Walkin’ N Rockin’
A beginning-of-the-year lesson plan by Claudia Mann
If my Facebook “teacher” groups are any indication, this is a pretty exciting time of year for most of you who are called to this profession. Photo posts of prepared classrooms almost shout the anticipation of teachers who are ready to get those little ones into their classes and get started on the year of learning.
There are also a few posts starting to creep in as challenges begin to develop. Sometime in the first day or early weeks, the classroom begins to feel a bit confined. The bodies accustomed to summer freedoms-and perhaps summer TV-need to get out of that beautifully prepared classroom and get moving. That’s when the first fear might begin to creep in for the teacher: How will I get to the lessons I prepared if what the children really need is time to play outside.
I know this time of year. You have a million and one things to share with the students before you can begin the “real” teaching: classroom routines, procedures, and expectations; body control and time management; social norms and social graces. It’s not long before the carefully prepared classroom and lesson plans have to take a back seat to the children’s need to move. By the end of day two or three, and certainly before the end of week one, teachers begin to wonder how many reminders will have to be given before Jenny refrains from talking in circle and Johnny walks between his table and the library.
What teachers need at this time of year is a high-interest, physically challenging activity that will simultaneously develop listening, concentrating, decision-making, collaborating and team problem-solving. Wouldn’t you love it if you could also include a little curricular information, too?
The simple little activity I’m about to share with you offers all of these and more. You don’t really need to prepare anything ahead of time. You can do it at a moment’s notice and pretty much with ANY age: You’ll take a walk.
Now this is not a normal walk. It’s a walk with a very specific purpose: to pick up rocks.
It’s actually a simple, but very special game. The impact of the learning is huge:
- It will develop focus and concentration.
- It will develop discernment skills using their sense of sight and touch.
- It will develop critical thinking and decision-making.
- It will give opportunities to collaborate and solve a problem.
- It will set your students on a path to learn about geology and earth science.
- It will make your students happy and calm. (Well, actually, I can’t guarantee that. But it worked for my students year after year.)
It really is just taking a walk and picking up rocks, with one VERY easy guideline for the children to follow:
“As you (the student) pick up rocks, you can’t keep any rock that looks like one you already have in your hand. One of them must go back to the ground.”
While it’s a pretty simple plan, teachers will want to be prepared with some organizing details to set the stage for success. The full lesson plan is free to download so take a moment to pop it onto your computer.
Then, the next time your little ones are telling you they need a break from the classroom routines, grab a copy and get outside! You can download a printable of this lesson plan in the Trillium Resource Library. Not a member yet? Sign up for the newsletter in the form below, and we’ll send you the password!
Walkin’ N Rockin’ : Lesson Plan and Classroom Follow-up
Instructions for the Walk
Share with your students as needed. The skill being practiced is written in parentheses.
- Students work in partners. (Collaboration)
- Each student picks up a rock at approximately the same time and they compare what they find. (Sensory discernment/discrimination)
- If the rocks look different, students each keep their rock. (Decision-making)
- If the rocks look the same, one of the students has to find a rock that looks different. (collaboration, decision-making, point of view, discussion, sticking up for yourself)
- Students keep walking and finding new rocks. (Practicing/Review of skills)
- As new, interesting rocks are found, comparisons to previously found rocks are made. If the rocks look the same, they go back to the ground. If they look different the students may choose to add them to their collection. (collaboration, decision-making, point of view, discussion, sticking up for yourself)
- The group stops when each team has 4 to 8 rocks.
Instructions for Classroom Follow-up
- When you return to the classroom, label the rocks with student names and place them in a basket that can live on the shelf. Add a magnifier to the basket, so children can take the rocks and examine them more closely.
- When you return to this activity, you’ll do more comparisons, to get down to just two of each “type” of rock. These matching pairs will be used in study of types of rocks and rock formation. To continue the comparison process:
- Ask students to pick just one or two of their found rocks from the basket to bring to the circle. You can do this with the whole class or in smaller groups. Eventually you’ll just have to go through as many meetings as you have rocks to sort.
- Compare students’ collected rocks.
- When duplicates are found, some need to be returned to the basket.
- This can become a class decision about which similar specimens should stay in the basket and which should go back to the outdoors. (This will develop their skills of persuasion, problem-solving, and group cooperation.)
- Using theses “unique” rocks, have the students share descriptive words (adjectives) for the appearance of the rocks.
- Pass the rock around the circle so students get a good look or feel for the rock. They may say black, lined, sparkly, or heavy, light, etc. (These characteristics will be helpful when you begin to study the types of rocks.)
- When your students are ready, you can compare the rocks to photos of different types of rocks. (You can purchase a downloadable set of rock photo matching cards here.)
- This lesson can be the kick off for a more long-term study of rocks, minerals, volcanism, earth science…the possibilities are endless.
- fossilicious.com has rocks, fossils, curriculum and field test kits for classroom geology, earth science, and cosmic education studies. Check them out here: http://www.fossilicious.com/educational-materials/
Do me a favor, please. When you do this activity, take a moment to let me know how it goes. And please, share this post with your teacher friends. They will thank you for it!
Claudia Mann (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Claudia Mann has been involved in the Montessori community since 1982: first as a parent, then as a music teacher and classroom assistant, and through completing training and leading her own classrooms. She is certified in elementary I, II, and secondary I through the American Montessori Society. She served as a Montessori teacher trainer and training program supervisor with the Center for Montessori Teacher Education/New York from 1989 through 2000, has served as a field consultant for several elementary and secondary AMS training programs and is an Instructional Guide for the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She and her husband, also an elementary Montessorian, own Fossilicious.com, an online store dedicated to the study of Cosmic Education and earth science.