Birds Help Their Young Survive (Penguins)

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SWBAT determine patterns in penguins' behavior that help their offspring survive.

Big Idea

Birds protect their young in some cool ways! Kids love how penguin daddy's are on diaper duty, while mom goes to the "spa" to eat and play!

Field Guide (Instructional Notes)

Over the last few lessons, we learned about how different species of birds care for their young through articles and video clips.  Today, we focus on a really specialized bird with behavior adaptations that help its young survive-- the Emperor Penguin.  We watch how the parents care for their offspring and help them survive.  

Throughout this series of lessons, we add information to a Comparison Chart.  The bottom section of the comparison chart includes WOW facts.  This is where we record really unique facts, and it will help students complete the culminating task-- writing an opinion about which bird has the most interesting way to help its young survive.

In today's lesson, I start with a National Geographic Young Explorer online article.  I love having these magazines on-hand for students to reread, so my school orders them.  The online version is also free, which is great if your students have 1-to-1 devices!  I have structured the reading around Common Core ELA standard RI 1.2, identifying the main topic and retelling the key details.  We will be recording our details on the comparison chart.  

We follow-up with a video about baby Emperor Penguins.  In this case, a video is great to help students visualize the habitat-- especially the cold winds and ice!  

Finally, students complete a retell of a key detail about how Emperor Penguins care for their young.

Take-off (Warm-up)

5 minutes

Throughout this unit, we have recorded our observations and understandings on a KLEWS chart, which is a science-specific type of KWL.  I refer students to our current guiding question.

We are asking the question, "How do parent birds take care of their young?"  

I also want to tell students the culminating event.  I explain that they will be writing an opinion about which bird has the most unique (interesting or special) way that they help their offspring survive.  I read the 3 previous birds.  

I wonder, if we wrote an opinion now and had to choose puffins, cranes, or eagles, which would you pick?

I ask students to raise their hands for the bird they pick.  Then, I tell them that perhaps today's bird will change their opinion altogether!  This gets them intrigued!

We learned a few days ago that Gentoo Penguins build nests of rocks!  Remember how we thought that would be so uncomfortable!  Today we'll be looking at a different kind of penguin, the Emperor Penguin.

I uncover the Emperor Penguin on our Comparison Chart.  I ask students for any schema they have about Emperor penguins.  

For today's lesson, I use a flipchart to display aspects of the lesson and embed video links.  I have also provided a display version for you, in case your school uses a different version of projection software.

Soaring to New Heights (Exploration)

20 minutes

Next, together we will read an article about Emperor Penguin chicks in National Geographic Young Explorer.  I love to have the paper copies on-hand, but if your school doesn't yet order them, there is a free online magazine edition.  First, I set the purpose for reading:

As we read today, we will be looking for key details about how adult Emperor Penguins help their chicks survive.

I facilitate a shared reading of the text, pausing to note key details on our Comparison Chart.  For example, we learn that Emperor Penguins DO NOT build nests!  I put an "X" in the nest row. Then, we add to the WOW section that the dads hold the eggs on their feet!   We also note that only the dad takes care of the egg.  I also ask for students to compare the adult and baby.  How are they the same and how are they different?  This moves students towards NGSS standard 1-LS3-1.

In first grade, not only do my students need lots of movement breaks, but they also learn through movement.  I incorporated movement in today's lesson to reinforce the key details (here we are being penguins) and later to reinforce the vocabulary word huddle.

Next, I transition to the video clip.  

The article has me wondering lots of things, like why doesn't the mom care for the egg?  Why doesn't the mom feed the chick?  How can we find out *more* information?  (In a video!)

We watch a video clip that really helps put students right into the habitat of Emperor Penguins.  This video reinforces the key details from the article, like penguin chicks huddling to stay warm.  This is a behavior of the offspring that helps it survive.  It also shows the transfer of the egg to dad's feet, and how dad's belly flap folds over the baby.  Plus, we learn why mom is an absentee!   


After watching, we update the WOW section of our Comparison Chart with some new information from the video.  

In creating the Comparison Chart, I added a WOW section because sometimes when we read, a fact really jumps out at us!  Students can't wait to share it with everyone they know, "Wow!  Did you know that penguins..."  In my school when we read nonfiction text and take notes, we always have a WOW section too!  Many schools use thinking codes during ELA, and a "!" symbol written on a sticky note signifies that the reader was amazed by this part of the story.  What I like about validating the WOW factor is that even if the fact doesn't necessarily support the main idea (or whatever skill we are working on), it is definitely one of the facts that the student is going to walk away with.  WOW facts stick in your brain!

Landing (Closing)

5 minutes

For the conclusion of today's lesson, I come back to the RI 1.2 standard that our shared reading was based upon.  This standard asks for students to retell key details.  I ask students to record at least one key detail of how Emperor Penguins help their offspring in their Science Journals.  

I have also provided a response sheet you could use, or you can use plain old lined paper too!  At the bottom, I provided a picture of both a penguin and a chick.  I am going to print these worksheets in color, and I am also going to display the pictures on my Whiteboard.  Students will compare the photos and state one way the parent and baby are similar, and one way they are different.  

Note: This year, I actually used the response sheets instead of science notebooks for the lessons on offspring.  While teaching this lesson, though, I felt like I needed to change-up the worksheet experience since there are four consecutive lessons that pretty much mirror one another.  I decided to let students pick partners and write together in a place of their choosing in our room.  Just this bit of flexibility helped avoid some groans!  In retrospect, I wished I had printed the adult and offspring photos and had students record in their science journals.

Here is some student work: