Next Generation Science Standard Connection
This lesson meets 1-SL-2 and RI1.1, because the students are reading and answering a question about how animals use their external features to stay alive. The students have already read several articles about defense mechanisms, so now we are digging deep into two text in order to develop a deeper conceptual understanding of the ways animals survive and protect themselves in the wild. I have selected four animals that we begin to deeply analyze to determine their specific defense mechanisms and write a sentence including those.
Writing is just one way to apply their knowledge, and eventually we are going to create a paragraph about the similarities in the kangaroo and horse. Then in the partner work the pairs find the similarities between the seahorse and the chameleon. But, for this lesson we simply find the defense mechanisms of the kangaroo in the guided practice and the seahorse in the partner practice. Now in a previous lesson we asked and answered question about these text, but this topic was so new to my students I wanted to explore more content, and then come back to the first text to really analyze the specific defense mechanisms. I do find that a great deal of repetition, repeated reading, and application activities are what help my students build the desired content knowledge.
In addition throughout the lesson the class works in small groups, we have a lot of collaboration, talking, and the students present their work. In addition to presenting their work they have to verbally evaluate the work of their peers. I actually assess their speaking and evaluation skills at this time. Evaluation is a higher order thinking skill and it can be quite challenging for the students to determine if their peers are making accurate statements from the text about the appropriate ways these animals behave to stay alive.
In the guided practice of this lesson we are going to determine the defense mechanisms of the kangaroo and write a sentence. Now we have already read this text, but we are revisiting it to deepen our understanding and begin the process of writing about content. The website that has the article is Wildlife Fun for Kids and the article is Fauna Foot Friday: Its Time to Meet Kangaroo Feet by Penny Whitehouse. In the partner work section of the lesson I use Seahorse Camouflage by Natalie Gibb and the students write a sentence listing the defense mechanisms of seahorses. These sentences are used in later lessons for writing a paragraph.
I have a lot of strategies that make this lesson flow smoothly. First of all, heterogeneous groups work well and I make a video: peanut butter jelly partner to share how the groups work. Then we move: transitions around frequently to keep the class engaged. In addtion, I try to make things fun, and I have to have a way to stop all the discussion once it begins. So, check out my videos on partner talk: talk to partner strategy and getting the class to stop talking: fun ways to stop discussion.
In this section I try to excite my class, engage them, and assess their prior knowledge. To excite them I usually project the lesson image on the Smart Board, because my students love technology. Then I ask them to discuss several defense mechanisms we have learned about, because I want to connect this lesson to previous learning. I listen because this is the time when I assess their prior knowledge. One very real defense mechanism we have read about might be getting sprayed by a skunk, slimed, or having an animal explode on you.
Then I share the plan for the lesson, because students need to know what is going to be expected of them. Last, we chant the lesson goal, so the class remembers the focus of the lesson. I can write a sentence about how the kangaroo and the seahorse use their external body features to stay alive.
As this section begins I give every child a copy of the text, and I project it on the Smart Board in case I need to reference a specific word. I read the text to the class three times to get them familiar with the content, and then I share my one question.
"What are the defense mechanisms for the kangaroo. What do they do to stay alive? Talk to your partner and when you think you have an idea raise your hand. Remember the answer must be in the text." I wait at least on minute. "If you found one defense mechanism please highlight it with any color you choose." Choices and highlighters really excite my class.
"Please share you thoughts." One child may say, "They hop away." I say, "If you agree show thumbs up. Okay, we agree. Will you please tell us where you found the information?" The child, "It is in the third bullet." I say, "Will you please read it to us, and we can all highlight it." Now, I highlight it on the Smart Board, and I walk around to make sure each child has found the text evidence. "Please make sure your partner found the information."
