“Look At This Lemon”

As each school year ends, I look for ways to highlight for my students all they’ve learned during our time together. Last year, I found a quick, fun way to do this during Morning Meeting, while also giving the children a bit more practice in observing and classifying—important skills in our science curriculum. It began with a basket of lemons.

One late spring morning, before the children arrived, I placed a big basket of these shiny fruits under our morning message chart. The message told the children our group activity during Morning Meeting would involve lemons and invited them to write on the chart what they thought we’d do. Most students wrote “Make lemonade.”

We moved smoothly trough the first portions of our meeting, but the children’s glances toward the basket told me they were anticipating our group activity. Finally, it was time. “OK,” I told the students. “Now I’ll give you each a lemon. Without talking to anyone, take a minute to observe your lemon. Notice its unique characteristics—specific ways it differs from all the other lemons. Then I’ll put the lemons back in the basket, and you’ll each find your own.”

“Oh, no!” the children groaned. “We’ll never be able to do that. They all look alike!”

I reminded the students of how much they’d learned about observation in their science work throughout the year. Studying animals, plants, and biomes had given them practice observing, sorting, and classifying objects and creatures according to distinguishing characteristics. We talked briefly about how they could apply those skills to our lemon activity. With this reassurance, the children were ready to give it a try.

I passed out the lemons and the quiet observation began. After a few minutes, I collected the lemons, set the basket in the middle of the circle, and invited students to take turns finding their own fruit. Amid expressions of surprise and delight, all quickly succeeded.

“Now let’s go once around the circle,” I said. “Everyone share one characteristic that helped you identify your lemon.”

Morgan showed us a bumpy-skinned fruit. “Mine feels sort of rough and sort of slippery,” she said, “like the snake I touched at the science museum.”

“Mine has freckles,” said Kevin, showing us small brown speckles scattered over his lemon’s rind.

After everyone had shared, I announced that I’d now collect the lemons and make lemonade. An uproar of objection arose, with cries of “You can’t squash our lemons” and “They’re special to us.” A quick poll yielded a unanimous decision: No lemonade. The children would keep these lemons as symbols of the learning they’d carry with them into their fifth-grade year.

Beth Landry teaches fourth graders at Flanders Elementary School in East Lyme, Connecticut.

Tags: Last Weeks of School