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Take a Nature Walk
To begin your study of coniferous and deciduous trees, take your class for a walk on school grounds. If you do not have these two types of trees on your school property, find a location close by where you can take a short walking field trip. When you take your walk, have students take a clip board, paper, and pencil along for recording their observations. Before leaving the classroom, have students make a T chart on their paper and label the one column deciduous and the other coniferous.
As you take your walk, point out each specific tree and give the students 5 minutes to record their observations. They should just list what they observe.
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Compare Coniferous and Deciduous
Upon returning from your walk, make a T chart on the board or on chart paper. Invite students to share their observations and record them on the class T chart. If it is not shared, be sure to ask questions to guide students toward sharing how the leaves on each tree differ. If you are taking your walk in the fall and you live in a part of the country where leaves change color, this characteristic will be obvious to your class. If these do not apply, ask the class what happens to the leaves on deciduous trees. You want them to recognize that one of the major differences when comparing deciduous trees and coniferous trees is that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall and coniferous trees do not. To take the comparison further, on another day you can make a Venn Diagram to list the characteristics of each type of tree. This will help the class to look at the similarities and differences between the deciduous and coniferous trees.
Before beginning the next activity, you can share some pictures of coniferous and deciduous trees with the class. Ask them to identify each as you share the pictures. If you do not live where students can observe the changing of the leaves, be sure to share some pictures of this.
Hand out an 11x17 piece of paper, preferably the type with lines on the bottom and a space for drawing on top. Instruct students to divide their paper in half and label each side with deciduous trees and coniferous trees. Students will draw a picture of each type of tree and write down at least four observations about each. If there is time, have the students share their pictures and observations.