Lesson plan

Discover with George Washington Carver

Young students will have a blast learning about George Washington Carver's discoveries and practicing their writing in this lesson honoring the contributions of this African American scientist.
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Students will be able to create words using a variety of items discovered/invented by George Washington Carver.

(10 minutes)
  • Call students together.
  • Read students The Wacky Discoveries of George Washington Carver by Karen Clopton-Dunson.
  • After reading the story, show students the picture of George Washington Carver so that they can see what he actually looked like. Discuss some of the discoveries that students just heard about in the book.
(5 minutes)
  • Explain to students that some of the discoveries credited to George Washington Carver include shaving cream, adhesive, and various foods from peanuts.
  • Show students some band-aids/colored tape, shaving cream, and peanut butter (if your environment allows).
  • Lead students in a discussion about how these items are usually used. Then explain that today they will be using these items in new ways, just like George Washington Carver.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will be writing, but not with normal writing tools.
  • Introduce students to the centers that they will be rotating through:
    • Shaving Cream Writing Center: At least one table should be covered with shaving cream (trash bags underneath may help with any spilling mess). At this table, students can use paint brushes and cookie cutters to write messages in the shaving cream. When the space is covered with writing, just spread out the shaving cream again and start over!
    • Adhesive Writing Center: There should be a large supply of laminated adhesive band-aids that can be reused or colored tape at this center. (If using colored tape, construction paper may be used as a surface on which to place the tape.) Each student will try to form his or her name with these supplies. For students with shorter names, encourage writing first and last name or first, middle, and last name.
    • Peanuts/Peanut Butter Writing Center (Optional): Students will use peanut butter, like finger paint, to write words on bread that they can then turn into sandwiches and eat. Alternatively, students can take a handful of nuts and form words out of the nuts before eating them for a snack.
  • Before sending students off to work, remind them of some words they already know how to spell and about tools (such as a classroom sight word wall) that might help them. Encourage students to write as much as they can at each station and really fill the spaces they are given. Also, remind students of any rules for independent work periods (e.g. only speaking in whispers or only moving around when necessary).
(20 minutes)
  • While students are working, any adults in the room should be circulating, helping students form letters/words, and answering questions.
  • Playing soft music in the background can help to set a quiet and productive tone to the room.
  • A camera can be used to take pictures of the shaving cream and adhesive writing before it is cleaned up. Pictures can also be taken of students working at each workstation as evidence of learning for parents, portfolios, or to be displayed in the classroom.

Support: To scaffold this activity, students can work in pairs. Words can be prewritten in all of the different materials, so that students need only trace or reform the words over the prewritten versions.

Enrichment: For students who need a greater challenge, teacher expectations about the type of words and the amount of writing to be done can be increased. These students can also be encouraged to journal about their experience with each different type of writing center, including such information as: what they liked, what they didn’t like, what it felt like, etc.

(5 minutes)
  • Anecdotal notes about student writing behaviors at each of the centers can be used to assess whether students were able to form letters and any progress towards writing words and filling spaces with writing.
  • Pictures of student writing at the centers can be used to document progress and assess student writing skills.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students back together.
  • Ask students to share about their experiences at each of the stations: What did they like? What did they not like? Was it harder or easier to form words with some of the materials?
  • If any photos were taken of student work, now would be a good time to share them. Take a moment to point out good letter formation and/or spacing in student work.
  • Conclude by reminding students that George Washington Carver worked hard at his discoveries and some of them took a lot of time. Students can relate to this because they will need to work hard to become good writers, and it may take some time to write how they would like to write.

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