Investigating the Cause-and-Effect Relationships of Seasonal Change

A study of seasons in the elementary grades should begin with firsthand observation. By simply taking a “field trip” to the playground (or a nearby park), students can document changes in daylight, shadows, temperature, clothing, and plant and animal life. Such observations naturally lead to a study of cause/effect relationships, as students wonder why these observed changes are occurring.

In the primary grades, students can investigate the cause/effect relationships between seasons and human activity (specifically, clothing and activities). Older students can begin to investigate relationships, such as the position of the sun and its effect on temperature, shadow length, and hours of daylight. Students of all ages can begin to explore the differences in daylight and seasons between their homes and the polar regions. In all cases, the integration of children’s literature provides an opportunity to practice reading comprehension strategies as well as gain content knowledge about seasonal change.

We’ve highlighted seven lessons (four for primary students, three for upper elementary) that emphasize observation and data collection. For some lessons, we’ve provided additional resources to integrate literacy instruction. In others, literacy and science are integrated throughout the lesson or unit.

For each science lesson, we’ve included the appropriate National Science Education Standards. You can read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6.


 

Outdoor Observation (Grades preK-2)
Students use their five senses to observe the seasons and communicate their observations through drawing and conversation. This lesson meets the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and Earth and Space Science content standard for grades K-4.

To further integrate literacy into this activity, try the following:

Adventures in Nonfiction: A Guided Inquiry Journey
Using a wide variety of nonfiction literature (see our Virtual Bookshelf column for suitable titles), students learn to sort and categorize books to begin the information-gathering process. Then, working with partners and groups, using pictures and text, students are guided through the process of gathering information, asking clarifying questions, and enhancing the information with additional details. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 12.

Seasons (Grades preK-1)
Students will create a class chart showing what they are wearing. They will also become “season watchers” to help them understand the seasons. Integrated literacy activities include reading trade books, writing acrostic poems, and creating a class book about the seasons. This lesson meets the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and Earth and Space Science content standard for grades K-4.

To further integrate literacy into this activity, try the following:

Adventures in Nonfiction: A Guided Inquiry Journey
Using a wide variety of nonfiction literature (see our Virtual Bookshelf for suitable titles), students learn to sort and categorize books to begin the information-gathering process. Then, working with partners and groups, using pictures and text, students are guided through the process of gathering information, asking clarifying questions, and then enhancing the information with additional details. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 12.

Casting Shadows Across Literacy and Science (Grades K-2)
Language arts skills are linked to the learning of science in a literacy-based approach to the study of shadows. Through discussion of literature on shadows and the use of questioning techniques to probe prior knowledge, students begin to explore scientific concepts and develop and test hypotheses. After studying shadows, recording observations of shadows, and hearing poetry about shadows, students create their own poetic response incorporating their knowledge. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 3, 4, 5, 7, and 12 and the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and Earth and Space Science content standard for grades K-4.

Literacy skills integrated in this lesson include:

Informational texts
Journaling
Poetry
Discussion

How’s the Weather – In Africa? (Grades K-2)
Although this lesson plan involves Africa, not the polar regions, the structure of the lesson makes it easily adaptable. In the lesson, students describe and later compare how weather affects human activity in two places on opposite sides of the world. Students first identify the seasons and weather in their community and how human activities are affected by weather. They then cross the globe and compare how the weather of northern Africa impacts human activities there (substitute a location in the Arctic or Antarctica). Students look for a connection between the two environments and conclude that although the weather and activities may be very different in both places, the impact of weather on human activities is a common thread in human communities all over the world. This lesson meets the National Geography Standards 3, 4, 7, and 8 and the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and the Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standard for grades K-4.

To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try:

Adventures in Nonfiction: A Guided Inquiry Journey
Using a wide variety of nonfiction literature (see our Virtual Bookshelf column for suitable titles), students learn to sort and categorize books to begin the information-gathering process. Then, working with partners and groups, using pictures and text, students are guided through the process of gathering information, asking clarifying questions, and enhancing the information with additional details. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 12.

Seasoning the School Year (Grades K-5)
Students investigate seasonal changes by studying a deciduous “class tree” and recording their observations in journals. They contrast and investigate changes in the weather, changes in the length of the day, and changes in the personal accommodations they make due to seasonal change. With guidance, students create multimedia presentations and weather graphs to compare weather in other parts of the world. Students publish seasonal newsletters and class books for the National Arbor Day Foundation.

While this unit was originally designed for K-2, many elements can be used with upper elementary students. This unit meets the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and the Earth and Space Science content standard.

Literacy skills integrated in this lesson include:

Journal writing
Trade books
Poetry
Vocabulary development
Discussion

 

Astronomy with a Stick (Grades 3-5)
Astronomy with a Stick, or AWS, is a series of three units that address this question: Why do daylight hours vary in length where we live? To answer this question, students make indirect observations of the Sun on the school playground and with models built in the classroom. Students keep journals, graph data, and discuss findings with peers and as a class. These units meet the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and the Earth and Space Science content standard.

To further integrate literacy skills into these units, try:

Exploring Cause and Effect Using Expository Texts About Natural Disasters
While this lesson is designed for use with text about natural disasters, suitable titles from our Virtual Bookshelf column can be substituted. This lesson helps third- through fifth-grade students explore the nature and structure of expository texts focusing on cause and effect. Students begin by activating prior knowledge about cause and effect; the teacher then models discovering these relationships in a text and recording the findings in a graphic organizer. Students work in small groups to apply what they learned using related books and then write paragraphs outlining the cause-and-effect relationships they have found. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 1, 3, 5, 6, 11, and 12.

Journey North: Mystery Class (Grades 4-5)
Mystery Class is a collaborative activity for students in grade 4 and up. In this 11-week program, students use clues – sunrise and sunset times from 10 mystery locations – and similar data from their hometown to determine the locations of the mystery classes. The 2008 program ran from January to May.

Even if you aren’t participating in Mystery Class this year, you’ll find many teaching resources on the site. The Build Understanding section of the index page contains optional lessons to help students understand earth’s seasonal and daily cycles, practice using latitude and longitude, and graph photoperiods. In addition to traditional lesson plans, interactive slide shows allow students to visualize the entire earth both daily and seasonally. Assessment ideas, checklists, and a student journal are included on the web site as well. These lessons meet the National Science Education Standards Science as Inquiry content standard and the Earth and Space Science content standard.

To further integrate literacy into these lessons, try the following:

Exploring Cause and Effect Using Expository Texts About Natural Disasters
While this lesson is designed for use with text about natural disasters, suitable titles from our Virtual Bookshelf column can be substituted. This lesson helps third- through fifth-grade students explore the nature and structure of expository texts focusing on cause and effect. Students begin by activating prior knowledge about cause and effect; the teacher then models discovering these relationships in a text and recording the findings in a graphic organizer. Students work in small groups to apply what they learned using related books and then write paragraphs outlining the cause-and-effect relationships they have found. This lesson meets the following IRA/NCTE standards: 1, 3, 5, 6, 11, and 12.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright May 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

 

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