March 19, 2018
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By Catherine Crider

Lesson plan

Recycle or Throw Away?

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Students will be able to sort a group of random objects into those that can be recycled and those that cannot.

(5 minutes)
  • Call students together.
  • Read Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good RecyclersBy Lauren Child
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students what they learned about recycling from the story. Stress to students that recycling is important, because if we do not recycle, the Earth will fill with trash. "Recycling" is another way of saying "reusing."
  • Show students a pile of items, some of which are recyclable and some are not.
  • Pick up a few of the items one at a time and ask students whether or not they are recyclable. Ask students how they know (encourage students to look for the recycling symbol and to think about whether something is paper/plastic/glass).
  • Sort the items into two piles, one for items that are recyclable and one for items that are not.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask for a student volunteer to lead the class in another recyclable sort.
  • If necessary, repeat this one more time.
  • Explain to students that you have set up several stations around the room for students to visit and sort recyclables. Explain that at each station they will sort the items into a pile of things that can be recycled and things that cannot. Students should record some of these items in their notebook until the signal to switch stations occurs.
  • Before sending students off to their initial starting stations, remind them of any classroom expectations for station work like this (i.e. no running, not shouting, etc.) and ask if students have any unanswered questions about what is expected.
(15 minutes)
  • While students are working, any adults in the room should be circulating, answering questions, taking anecdotal notes, and checking in with students. When it appears that students have had ample time at a station to sort the items and make some notes in their notebooks, a signal should be made to move students to the next station.
  • One way to reduce student talking is to separate student sorting stations as far apart as possible. Make use of hidden alcoves!

Support:For students who need some extra assistance, working with a peer can serve to scaffold the assignment. Hanging posters highlighting items that can be recycled around the room can also act as a scaffold for students needing an extra reminder.

Enrichment:For students needing a greater challenge, introduce the idea of composting. Students can separate items into three piles: landfill, recycle, and compost.

(5 minutes)
  • Anecdotal notes taken during student conversations and work times can be used to gauge student interest in the activity as well as progress towards the lesson objective.
  • Checking (or having a peer review) the accuracy of a completed sort or two for each student can help determine whether or not students have met the lesson objective.
(10 minutes)
  • Call students back together.
  • Ask students about their experiences sorting items into those that can be recycled and those that cannot. Were certain items easier to sort than others? Did any of the items stump students?
  • Do one last sort of some of the trickier items together as a group.
  • Discuss with students some of the places that they can recycle and encourage students to brainstorm how they can recycle more. Remind students of the importance of recycling to keep Earth from filling up with trash.

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