Observations of Meerkat Offsprings and Survival

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SWBAT identify how the meerkat uses its external features to help its offspring survive.

Big Idea

Combine information text and videos to bring science into the classroom.

Setting The Stage

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

In this lesson I am trying to meet the expectations of 1-LS1-1 which is about determining the external features that parents use to promote the survival of their offspring. Before teaching the class about parents and offsprings, I did teach several lessons where the students observed mature animals and analyzed their behavior. I find that breaking the standard down into pieces makes learning much more easy for my students. It might be overwhelming for the class if I began the unit analyzing parents and offsprings. 

Lesson Overview

The first thing I like to do is get the class excited by showing them the lesson image. Then we watch a video, I read a excerpt called Meerkat and Ranger Rick, and we watch more videos in the elaborate section of the lesson. I like to use media and text, because I want to teach my class to learn from listening and reading. Next the students explain their new knowledge, and last we evaluate their work.

We transition frequently, so we start off in the lounge for the engage section. Then for the explore section we move to the center of the room and the students are seated in groups of four. During the explain and elaborate section the class is at the center tables. Finally, I finish the lesson in the lounge, and the students evaluate their peers work.




10 minutes

First I assess my students knowledge and ability to make connections to previous learning. So, I say, "Talk to your partner about how animals we have studied use their external features to help their offspring survive." As I listen to assess their prior knowledge I hope the students mention things that the previous animals we have studied did like: running away, standing between the predator and the offspring, or using a vocal call. But, whatever they say I share their conversations and ask a volunteer to share their conversation. 

Then, I want to excite my class and I do this by showing the class the video.

 Then I share, "Theses are real scientists in the field studying the meerkat behavior. We are going to study their behavior through video and record our observations. Then we will make some conclusions about how the meerkat interacts with its offspring to help them survive." 


15 minutes

During this section I want to attempt to involve the class in an opportunity to learn from reading. Then I pose some questions for the class to answer. Since, many students cannot read the text, I read it aloud to them. Teaching first graders to learn from reading instead of reading to learn is a fun approach to incorporate reading in science.

I first read some excerpts called Meerkat and Ranger Rick. So, I begin by reading the fourth and fifth paragraph under the Meerkat link. Then I ask the class, "How do meerkats travel and why? (They go in a group, because it is safer.)  Then I look a their notes to assess my students knowledge, and ask them to record their new information in their t-chart in their science notebook. 

Then I ask, "How do they watch for danger? Where fo they go?" I keep an eye on my students notes and am just asking these question to prompt their note taking. Sense I know they might struggle with spelling I say, "Just sound out whatever you want to say, or make a one word note."

I then read the whole Ranger Rick article to the class. Then I ask them to discuss, "Who cares for the babies when the parents are out hunting?" (They have a babysitter.) Then I ask, "How do they avoid attack by a predator?" (They have a guard on look out, and they bark or whistle.) "How do they help the offspring learn to hunt?" (They give them a partically killed animal.)


10 minutes

Now the students have notes I walk around and look at their papers to assess what they noticed. We have a word wall, to help them spell. As I am making my observations, I ask, "Will you please explain what you noticed about how the meerkat uses its external features to help its offspring survive. What did you the parent do?" Then I listen. After the students finish talking I ask, "Will a volunteer explain what they learned?" Then I ask, "Will somebody add to that? Agree or disagree and tell us why?"




20 minutes

At this point the class is going to learn from watching several videos and making observations. They record their observation on the t-chart in their science journal. We are adding to our notes that we gathered from the text. After each video I ask a question to prompt the class on what observation was important. I may need to replay the video after I state the question to help the class focus on the important observation.

"What does the mother do to protect her babies?" (She keeps them in the middle of the group.) "What other animals does this?" (Elephant)


"How do they keep the offspring safe during feeding?" (One goes and looks for predators from a tall spot.)

"How do they travel to maintain safety?" (in a group)

"How is this meerkat trying to protect the youngsters by moving them?" (He is moving them and has a babysitter to watch them.) Stop the video around three minutes.

I put what we learned in the explain section discussion in black on the t-chart I made on the board, but after the evaluation I add the video note in red. This gives me a model t-chart with all of my student notes. So, here is what we came up with: board work. I add the red when the lesson is over, after the evaluation section. I think it is nice to see here, because the notes relate directly to the video. These notes are what I am hoping the class gets out of the lesson.


15 minutes

At this point I select two to three groups to present their work to the class. I have a chart and we do rotate who presents, so everyone gets the same number of turns. But, since everyone wants to present everyday I usually allow more presentations during snack or at recess. 

Now, I have noticed that first graders tend to struggle with sitting still and listening. So, it is in my best interest if I use some proactive strategies to get my students to cooperate. I say, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in your laps, talking no more." If they want to chant it with me it is fine, but this is optional. Then I say, "Remember to keep your eyes on the speaker, think about what they are saying, and be prepared to give your peer academic feedback." 

It seems like the students are either shy or just afraid to participate early in the school year, so I do a ton of modeling. I also find that I seem to resort to begging at times I say, "Remember we are all friends. Simply agree or disagree with your peers. Then tell us why."  I also find that sometimes first graders give random comments, so when this happens I listen attentively. Then I redirect them with a question. "So, do you agree or disagree."I actually made a video explaining my strategies for peer evaluation: peer evaluation.

It is important to assess the student learning by looking at their notes in their science journal, and by listening to the groups present. If their data is accurate based on our reading and videos I know they got it, but if they add things that were prior knowledge or not in the video or text I know we need more work. I expect some groups to just not be able to identify the behavior as a way to help the offspring survive, so this is my challenge to be sure they all get it. My goal is to see at least three behavior notes that are correct in their notes, and in the presentations. My other goal is to get at least two evaluations that are on topic. This video is of a presentation and evaluation.