**This lesson takes 3-4 days to complete**
Now that students understand what a habitat is and have looked at a few in their immediate surroundings from the previous lesson, we are going to use different media and books to learn more about some that we cannot visit ourselves! Students may know about a few animals that live in places like the desert and the forest, but lots of times they only know one or two and they may have misconceptions about those habitats. One really important experience for me as a teacher was when I visited the desert in Nevada, which I expected to be hot and dry --because that is what I had always been taught. However, we visited in March and it actually snowed while we drove through the desert! That made me realize that I need to know the content and also make sure not to make many generalizations about habitats because they may not be accurate! In this lesson, the students learn for themselves some of the things about these key habitats. Essential Standard 1.L.1.2 states that students are to "give examples of how the needs of different plants and animals can be met by their environments in North Carolina or different places throughout the world". By examining and learning about lots of diverse habitats, students will be able to tie their knowledge of the basic needs of plants and animals to the characteristics of each habitat/environment. Click here to find out why I teach the Essential Standards.
I list a guiding question, both as a science tag which is glued in the student's journals and on the board. This is required by my county but I find it helpful because it keeps me on track with the objective during the lesson. It also gives the students an immediate explanation of what we are learning for the day, and it provides a natural way to conclude the lesson by revisiting and answering the question at the end. The question today is, "What is a habitat? What are some examples of habitats around the world?"
*Lots of books about lots of habitats
*Large sheets of white construction paper (11" x 18" provides lots of space to work on)
*Markers, pencils, colored pencils, crayons
To spark students' interest, I show this video of different animals in a variety of habitats. Then I say,
"Before we talk about different kinds of habitats, we need to know what the word 'habitat' means. Raise your hand if you think you can tell us what a 'habitat' is?"
As a class, we develop a working definition of the word. As my students answer what they think it is, I make sure we include 'living organisms', 'plants', and 'animals' in the definition. Once we agree on what a habitat is, I write it at the top of a new anchor chart. This is the key term that I am introducing today so I want to make sure I have explicitly defined it with students.
"I know yesterday I got you all wondering about which habitat we will learn about today. What were some of your guesses?"
I listen to their answers to see which habitats they may already have some background knowledge about. As they give me examples, I add them to the anchor chart. Then I say,
"Well, you are all correct! We are going to learn about lots of different habitats today because you are each going to choose one and become an expert about it, and then share back with the class what you learned! Now, think about the video we just watched and raise your hand if you can think of a habitat you saw. Let's write a list of all the ones we can think of".
Students are going to choose a habitat that they are interested in and create poster with information about it that they can share with the class tomorrow. They have accurate spellings of the habitats now on the anchor chart that will stay up during this unit. That will assist them if they look things up on the internet, too.
I think it is important to give students time to look at different choices before selecting one habitat to focus on, so I put my students in 3 random groups and give them all of the habitat books I have in my classroom. I say,
"Before you select the habitat that you will become an expert on, take some time and look at some choices of what you can study. We'll take about 10 minutes and you can just look to see what you are interested in".
As students look at the books, I walk around and help with unknown words, talk to students about what type of habitat they may want to learn about, and assist with sharing books between the three groups. Watch my students work! After about 10 minutes, I start to ask individuals what their choice is for their poster, then I transition the group to focusing on the habitat they chose.
To make sure that the work the students do today is meaningful, I need to set expectations for their model, which supports Science and Engineering Practice 2 - Developing and Using Models. I say,
"Lots of the things we have learned about recording information in our journals also applies when you are creating a model. Today, the model you create of the habitat is going to be an informative poster. The information on it should be accurate - that means correct. As you work, if you are unsure if something should go on your poster, what should you do?"
Students should verbalize and understand that they can ask other children for help or ask me. I would rather they ask than to put incorrect information on their posters! Then, I show them the model rubric that should guide them and I explain it to them. This might be the first time they have seen a "Quality Work Rubric", so I want to make sure they fully understand my expectations.
After students have selected their habitat that they want to learn about, I guide them towards books that they can sort through and use. If multiple students choose the same habitat and they choose to work together, I allow that but remind them that they are each responsible for their own poster.
*This section may takes multiple days!*
My students have had a lot of practice finding information in non-fiction texts in other lessons about animals, so I expect them to spend some time independently learning about the habitats. Since I have some non-readers, I make sure that lots of the texts are picture and photograph heavy. I also make sure that the texts have real information and not fantasy elements of the habitats so that my students get accurate information. Science and Engineering Practice 8 states that students will 'read grade appropriate texts and/or media to obtain scientific and/or technical information to determine evidence about the natural and/or designed world(s)'.
As students begin to work on their poster plan, I am available for questions and to help. This is not an assessment, so I add information, question students about what they put on their posters, and support them in finding new information and resources as they work.
Science and Engineering Practice 2, Developing and Using Models, includes drawing diagrams and drawings in K-2. Providing opportunities for students to practice these skills are integral in first grade - and they love drawing animals and habitats! To support this practice, I really emphasize to students that their diagrams and drawings are as accurate as possible for first graders. This happens by talking to students as they work, asking them to clarify what is in their drawings and diagrams, and by modeling for them. Therefore, once the students have started their posters and are ready for more information, I call them to the carpet without any supplies - so they can concentrate - and say,
"Let's talk about the difference between a diagram and a picture, and what quality diagrams and pictures look like in science. Also, how do captions help to explain your diagrams and pictures?"
I show an example of student work that I have already selected and we discuss the quality of their work, and how to add a caption. Then, I release them to continue working on their posters. As students finish their Poster Plan, I provide the larger paper for their actual poster. Planning out the spatial design of a poster is pretty tough for first graders because most of them have not done this before, so I spend quite a bit of time with them talking about how to lay out their information. I reference other posters we have up in the room and encourage them to write neatly, use appealing colors, and make sure they have room for all of the information before they start to write.
After my students have finished their posters, they need to share them! Science and Engineering Practice 8 states that students will 'Communicate information or design ideas and/or solutions with others in oral and/or written forms using models, drawings, writing, or numbers that provide detail about scientific ideas, practices, and/or design ideas'. To do this, I say to students,
"We are going to communicate our new information by sharing our posters with other classes in the school. To do this, you are going to practice what you will say about your poster and then I will record you. We can put the videos online and share the link with other teachers, who can share it with their students! You will be teaching the whole school about your habitat!"
I model with one student's poster how to introduce the topic, tell 1-2 interesting facts, and point out important graphics. Then I say,
"With your partner, talk about what important information you are going to share on your video, then I will record you one at a time".
As I record students (which may occur later during the day, not necessarily during our science lesson), I ask them to run through a 'practice' presentation before actually recording them. This provides a great 1 on 1 opportunity for me to assess my students' content knowledge about habitats!
**Make sure you have permission to post any student images/work online! An alternative to this would be to have another class visit and listen to your students talk about their poster!**