Next Generation Science Standard Connection
Now we begin the second lesson in a series of twelve lessons where the class is learning about animal defense mechanisms. We are focusing on the science standard is Next Generation Science Standard 1-LS1-2, which is about students reading about how animals use their external features to survive. In this lesson I am focusing on defense mechanisms of the horse and the chameleon. The first two lessons are really about exposing the class to the content, and allowing them to ask questions. Then later lessons enage the class in analyzing the text for similarities, and the students eventually write a paragraph. Basically, I am breaking down a standard into smaller pieces that my students can accomplish in one hour. The lessons build in complexity to allow the students to develop a deep undertanding of the standard.
In this lesson the students are asking and answering questions which connects to RI1.1. We are focusing in on the defense mechanisms, animals, and behavior of horses and chameleons.
This lesson also connects to SL1.1, due to the portion of the lesson where students present their work. This engages the class in an opportunity to practice their speaking and listening.
During the entire lesson the students work in collaborative groups I call, Peanut Butter Jelly Partner, and I have created a video to share the process. We also move around a lot, and you might like my video on transitions .
Basically the students create some questions and answer specific questions in the guided practice and the partner work section. For the guided practice the students use the article Horses:Fight vs. Flight by Betsy Greene and Pat Comerford, but for the partner work section we use Slow and Steady by Mark Gordon Brown.
Strategy: Changing Text Complexity
Now, I do not actually use these exact articles. I modify them by shortening sentences and changing words that I know will confuse my students. It's not that I want to lower the rigor, but I want my students to be able to comprehend the text. Also, we are going to echo read and long sentences do not work with echo reading. The students cannot find where the sentence starts, neither can I on long sentences. Last, the class engages in a reflection, presentations, and we close the lesson.
Now I want to excite the class, relate this lesson to the previous lesson, and assess their prior knowledge. To do this I project the lesson image on the board, because I am trying to help my students understand what a horse looks like. Then I ask the students to discuss the defense mechanisms of the horse, because I am assessing their prior knowledge. As they talk, I listen to see what they know. Then I share their conversations, and remind the class of our previous lesson about how kangaroos kick, paw, and run. Seahorses change colors or become camouflaged. I think it is important to get the class to remember what we studied in the previous lesson.
To make sure the class remembers the lesson goal we chant three times: I can ask and answer questions about defense mechanisms in animals.
Now the students move to their desks and I distribute one copy of the text about horses. We echo read the text to familiarize the class with the content and vocabulary. Echo reading is just me reading a sentence and the students reading it aloud after me. This is a nice strategy for first graders to learn new words, practice tracking, develop fluency, and build content knowledge. My first graders are actually beginning the process of reading to learn.
So, I ask the class to generate any questions they may have. Many first graders do not know the difference between a question and a statement. To help this problem I put words that questions begin with: who, what, when, where, why, how, is, are on the board. I tell my students to begin their sentence with one of these words. I write their questions on the board. I just pick two or three, and the students discuss the answer to each question with their partners. I actually have a video on partner talk: talk to partner strategy, so you can see what this looks like in my classroom. In addition, I have some fun ways to bring the class back to attention after they have been talking, and you may want to watch this video: fun ways to stop discussion.
So, I say, "Talk to your partner about one question you may have about the text?" After a minute, I say, "Will a volunteer share their question? Give me thumbs up if you agree that this is a question." Then I write the question on the board. A possible question might be, "How fast can horses run?" This is a question I expect and the answer is not in this text, and that is okay. But, I ask the class to show thumbs up if this is a question. I add it to the board, and the I say, "Now, reread the text and if you find the answer, highlight it. Well, they are going to see this answer is not there. So, I share that we can research that later. I am fostering their curiosity. Next I ask, "Who has another question?" I expect them to ask, "What is prey?" I say, "Show me thumbs up if you agree this is a question. Now, reread to see if you can find the answer. Well, once again it is not there, but I know these are two things they are going to ask me. But, they are asking relevant questions, and the students are becoming engaged. "We will find the answers to this question later today." Last, "Who can ask another question? Please share your question. If you agree this is a question show me thumbs up." I expect another question to be, "Why do horses usually run away from danger?" I say, "Now find the answer in the text." Somebody shares, "Horses evolved from small animals, so running away is their first reaction to stay alive." I ask, "Will you please share the text you found the answer in so we can all highlight it?" Then I highlight the text on the Smart Board while my students highlight the text on their paper.
After we have analyzed their questions, I add my question. I read my question, which is the same as the previous days question to help the students get practice answering the question.
I say, "How do horses protect themselves?" Then the students reread the text. I say, "Will a volunteer share their thoughts?" Then a student reads, "The horse runs, bites, kicks, strikes, or rears." Then we find the specific evidence in the text by highlighting it. I say, "Give me thumbs up if you agree this is the correct answer."
I find that first graders need a lot of repetition to develop their ability to answer questions. So, that is why I ask the same questions. This repetition build content knowledge and develops question answering skills.
This is the time for the students to move to the center tables and begin practicing analyzing the text about how chameleons defend themselves. First, I read the text to the class three times. Then I give the students the same questions from the previous day. I have my question written up on a document, so I can distribute them to the class.
How do chameleons protect themselves? I am really trying to reword my question to see if this helps the partner find the information.
As the class is working I walk around to who needs help. As I do this, I ask the students additional questions to help them get started. Some of my questions are:
What happens when chameleons get scared? (They move away.)
How do they change? (They they become camouflage.)
What do we call a color change? (camouflage)
At this point I allow my students to practice speaking, listening, and evaluating their peers' work. But before I do this, I set my expectations, I say, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps, talking no more. Your eyes are on the speaker, listen to the speaker, and think about what they are saying." After two or three students read their work: student presentation, the students listening are asked to give them academic feedback. Academic feedback is a higher order thinking activity where the students can analyze the content presented by their peers, which is difficult for children. In order to be able to analyze the information presented, they must know the defense mechanisms of the chameleon. If my student can evaluate their peers, I know they thoroughly understand the content. One example of feedback they might say is, "I agree that chameleons change color, because the text tells me so right here."
If none of the students can comment, I just add my own comments to serve as a model. Which brings me to the question, "How do I get them to really evaluate each other?" Well, I model peer evaluation, so they have some examples and can see what I am looking for. We go through presentation, peer evaluation, and modeling by me everyday. Sometimes I even specifically ask a certain person, "What do you think?" To keep from upsetting them I say, "Remember we are among friends. Just tell me if you agree with what was said?" Then I ask, "Will you tell me why?" After enough practice and modeling the students begin evaluating each other. I am very positive, and if they say something that is not correct I just bring it back to the text. We talk about the text, and the student realizes the answer. I think its the atmosphere where they feel comfortable to try and be wrong that allows me to get them to begin evaluating each other. I try to maintain a risk free atmosphere.
Now, I close the lesson and assess what my students have learned. So, I ask them to write one way animals protect themselves on a sticky note, and add it to the Tweet Board. This is the board filled with sticky notes: Tweet Board.
I am hoping they write: chameleons change color, horses run, rear, bite, and kick. Reminding the class to use inventive spelling, sound words out, or use a smiley face if they have no idea helps differentiate the instruction.
Last, we chant the lesson goal three times: I can ask and answer questions about animal defense mechanisms.