I start the class by sharing pictures of our deceased hamster "Hammy" and asking students to share their memories. I then ask them if we should get another classroom pet? - of course this brings about a resounding "YES!". (you could just begin with this question to get their initial interest going)
I then push them to think and give support for their opinion by asking Why is it important for you to have a class pet? and What benefits/ life skills does a class animal teach us? I want them to feel the importance of the issue rather than focus primarily on the emotional aspect of the "cute little animal"
I share that for the next week they are going to research class pets and determine the best animal for our classroom environment.
I ask students what are some criteria we need to consider regarding the best animal for the classroom? I expect and receive questions on what the word "criteria" means - expected and anticipated :) I write on the board that criteria = the specifications we will use to determine the best animal. I then write specifications on the board and add underneath - housing. I ask students what other specifications we might need. The modeling of the first helps them connect the meaning to the term. They offer diet, babies, size, etc.
We make a list and I tell them that I used these and other specifications to make a worksheet for them (of course I did this beforehand but encouragement to think about the terms in the worksheet and labeling them on the board make it seem like I knew just what they were going to say all along) I love to take this opportunity to connect the science vocabulary with the conceptual idea they thought of. I have students pass out the worksheets to each student.
I introduce the worksheet and have them review the areas on it. I take student questions and help them create understanding of what the expectations are for each section.
I pass out books on animals and ask them to skim and scan them to determine animals that interest them as class pets. I then ask students to brainstorm ideas for a classroom animal they think would make a good pet. I write these on the board and then ask them to decide on a animal they will research and to write it on their papers.
Students begin researching and writing their information discovered on their worksheets. This will likely take more than one day to complete and will take assistance from you to help them identify research facts, webpages that give good information and books that answer some of the questions they have on their animals.
They add information to their worksheets and identify websites they used to find the information. I circulate and give helpful websites, ask leading questions and make sure that they respond to all the questions in the prompts
I have students share out which animal they are researching and one reason why they feel it would be a good choice for our classroom pet.
I ask them what was difficult with their research process? Students share and I ask what advice they can share with each other? I then ask What was interesting about their research?
Students keep their worksheets to be worked on and completed by the end of the week.