It is important to clarify that a unit on Insects does not connect itself to the NGSS. However, in Washington State it does tie in with Second Grade Science Standard 2-3 LS 3A (There are variations among the same kinds of plants and animals).
This unit focuses on three different insects: honey bees, ladybird beetles and butterflies. All three are chosen very specifically to the area in which I live. We are an rural area that is heavy in agriculture. Our main crop is fruit, and each of these insects plays a huge role in the survival of the fruit that we raise and the sustainability of our community. Two of the insects are pollinators and one is considered a helper in natural pesticide control.
Why is it important to teach this? Because in my school district, I am also required to teach about the Apple Industry that my community is so dependent upon. How can my students understand the importance of the fruit, without first understanding the needs it has to survive.
"Boys and girls, we have been learning so many new ideas about insects. Today we are going to add some more new information to what we have been learning about ladybugs. Does anyone remember what a ladybugs scientific name is?"
"A ladybird beetle!"
"Yes, that is right. Let's remind ourselves about what we know about ladybirds with our song that we have been singing."
Using scientific language can always be a challenge, especially when there may be a variety of speaking levels within a classroom. I have found that Big Books help bridge this gap very nicely. For so many reasons they are invaluable tools in a science setting. Their predictable and patterned texts help build in strong vocabulary for all level of learners. Not only do they strengthen science vocabulary, but creative teachers are able to reinforce ELA standards as well (tracking print, cloze procedures, and text features).
We sing the Ladybird Beetle song from the Bridges Breakout: Bugs Across the Curriculum, 1st ed. (Big Books are a fantastic way to incorporate tier three vocabulary). It is a free resource on the Math Learning Center website. The song can be found on pages 107-109. I download the pages and enlarge them on the copy machine. I color the pictures (or ask a parent or support person to color the pictures), laminate and bind the big book. We sing the songs often throughout the insect unit. The song does a fantastic job of incorporating scientific language with an easy tune almost all children know. It is catchy and easy to pick up. Singing the song will hopefully, trigger some background knowledge. I have sung the song with the children multiple times before the lesson, without clarifying anything or explaining any of the information. This is strategic on my part. The song introduces the word "pupa" and it always elicits funny laughs and comments from the children. Most of them have not heard this new word and find it hysterical. I have found it is best to sing it many times before and get the giggles out, before focusing on the science behind the word.
After singing the song, I explain to the children that I will bring four pictures to each table team. The team leader will delegate the direction of the cards. At this point in the year, most of the teams are working well together. However, it can still be a struggle for some students to work together in the unit. I built this lesson in specifically to address this in my classroom and offer some further practice with teamwork, problem solving and decision making.
When the teams receive their pictures, I offer a bit more information about the task ahead of them. I explain that I want the children to work together to match the photographs to the illustration of the ladybug life cycle stages. I have talked about the differences between drawings, sketches and actual photographs before in prior lessons. Putting in both types of work, gives me a chance to refer back to this teaching.
Most of the children do a fantastic job working together. Encouraging the teamwork, allows the children to continue practicing the skills of working as a unit, taking turns, and respecting others voices.
After the children have been able to match the pictures and illustrations, I bring a new set of cards; the labels of each stage. I explain that now they need to label each stage of the cycle. They understand the word labels to describe the stages and go to work quickly.
The teams cannot wait to begin and easily see the egg and adult stage, but find a bit of trepidation when they must decide between the larva and pupa stages. They make their best predictions with whatever they can remember from singing the song.
(The map and cards can all be found at the end of the Ladybug Life Cycle Power Point referenced in the Explore section).
When the children have succeeded in placing all the pictures on the illustrations. We talk about the differences between representations and photographs. Doing this activates any prior knowledge the children may already have or they may remember from the song we have sung.
"Alright,,,entomologists, we are going to sing our Ladybird song again. I think if we sing it again, we may find out some more information that will help us verify our predictions with the placement of our pictures. Ok, here we go....."
After, singing the song, I immediately see reactions in the children. Many of them are smiling and shaking their heads in self-affirmation for the job they have completed. I also see a few students quickly readjusting their pictures. When I ask why they are doing that, one little girl, is quick to share...."as soon we sang the song, I realized I had these out of order. So I fixed them." She grins and show her pride in figuring this out.
Next, I give each team a new set of cards to puzzle through and determine where they may be placed on the life cycle map. The cards are more difficult this time. They do not have any pictures, illustrations or label names. This time the cards are full of informational text that describes different stages of the life cycle of the ladybug. The students will need to read the cards, and ask questions to make predictions about the best placement of the card. Using any prior knowledge they have will help them in placing the cards. This is a direct connection to Science and Engineering Practice 3.
"How did this part of the investigation feel?"
"It was really hard!"
"What was so tough about it? Can you share with the class why this was challenging?"
Answers range from, "we don't know enough about the ladybug." "There aren't any pictures to help us."
"Well, let me offer you something that may help. Please put down any tools you have and are using and adjust your chairs for a bit. Focus on the Smart Board and let's learn a little more that could help us figure out where these cards should be placed."
At this point, I have my Life Cycle of a Ladybug Power Point ready to go. I slowly go through each slide reading to the children the new information about the ladybug. The two video clip visuals have actual footage of a ladybug laying eggs and another of the way the ladybug eats.
The children are trying not to move, but they are dying to rearrange some of their cards. They have realized after listening to the new information they have some changes to make.
Science and Engineering practice 4 expects students to use observations (either firsthand or from media) to describe patterns and relationships in the natural world. After watching the video clips and hearing the new information, students will be able to describe relationships of the ladybug and her life stages. This will become important to the lesson about Life Cycle of a Butterfly and the Honey Bee. ( link when both lessons are done).
As the last and final step, I want to see what the children can do with this new information. I asked them to open their science journals to the insect section.
I explain that I want them to draw the stages of the life cycle of the ladybug and include any information they can from the learning we have just completed.
Students immediately ask for our Smart Music (soft, classical music that plays in the background during working time) and instantly get to work. They work quietly for fifteen minutes. I was so impressed with their level of dedication and attention to details with their diagrams. They did a great job remembering the details we discussed earlier in the year with our lesson on Diagrams.