Then I say, "Let's find some more ways they protect themselves. Did anyone find another way? Great. Will you please share?" They may say, "They jab or lack forearms." Then I start with, "If you agree please show thumbs up. Great. Where did you find that?" The child says, "The fourth bullets tells me the information." Then I begin again, "Please highlight the text as I do, and make sure your partner found the sentence too."
Next, I ask, "Are there other ways they use their body to stay alive? Can anyone find another way? Great." They last reason is they kick with their legs. I ask, "Will you please give thumbs up if you agree. Now, that we all agree please tell us where you found the information." The child says, "It is on the fifth bullet down." I begin, "Please highlight the sentence, check to see that your partner did too, and I will highlight on the board."
Now, I say, "I need us to create a sentence stating the three defense mechanisms for the kangaroo." Then, I read the three highlighted sentences. I ask,"How can we put this information in to a sentence? Talk to your partner."
I begin with, "Does anyone have a sentence." Hopefully somebody will say, "They run away, hit with their front arms, and kick with their legs."
This is the time when I begin by reading the article about the seahorse. Reading the text aloud is one way I scaffold the instruction, because some of my students cannot read the text at this point in the year. The students each have the text in front of them, and they are seated beside their peanut butter jelly partner. So, they work together after I read the text. I tell the students they need to find a similar way the seahorse and the chameleon defend themselves. Their answer can be a listed, bullets, or a sentence. Choices are motivating, because the students select their preference. It shows them that I value their feelings. Then, I walk around and watch to see who needs help getting started.
I often start helping too early, and my class is very verbal. One day a child said, "I am thinking." I was like, "Sorry, I guess I need to give you more think time." Some struggle is good, but it should not get frustrating. If a group struggles I just sit down with them and begin rereading the text, since they just heard the question they will be looking for the answer. I might ask, "What words might you listen or look for to help you find the answer?" I may say, "Look for the word "changing," and then reread the first two sentences. If that does not help, I will begin deleting words from the sentence with the answer to make the sentence more clear. I just mark out words they are struggling with. One student talking to her partner is on this video: student discourse.
Now is the time the class loves most, because they get to read their work to the class. But, I select three students and I keep up with this so everyone gets a chance. I assess their ability to speak clearly, and evaluate the content presented on my spreadsheet. I just put a check or minus for speaking clear and giving an accurate evaluation. So, I am looking to see the students speak loud, clear, and recognize correct and incorrect content. They must realize that the seahorse changes color, and we call this camouflage. Remembering to keep the content at the focus of this section is important to the students gaining knowledge.
Now, my first graders often have the wiggles and they speak very softly. So, I have this little chant that goes, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps talking no more. Your eyes are on the speaker, you are listening, and think about what the speaker is saying." I do have to remind each speaker to speak loud before they go. Sometimes I video them and immediately show the class the clip on the ipad. Then I ask, "What do you think?" So many times they say, "Wow, you can't hear me." I say, "So, what are you going to work on?" This is usually a issue we encounter in the first part of the year.
Now, I do want to share how I teach the students to evaluate their peers. It is really by modeling, questioning, and basically begging them to just try. So, when I am sure they are ready to comment I say, "Does anyone want to give some academic feedback?" If they just look at me then I begin begging, "Oh, come on, try. This is a risk free atmosphere. I am not perfect, but I try. So, just try. Why do you agree or disagree with what you friend said?" Then, no matter what they say, I encourage them and if it is wrong I just redirect them to the text. I say, "Let's look at the text again and make sure."
As the lesson winds down we need to see what my students know, and remind them of the lesson goal. So, I found this really cool app called Plickers. I put my question on the Smart Board and each child has a Plicker card. The question is: What is one defense mechanism of the seahorse?
A. punching B. kicking C. sliming D. camouflage (changing color)
Then I use the camera on the app to scan the cards. It takes about 15 second to do the entire room. The program sends the data to my account and I can plan instruction for the students that did not know the answer.
Last, we chant the lesson goal: I can write a sentence about how the kangaroo and the seahorse use their external body features to stay alive.