Who Lives at the Poles?

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Students will be able to gather information from provided resources to answer a question.

Big Idea

Informational resources are used to help grab students’ interest in the newly introduced unit topic.


5 minutes

For this lesson the students literally walk into the classroom and go to work. My students are used to making journal entries of one kind or another for morning work. For example on Monday the students will come in and find a sight word sentence prompt at their seat. The student will need to get out their Language Arts journal, copy the prompt and then work to complete it. A prompt may look like this, “When I go out to recess I like to…”

On Tuesday the students will come in and find a Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) problem on the board. For example, “Mrs. Clapp had for red flowers and five yellow flowers. How many flowers did she have in all?” They will need to get the correct journal and work towards solving the problem using pictures, numbers and words. 

Or they may walk into the classroom and they will have a directive such as the one they have today. The students are told to look at the rolling cart and see if they can read the instruction there. Once they have decoded the text and successfully figured out what is being asked of them, they will need to get their science journal and begin to discuss with their peers where and how they are going to get the information they need.

For my middle low and low reading level students I just read the morning work direction straight to them.

What students see: Rolling Cart Picture

Writing in a journal serves as a valuable resource to students as they progress through their academic life. Firstly, a student is able to see how they have developed over time as they compare what they write/draw at the beginning of the academic year to how they write/draw at the conclusion of the year. 

The journal also allows students to go back and refer to information they have already been exposed to which helps them recall facts and experiences. The student can then apply these facts and/or experiences to the new lesson which adds in comprehension and development.  


25 minutes


The students get their science journals and begin to discuss with the peers how they will get the information they need. It does not take long for some of the higher performing students to go into the science bucket in book area and pull out the books they want to use for information.

Unbeknownst to the students I had stacked the science container the night before with all kinds of books on polar animals. I had also made sure I had multiple copies of particular books as I want to make sure students are not competing for resources which can lead to classroom behavior problems.  In this way I am ensuring their success and also setting them up with the prior knowledge they will need for the focus lesson being presented later on in the day.

Introduction to a Topic

I will sit on the rug with the students and listen in on their conversations and chime in with guiding questions when necessary. For example, when one student wanted to correctly label their polar animal, “Well if you saw the picture of the animal in the book and you told me the animal’s name starts with /p/, where could you get that word?”

“Your right I could use the pop out words or the labels. Now I have to be careful I have the right word to label my own animal. How could I check?”

“Well done I can get my mouth ready to say the first sound and see if the sound matches the letter I see at the beginning of the word.”

“Let’s see. You drew a polar bear; the label you found does have the letter p at the beginning of the word and we know that it makes the /p/ sound. What sound do you hear next?”

“Good, I hear an /o/ too. /P/ /o/. What do hear next?”

“Uh huh. I hear the /l/ sound too. Next?”

“Great work. I think you have your first word matched. There is an a next to the r and that helps give the r a strong sound like in the word “car,” and “star.” I think you can go ahead and write that first word down to label your polar bear.”

“See if you can sound out the next word to see if it has the sounds to make the word bear. Check back with me if you need help.”


Other students may have specific questions about the animals themselves. For example one student asked me about whether the polar bear lived at the South Pole the North Pole or both. “Well let’s find out.” I got The Arctic Habitat book and The Antarctic Habitat book. I talked my way through the process of finding the information using the table of contents and turning the pages until I found the information the student was asking about. We read the page together so the student was able to have the success of answering her own question using information from the book.

I modeled using the glossary and the read more page for other students who had questions about their animals. Later in the day we used the links offered through the internet sites to gain more information about our polar animals.


I allowed the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.

Students working 1     Students working 2     Students working 3      Students working 4


Why use resources? 

This activity has the students developing the skill of being able to go through resources to find information which will enable them to complete a task. Being comfortable at using resources helps students gain a sense of confidence and control of their own learning. They begin to become more independent as they are able to think about and find the resources they need when encountering a difficulty. When a student has the skills to complete a task independently they are less likely to interrupt a teacher who is working with another small group which means valuable instruction time is not lost.   


5 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student sample 1     Student sample 2

Once the students are seated I tell them their exit slip for today to go and do their morning job is to tell me one animal that lives at the Poles.

“I am going to give you twenty seconds to sit and think about the animals you researched this morning when you came into the classroom. Once you have told me the name of an animal that lives at either the North Pole or the South Pole you will go ahead and do your morning job.” I look at my watch and start timing.  

“Okay the twenty seconds are done. I hope you all thought really hard and came up with one animal that lives in the Polar Regions. I am going to use the fair sticks to help me pick the students. Here we go.”

Once a student has told me his/her Polar animal, they are able to go ahead and do his/her classroom morning job. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work together on coming up with an animal. 


5 minutes

For this assignment I check the student’s journal entries, discuss with them the choices they made and where they got the information from. I put a check mark or a smiley face on their journal entry and the student then places their journal back in the correct location. 


For the students who get done I have a table set aside for them to play Polar Regions BINGO. Because the word cards may be too difficult for my students to read I simply make an extra set of the game boards and cut out the pictures to make a set of calling cards.



Another activity is to make a set of the Polar Regions Pixie cards and have the students place them onto the correct Arctic or Antarctic Polar Banner. This activity can bring up some interesting conversations as they try to decide where the item belongs. I always refer the students back to the resources books as a way to solve any issues they may have.


These extension activities help expose the students to more information about both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The activities prompt conversation which will become a resource for my audio visual learners. Resources do not have to just be books; resources can be charts, posters, peers, teachers and other multimedia.