Michelle Curtiss (97-98 YLP)

All About Me: My Five Senses


I developed this mini-unit on the five senses for a first/second grade class at Leal Elementary School in Urbana, where I am currently an assistant teacher. My class began the study of the body the first week in November. The five senses are an integral part of the body unit; and only one or two days are planned for instruction and activities for each sense. Our general goal of the body unit is to introduce to the children the main body parts and systems, and the important functions of the body. My cooperating teacher suggested that the five senses would be an excellent topic for me to create a mini-unit because I would be able to incorporate all the subject areas easily, and I could readily create or find more than four lessons and activities. I was excited about this mini-unit topic because of the vast amount of exploration that the students would do. The five senses allow us to experience the enticing world around us.

The primary focus of the mini-unit is to let children respond to the stimuli in their world around them. The main goals of the mini-unit are to introduce the senses through observation and exploration; to develop the concept that using the senses help people communicate information about their environment to the body; to introduce the vocabulary of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell, and relate them to the corresponding sensory organ; and to introduce important parts and functions of the sensory organs.

Beyond the activities and lessons that I provided in the mini-unit, I also included several different medians to reinforce the studentís learning. My cooperating teacher has a great set of filmstrips by Eye Gate Media that she usually shows during the study of the senses. She wanted students to learn about the sensory organs. More specifically, she wanted the students to understand the parts and functions, and the "how and why" of the senses. The filmstrips provide an excellent explanation of how the sensory organs work and why we need them. I also incorporated computer time into the mini-unit. As students finished their work, I allowed them to use the educational CD-ROM "The Magic School Bus: The Body" to explore the body and senses through a different median.

The students are gaining a brief introduction to the body and its systems. I evaluated the students by close observation during the lessons and activities. I was looking at interest levels and their abilities to actively participate. I also observed the studentís demonstration of the knowledge gained through open-ended discussions. I planned a couple of small group activities where I could get a greater understanding of the studentís learning.

My cooperating teacher introduced the body unit on Tuesday, November 4, 1997. She began with the brain because of its important role in our bodyóthe brain is the central controller of the entire body. The next day I introduced the five senses.

Science: The Five Senses

The first lesson introduced the five senses through exploration. I placed an air popcorn popper on a table covered with a box when the students were not present in the classroom. The students sat on the carpet in front of the mystery box. I turned on the popcorn popper, and asked the students how we could find out what was in the box. The students discovered on their own that their senses helped "tell" them what was in the box. The students heard the popcorn kernels popping, and they could smell the popcorn. Then, the students were able to see the popcorn, touch the popcorn and finally, their favorite part, taste the popcorn. I asked the students to describe each experience. Through this simple activity of using popcorn, the students were able to use all five of their senses. The activity also introduced many important sense words that will help the students with future lessons.

Science: Sense of Sight and The Eye

After the general introduction to the five senses, I began focusing on individual senses. The next day, I read the book Seeing by Kathie Billingslea Smith. Then, I showed a filmstrip on the eye. It described the parts and functions. As a class we labeled the eye, and each student labeled the eye on their own worksheet. Then, as part of a center, I had four to six students meet with me, and we reviewed the parts and functions of the eye by exploring a large model of the eye.

Science and Language Arts: Sense of Hearing and The Ear

The third lesson focused on the sense of hearing and the ear. I read the book The Listening Walk by Paul Showers. I took the students on our own listening walk around the school. We recorded the sounds that we heard on our walk. Next, I showed a filmstrip on the ear, and again we labeled parts of the ear on a worksheet. Then I read the poem "Ears Hear" and the students wrote their own poems using sound words.

Science and Math: Sense of Taste and The Tongue

The next day I focused on tasting and the tongue. We discussed different tastes: what we like and what we did not like. For a center in the classroom, I created a taste test. The taste test had the four basic flavors that our tongue and taste buds detect: sour, bitter, salty and sweet. The students tasted eight different foods. They recorded on a worksheet which foods they like or disliked. They also marked their favorite taste. Then each student wrote his/her name on four construction paper cards. The student tacked his/her cards above their favorite taste choice in each of the four basic taste groups on a bulletin board. Then by looking at this bar graph, I had the students make comparisons about the graph.

Science and Art: Sense of Smell and The Nose

The next lesson focused on our sense of smell and the nose. We talked about different things that smelled. We discussed good and bad scents. I set up a center that allowed the students to use their sense of smell. I created a smelling mystery box with different fruits. The students had to draw a picture of the fruit that he/she thought it smelled like. Then, I had the students draw and color a picture of something that smells, like a flower. I showed them how to outline their picture with glue, and then sprinkle different spices.

Science and Language Arts: Sense of Touch

The next lesson I focused on the sense of touch. We discussed different things that we could feel, and listed descriptive touch words, such as: soft, hard, smooth, rough, hot, cold, light and heavy. Then I read the story of "Steven and the Mystery Monster," and during the story I passed a bag around the circle. The contents of the bag added "touch clues" and excitement to the story. Each student reached inside the bag felt what was in it, and then passed the bag on to the next person.

Science: The Five Senses Culminating Activity

The concluding activity for the mini-unit was a hands-on exploration of the senses. The idea came from my cooperating teacher who usually does this lesson every year that she teaches the five senses. I included several activities that the students used their five senses to explore. It is called "Sensorama." There were five stations, one for each sense, and groups rotated after approximately eight to ten minutes at each station. My cooperating teacher asked parents to come in to assist at the stations.

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