening. We didn't have any related writing projects! : )

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