Feet-- They Aren't Just for Walking

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Objective

SWBAT ask and answer questions about how adaptations to an external part-- feet-- help birds meet their needs to survive.

Big Idea

Wouldn't it be amazing if our feet helped us walk upside-down, catch fish, and even find a mate? Teach your students about birds' fantastic feet!

Field Guide (Instructional Notes)

In this lesson, we continue unpacking NGSS standard 1-LS1-1 Use materials to design a solution to a human problem mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.  Wow!  That's a complicated standard!  When we break it down into a manageable progression of lessons, the first step is to define external parts.  Then, we focus on how external parts help animals survive.

In the first few lessons of this unit, we addressed adaptations to bird beaks, which help them meet their needs for eating food.  In this lesson, we learn about adaptations to birds' feet that help them meet needs in their environment, like finding food. 

First, students will use observations to answer the question, "Are all bird feet the same?"  Then, we will ask the question, "Why are bird feet different sizes and shapes?"  We will observe photographs to help us draw conclusions, and then we will read a text to learn key details about how different types of feet help birds meet their needs.   

Finally, students will construct an explanation of why birds have different feet sizes and shapes. Students today fulfill the Science Practice #1 asking and answering questions, and #6 constructing explanations of natural phenomena.  This lesson also addresses the Crosscutting Concept of Patterns, as the size and structure of birds' feet follow a pattern based on their habitat and eating needs.

Throughout this unit, I use a KLEWS chart to track student learning.  It's a science-specific kind of Anchor Chart.  Here is some more information about how to set up and use a KLEWS chart

Take-off (Warm-up)

5 minutes

The NGSS standards call for students to make observations.  While I cannot bring multiple species of birds into the classroom, we're going to use the next best thing-- photographs!  What's great about photographs is that they don't move around, so it makes it easy to observe features closely.

Today, I display photographs of 4 birds with very different feet on my whiteboard.  If you do not have a projection capacity, I suggest printing out the pictures and having students discuss them in small groups of 3-4.  

I connect to prior lessons by saying, "We have been studying different bird beaks and we have learned how different bird beaks help birds eat the kind of food they like best."  Next, I set the purpose for today's learning by breaking down the objective, "Today we will ask and answer questions about how adaptations to an external part-- feet-- help birds meet their needs to survive."  I review the vocabulary word, adaptations, which is on our class KLEWS chart.  An adaptation is a unique way that an animal changes over time in order to help it meet its needs to survive.  A KLEWS chart is a science-specific type of KWL chart.  It is used as an anchor chart throughout a unit to track our learning.

I read the labels of each birds' name.  Then, I invite students to turn-and-talk as they observe the feet in the photographs.  I ask, "What is the same and what is different about the birds' feet?  Why do you think they are different?"  These questions will guide our learning throughout the lesson, and they result in our culminating answer-- that bird feet have specific traits to help birds meet specific feeding and habitat needs.  This open discussion allows students to make inferences.  I support many different ideas and theories, and we talk in every subject about how we respect each others' ideas. 

After students have shared their thinking with one another, I ask for volunteers to share their thinking.  I encourage students to point to specific parts of the photographs as they share and to use the names of the birds from the labels.  

On the KLEWS chart, the E stands for Evidence and Observations.  Here I write our observation that, "Birds have different sizes, colors, and shapes of feet."  In today's Exploration, we will learn the science behind why birds have adapted in these ways.

Soaring to New Heights (Exploration)

20 minutes

Now, I read a text about bird feet.  There are texts and articles online, but they do not use grade-appropriate terminology, clear photographs, or simplicity in presentation.  I created this text specifically for first graders.  

This text is arranged with a questioning slide, followed by the answer.  This text structure helps reinforce today's objective and the scientific practice of asking and answering questions.  One of the most important ways we can teach students to be critical thinkers is to develop their ability to make inferences.  Inferring, or making smart guesses based on evidence, requires higher-level thinking skills.  I make it clear to my students that it's okay if their answer isn't "correct."  What is important is that they use evidence.  For example, a student may see footprints in the sand (evidence) and infer that a seagull make them because they have seen seagulls at the beach (prior knowledge). This is a good inference, whether the feet belong to a seagull or not. 

During reading, I have students turn-and-talk every time we come to a new photograph with the words, "What do these feet do?"  I ask students to predict/infer how the feet help a bird meet its needs.  Here's a video clip of 2 friends making predictions!  The turn-and-talk strategy is a great way to improve conversation in your room, and to give all students a chance to share.  It also gives more quiet students opportunities to share in a safer way with a partner, rather than in front of the whole class.  While students talk, I make sure everyone has a partner.  Then, I listen in for unique ideas that can take our discussion farther.  I call on 3-4 students to share their ideas before going to the next page of the text.

On the explanation page, I help students connect the words to the photographs.  For example, the photographs show ducks swimming and the water rippling.  That matches the words that webbed feet help them swim.

At the end of the text there are 2 pages with questions.  Now, I am expecting students to have evidence from their observations of photographs and the text to answer the questions.  I follow the turn-and-talk strategy to have them answer the questions:

  • What is the same about birds' feet?
  • What is different about birds' feet?  Why is it different?

Next, I use a website to help reinforce our new learning about the why's of adaptation.  On this website, as your mouse hovers on bird illustrations, a close-up drawing of the foot and a statement about its use pops up.  Although these are illustrations and not photographs, the text is a great addition to student learning.  

Through the two texts, we have reached the conclusion that birds' feet are different in order to help them meet their needs for food or survival in their habitat.  We add this information under the "L" New Learning section on the KLEWS chart.

Landing (Closing)

5 minutes

In today's closing, I address the Crosscutting Concept of patterns in nature.  Previously, we determined that bird beaks have specific adaptations that follow a pattern based on the food that the bird eats.  In today's lesson, we have learned that specific foot adaptations help birds meet their needs to survive in their habitat.

I start by reviewing the beaks pattern on the KLEWS chart.  Then, I tell students that scientists use patterns in nature to make predictions.  

Next, I show pictures of types of birds, such as all ducks or all birds of prey.  Can students spot the patterns?  Can students verbalize that all ducks have webbed feet, which helps them swim?  Swimming is one of their needs in order to find food.  I have students turn-and-talk, and then share their responses for each set of photographs.  I add the pattern to the KLEWS chart under "S" Science.

Pattern in nature: Bird foot shape and size is a pattern in the natural world—use foot types even with unknown birds, and you can make a smart guess about what they eat or where they live.