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Nature Journals and Remote Lessons

This spring, when it became clear that our schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year, I set about with my fellow coaches trying to envision ways to engage our students in authentic reading and writing that could be done at home. 

After exploring some great resources, I decided on recording minilessons for our first graders about starting a Nature Journal. There are many resources online about nature journaling and I encourage you to explore them if you are interested. The John Muir Society has published their Nature Journaling Curriculum online and it is particularly fantastic. I also used Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman as inspiration.

As I look back at these lessons now, I see how I learned over time to make my online lessons more effective. I learned to make them shorter – nine minutes watching a video is not the same as nine minutes on the rug! I learned to look at the camera more and to try to animate my face and voice to be more engaging. 

I also became more efficient at planning my online lessons. I began to storyboard them in the same format of a minilesson – connection, teaching point, teaching/engagement, link. I honed my language so that is was clear and concise, writing important phrases on a sticky note on my computer to help me remember how I wanted to say them. Over time, I began to notice how this preparation for the video mirrored the advice I give to teachers when coaching about short, engaging minilessons. While I am aching for the return to our classrooms with little faces gathered close to me on the rug, planning these video lessons alone in my bedroom gave me time to hone in on my language and lesson structure in a way I hadn’t before. A silver lining!

Perhaps you have some writers who would appreciate looking closely at the natural world around them and you could use these videos as a starting point. Or perhaps you’d like to see another teacher fumble her way through the process of moving her instruction online. Either way, I’m happy to share these lessons with you! 

Introduction to Nature Journaling

Tracking Time in a Nature Journal

Drawing Pictures That Teach

Using Pictures, Words & Numbers – by First Grade Teacher Nicole Branton!

Capitalizing Names

Using Your Five Senses to Tell More

Tracking Changes Over Time

Sharing What I Found on My Run!

Turning Labels into Sentences

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