Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What Do We Need for Our Picnic?

Sandi King
Bay District Schools


This lesson uses literature to stimulate the students' prior knowledge of items that would be taken on a picnic. These items are then grouped according to their physical properties.


The student knows that objects can be grouped according to their physical characteristics (for example, shape, color, texture, form, size).


- Book
Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Bears' Picnic. New York: Beginner Books, 1994.

- The textbook
McGraw-Hill Science. New York: MacMillan/ McGraw-Hill School Division, 2000. Any other text that your school may have adopted may be substituted for this text if it has information on observing and identifying the physical characteristics of objects. This book will be used as an extention of the concepts presented in this lesson.

- Chart paper and markers or large marker board for making the lists and groups


1. Locate and preview the book, [The Bears' Picnic], by Stan and Jan Berenstain. (See Materials.)

2. Locate and preview chapter five of the text book, [McGraw-Hill Science], or a similar text. This will serve as a resource for you as to the physical characterists of objects, and will be used in the Extension activities of this lesson plan. (See Materials.)

3. Prepare materials for recording the students' responses, either chart paper and markers or a large marker board. To remind students of the picnic theme, the lists could be written on a large drawing of a picnic basket.

4. For assistance in finding the books suggested for this lesson, go to Sunlink on the Web at This site allows you to find the schools in each Folorida county that have a specific book. Follow these instructions: (1) Type the URL in the address line of your browser. The URL is (2) Click the button for Begin Your Search. (3) Click the part of Florida for your county. (4) Click your specific county. (5) Type the title of the book. No other information needs to be typed here. (6) Click the Find It button. (7) Click the title of the book that appears to receive the Full Record. At the bottom of the Full Record is the location of the book. (8) Request the book from the school shown.

5. Many of these activities can be used with the Language Arts blocks. For more information on the use of these blocks see the following book. Cunningham, Paricia M., et al. [The Teacher's Guide to the Four Blocks]. Greensboro, NC. Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc. 1999.


1. This is the first of seven lesson plans in Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter. Day 1 of the unit was used to introduce the unit and administer the diagnostic assessment. THIS LESSON PLAN WILL BE USED ON DAY 2 OF THE UNIT. If you are interested in completing the unit, the diagnostic must be administered first. See Extensions for a link to the unit plan and its associated files.

2. Tell the class that we are going on a pretend picnic. Ask students to think about the last picnic that they attended. Ask where they went. Relate the idea of a picnic to activities in which the students have participated. Elicit responses about a variety of settings for the picnic (back yard, beach, by grandma’s pool, the school yard, etc.). The purpose is to gain the students' attention and to direct their thoughts to a personal experience.

3. Ask students to tell what objects they took on their picnics. Record the students' responses in the order given on chart paper or the class marker/chalk board. Be sure students give responses of various foods, containers, toys, etc.

4. Ask students to listen for the objects the bears took on their picnic. Read [The Bears' Picnic] by Stan and Jan Berenstain. (See Materials.)

5. Elicit a list of objects from the story. On a separate chart, record students' responses in the same manner that their list was recorded.

6. Using the physical characteristics of color, shape, texture, form, and size, model making various groups of the objects the bears took on their picnic. Remember that the standard addresses physical characteristics, so being grouped by uses (foods, toys, etc.) is not appropriate for this activity. As you group the object, verbally explain why the object belongs in the group.

* Give many examples, but be sure to include some nonexamples also. Nonexamples peak student interest and are a cause of further explanation by the teacher and increased understanding by the students.

* The same objects should be grouped many times depending on the characteristic being observed. For instance, first model grouping by colors. Then group by single color or multi-colors. Then group by size. Remember to have a greater than and less than group for criteria reference as we need a reference point when grouping by size. (Is it larger or smaller than this book?) Other groupings can be done by shape or temperature. Model, making groups in as many ways of which you and the students can think, remembering that the groups must be based on physical characteristics.

7. After modeling how to group objects using their physical characteristics, tell students to group the objects recorded from their picnics. This can be done whole group or see the Extensions section to this lesson for other suggestions.

8. Record the students' groups. Be sure the students make a variety of groups using the variety of physical characteristics for each object. Students must verbally explain each of their grouping decisions.

* As you are recording the students' groups, formatively assess the student’s groupings. Give affirmative feedback, such as, "Great! You know that the sandwich is smaller than this book so it goes in the group of objects sized less than the book." Also give corrective feedback, such as, "Are you thinking of a big meatball sandwich from Subway? It may be bigger than this book, but we are just talking about a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Would it be bigger than this book? Which group should the sandwich be in?"

* This is also an opportunity to formatively assess the students' abilities to manage information (Goal 3, Standard 1). You will use this chart again so keep it in a safe place.


This lesson plan is the first of seven lesson plans in the Unit Plan, Our Picnic, The Study of Matter. Before any instruction is given, the diagnostic assessment should be administered. This assessment is available from the unit plan's associated files. See Extensions for the link to the unit.

The standards addressed in this lesson plan will be formatively assessed as the students relate how to group the various picnic items. Students explain the reason for the grouping using the item’s physical characteristics. The teacher will give corrective and affirmative feedback.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. Students can manipulate concrete objects into groups rather than making the groups verbally. These items can be brought to school by the students or provided by the teacher.

3. Objects can be grouped by cooperative groups of students then the various ways of grouping the objects can be compared.

4. Venn diagrams can be used to group objects.

5. This can be used as a “working with words” experience. After grouping the objects by their physical characteristics, the words representing the objects can be grouped by their sounds, shapes, or number of letters.

6. Have a class picnic with pack lunches eaten outside.

7. Read chapter 5 of [McGraw-Hill Science] (or a similar text) with the students. This is another way of presenting the concept of physical properties targeting students that are visual learners and who best learn through language.

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