At Beyond the Apple, we’re always looking for an interesting image or piece of text to create an engaging anchor for a lesson. Who knew we’d find our next image on a Nova Scotia beach after a mid-summer Nor’easter?
After the storm raged, the outgoing tide revealed a beach littered with individual strands of beach grass. As we walked along the beach, we noticed that each strand had been shaped into a unique curve or angle; many strands of grass were in the shape of a letter. At that point, a lesson beginning with a close looking experience began to take shape.
While this close looking lesson begins with a search for naturally occurring letters, it quickly moves into learning opportunities focused on science, categorization, the arts, and language use. Here are some of our ideas:
- After viewing the samples above, begin your lesson on close looking with a search for naturally occurring letter shapes (not shapes created by manually placing twigs, leaves, rocks, etc. into letter shapes). If you live by the sea, finish our beach alphabet with shapes found on a beach; if you live inland, create a nature alphabet with shapes found in plants, rocks, or in the clouds.
- Discuss the force(s) of nature that created the shape. Was it wind, water, angle to the sun, erosion or a combination of several forces?
- Brainstorm a word bank for each letter that links the letter to the location. For example, “b” is beach, ball, baleen; “s” is sand, sea, storm; “c” is for castle, conch, crest.
- Do some research about the words in each letter’s word bank and create labelled diagrams, definition trees, or “Did you know?” fact sheets.
- Use the words chosen to create poems.
- Illustrate each word with a scenario that brings the word to life.
- Link the beach / nature alphabet to the stories and language of home; for example, if “c” is for “conch”, invite a community member to share their knowledge about how conchs are used as a food and as a wind instrument.
- Honour the home language(s) of the school’s community by using the same letters to create a multi-lingual alphabet or personal thesaurus.
Close looking encourages learners of all ages to take time to observe, to think, to discuss, question, to debate, to read and to write. Close looking is a great example of learning in action. To get started, all you have to do is open your eyes.
For more conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at Beyondtheapplecontact@gmail.com