In addition to exploring the basic needs of birds to support the Essential Standards for this lesson, I am introducing the concept of "distinguishing between opinions and evidence in one's own explanations", supporting Science and Engineering Practice 7, for the first time this school year. To do this, students must first understand what opinions are and how they differ from fact based evidence. We start with a quick introduction to facts and opinions about the other animal classes we have already learned about starting with this lesson, then the students focus in on bird features and basic needs.
This lesson also supports Science and Engineering Practice 8 because students are engaging in multiple levels of communication throughout this lesson, including whole group oral discourse on the carpet with me and discussion with a partner.
*1 copy of Fact and Opinion statements for teacher use
*1 copy per partner team (plus extras!) of Fact and Opinion T-chart
*1 copy per partner team (plus extras!) of Fact and Opinion statements about birds
To begin this lesson, I read this website with my students to quickly address the features of birds. My students are already familiar with the features of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, so they know what to expect as far as the features and they are already familiar with vocabulary such as 'warm-blooded' and 'cold-blooded'. This part of the lesson goes fairly quickly as I introduce the features and add them to our anchor chart which lists the features of all of the animal classes. Then, we watch this video to further introduce features of birds.
Then, as an introduction to Fact or Opinion, I have prepared 5 statements about other animal classes that are ready to read and discuss. I say,
"Facts are statements that are true and can be proven with evidence, like 'Some reptiles lay eggs'. We know that is true because we can observe reptiles laying eggs. Opinions are statements about what we think, like 'Squirrels are the cutest mammals'. That is an opinion because note everybody might agree with it! Let's try some out!".
I read each statement one at a time and have students give a thumbs up or thumbs down for each one by asking whether each was a Fact or Not a Fact,
"Is this a fact - thumbs up or thumbs down? You are right - it is a fact that amphibians lay eggs in water".
Asking fact or opinion with thumbs up/thumbs down sometimes gets confusing for my students because they forget which one is which, so I stick with the yes/no when I use thumbs up/thumbs down. This transfers over easily to fact/opinion because all first graders understand opinions!!
When most students have a good understanding of fact and opinion, we move on. If students do not fully understand the difference I make sure to support them during the activity section of the lesson.
Birds are truly amazing and diverse animals and students will explore some of the amazing truths about birds through this activity. It is important that students distinguish between the words 'all' and 'some' for this lesson, because not all birds have the same features or satisfy their needs the same way. I write 'all' and 'some' on the board. I say,
"Before I explain the activity, I need to make sure that you are aware of two words that you will see a lot today - 'all' and 'some'. Not all animals have the exact same features and not all birds do either. When we use 'all', we mean every single one of something, like 'we all need food to survive'. When we use 'some', we mean that only part of the group needs something, like, 'some of us each meat and some of us don't'. Can one person give an example of 'all'? Can one person give an example of 'some'?"
Then, I explain the t-chart to students. I say,
"A T-chart is one way to sort information. For this activity, you will sort some statements about birds on a T-chart. On one side of the chart it reads 'Fact' and the other side reads 'Opinion'. Your job, with your partner, is to read each statement and decide if you think it is a fact or an opinion about birds, cut it out, and glue it under either 'fact' or 'opinion'. You can use the books and our anchor charts around the room and you can talk to each other to decide where to place each statement. Now, what if you don't know?"
This activity is designed to engage students in both critical thinking about the statements and to build independence from the teacher, so I want to give students enough support with resources that they won't come to me about every statement! To do this, we start a quick anchor chart. I say,
"Let's make a list of resources we can use when we are not sure of something in science. You're right, we can use books. Yes, we can use our partner's thinking, too! Could you use entries in your science journal from before this lesson? Let's add 'science journal entries', too. As we work if you think of something we could add to our list of resources, let me know and we can add it! Any questions about the activity?"
Then, I show students their assigned partner on the Smart Board (chart paper would work). I selected these teams carefully, ensuring that there is at least one student in the partnership who can read the statements in order to guide the activity.
As students work today, I walk around and work with students, listening to their conversation and helping them if they get stuck.
This activity is a precursor to really understanding Science and Engineering Practice 7 which describes students listening to and agreeing or disagreeing with arguments based on fact based evidence. In order for students to eventually make and defend their own evidence based claims, they need to have a firm understanding of evidence based facts and opinions and this lesson supports development of that understanding.
Here are some examples of student work:
After about 15 minutes when students have glued each statement to one side of their T-chart, I use a transition phrase to get their attention and ask them to leave their work at their desk, put away their glue and scissors, and to meet me back on the carpet with their science journals and pencils. Many of my students feel that they must change their answers as we discuss things if they got it wrong. To emphasize the point that we can discuss our answers and it is okay to make a mistake, I do not allow them to change their work at this time. Since we have just started to discuss fact and opinion I do not expect them to master it in this lesson alone! I ask one student to pick up all of the T-charts and I review them later.
When the students meet me on the carpet, I say,
"What did you think? Was it tricky deciding which statements were facts and which were opinions? Let's look at them together and see where each one belongs".
I show them the statements one at a time on the SmartBoard and I use formative assessment to see how the students are doing with this concept by using thumbs up/thumbs down for each one. When we are finished, I say,
"There are a few more awesome things I want to share with you about birds. Open your notebook and you can take a few notes about facts that you find interesting. You do not have to write everything down - just draw or write a few words about something you think is cool".
I take about 5 minutes and we look at this page together and talk about things that interest them. To wrap up the lesson, I say,
"Boys and girls, turn to a close neighbor and whisper one interesting fact you learned about birds, then listen to theirs, too!"
This is to engage students again in speaking and listening to peers, which supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, 'Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information'.
After the lesson, I look over the T-charts that the partner groups created today. At this point in first grade, I do not expect everyone to fully complete every assignment, but I do expect everyone to have made an effort towards that. If I notice that some partners did not finish their work completely I save it for them to finish the next morning during our 'morning work' time, or I ask my assistant to complete it with them later. I am also looking for accuracy to get an understanding of how many students really understood both the basic needs/features content standards and also the fact/opinion practice. Based on what I discover, I may revisit this tomorrow during literacy!