I sometimes start my lessons with a riddle or a question to get my students thinking about what the lesson will be. At first, they guess, but as the year goes on they realize that before we can answer we must gather evidence, which is what they do in this lesson.
Though all of the animals in this lesson are mammals, they are vastly different because of their traits. I use a power point in order to get the students engaged. I want them to share their thoughts and sharing in groups or pairs is a great way for them to do this without any stress.
I used a PowerPoint, Mammals Inherited traits, during this lesson because it helps all of my learners. Using a powerpoint enabled me to differentiate during a whole group lesson. My visual learners, my not on grade level readers and my English Language Learners really benefit from this format. I incorporated one of the slides as a graphic organizer, Giraffe Squirrel Have can are, to help them identify the traits. I also used the slide from the power point to facilitate the sharing of information. Using these types of organizers lends itself very nicely when writing about animals. I usually reduce the size of the organizers I use, Whales have can are, when I copy and this way they can glue it right into their notebooks, no muss, no fuss.
Academic language used when writing about non fiction topics is essential to the Common Core as well as the Next Generation Science Standards. After discussing the many different characteristics found in animals, the students wrote a short essay using the can, has, are, format used in the graphic organizer and then added a concluding sentence. I used a rubric, Animals Have inherited Traits Rubric, to assess their work, I like to use http://rubistar.4teachers.org/ for my rubrics. The site gives you suggested wording if you need or want it, it's free and easy to use.
Depending on the group, the writing may take longer, for that reason, I have, at times, used this as part of my Writing block as well as my Science block. I created these two templates, Animals Inherit Traits From Parents, Mammal Inherited Traits, that they used for their writing and display.
I always have students complete the essay, and then we edit it together, using the rubric, which is immensely helpful because as they become more fluent writers they can begin editing in their own or with a peer.
As students finish their work, Mammals inherited traits Student Sample, they hang their work on our Science Gallery bulletin board. This gives them a chance to see how others approached the same work and they can discuss it as well. For those early finishers, I have a basket with books on mammals that they love to go through. They add post-its to any information that they didn't know before, and then when the next person reads the book, they can add to it or leave an additional comment.
At the end of the day, as an extension, I read Do You Know about Mammals? .