Anadromous fish, especially salmon, are a huge part of the local culture and history of the Pacific Northwest. I begin my unit on salmon by teaching my students about anadromous fish. I start the lesson by asking my students to share their experiences with salmon with an elbow partner. This allows each student to connect to their prior knowledge and to have their personal stories honored in the classroom. It is common to have many students who have gone fishing with family members for salmon, seen salmon in the local streams, and who have eaten salmon.
I then define the term 'anadromous fish' as a fish that spends part of its life in fresh water and part of its life in salt water. I write both the term and definition on the white board so that students can refer back to this throughout the lesson.
Because I know that students remember more of what they say and do, I then teach my students a song about anadromous fish. I have the students generate hand motions or gestures to accompany each part of the song. A video of my students signing the song can be found here.
Because my students have some prior experience with salmon, it is important that I understand both their knowledge of the topic and their misconceptions. I use an salmon anticipation guide to begin to uncover this information. I distribute the graphic organizer and ask students to predict the answers to the questions using their prior knowledge.
I then show a short video which shows student scientists engaged in a field study relating to salmon. The video contains the answers to all of the questions in the anticipation guide. I encourage students to revise answers on the organizer if they have answered a question incorrectly. This encourages students to be active listeners. This activity also models to the students the importance of revising ones thinking as new information is obtained. At the end of the video, I review the anticipation guide to ensure that all students have the right answers.
I then ask the students to turn their paper over and record any evidence they saw in the video to support the statement that salmon are anadromous fish. This activity prompts students to use evidence to support their thinking.
I close the lesson by asking students to write the definition of anadromous fish. We also sing the anadromous fish song to reinforce the key understanding of the lesson.