Are They Alike or Different? Comparing Insects

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SWBAT independently compare and contrast two insects.

Big Idea

Finding similarities and differences in animals is one way scientists can begin to construct ideas about nature and communicate those concepts with others.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

After learning about the life cycle and characteristics of honey bees, ladybugs and butterflies, students will work in teams to choose two of these insects to compare and contrast their characteristics. 

Learning about insects, is not directly related or tied to an NGSS Performance Expectation, however, it does tie directly to the Washington State Standard LS-3A.  It addresses variations among plants and animals in the same species. 

This lesson came about because of the need to offer my students an opportunity to practice using data that had been collected and synthesize it into new learning.  Scientists use graphic organizers as a way to gather and collect their own qualifying data.  I want my students to be able to do this same thing.  

Due to the many steps that are involved in being able to gather the data, think through the process and work within a team, this lesson takes two lesson periods to complete well.  

Day One

35 minutes

"Boys and girls, I want everyone to come over and sit with me on the rug.  I have something I want to share with you. I think it will look familiar to you." 

I am listening carefully to students elaborating or making connections to prior lessons where process grids were utilized in teaching.   

"Yes, it is. We are going to use this anchor chart to help us pull all the learning we have been doing for the last couple of weeks into one big place.  You know when scientists are learning about the world and gathering all that new data they need to share it with others. So we are going to do the same thing.  We are going to very slowly go through each of these categories and add all the information we have learned together and fill in the missing pieces."  

Process Grids are a great way to help students organize and process learning.  The grids can be used to enhance learning in so many different ways.  According to Robert Marzano, organizers are one the nine highly effective teaching strategies teachers can use to strengthen retention of learning.  

The kids are very excited about this lesson. They love to bring all their learning into one place and I can barely contain their enthusiasm.  

We begin by going very slowly at first.  We discuss the stages in each insects life cycle. As the children are sharing with the class the different stages, I am documenting their language and including it all on the chart.  It takes some time to complete all the information.  

The children are very well versed in the language and can easily distinguish between the three insects and explain the integral parts. This is great practice in comparing models of insects and their distinguishing features (SP2). 

When the chart is completed, we add picture photographs collected from the internet, usually Google Images, to add depth to our learning.  The photographs are pictures that are already downloaded, cutout and laminated that I use from year to year.  This helps me in having the materials on hand quickly and not having to search for them.  I allow the children to tape the photographs to the anchor chart where they believe they best explain their ideas and concepts.  

The photographs are essential for the ELL learners to have the visuals to accompany the learning. No matter what level of English Language Learner the child is, the visuals are critical to establish their connections with the language they are learning.  For the English speaking students, the pictures are just as critical to establish correct understanding of the science concepts and the actual real life phenomenon they are learning about.  When the anchor chart is completely finished, we hang in the classroom in a prominent place where it can be visible for all the children to access and see.  

Day Two

45 minutes

Day two brings so much excitement. The children can hardly wait to begin working in their teams.  I explain carefully that I want them to remember the goal we have for working together and being respectful towards one another.  

I bring to each team leader a clean copy of the Compare and Contrast Venn Diagram.  I explain that the children need to decide, as a team, which two insects they want to compare and then contrast. Once they have decided which two they will compare, they are then free to begin using all the information they gleaned during our lessons or utilize the information we shared together on the process grid to complete their work. 

I choose to have them work in teams, for a couple of reasons; first the power of more ideas is stronger than having the children work independently.  I believe that their learning will be on more solid footing if they are to share their ideas and learning together.  After all, if they are able to explain their thinking and rationalize it to a peer; than I am sure they understand the concepts.  Secondly, my ELL students, who understand the concepts, but still lack the vocabulary due to their working level of language, can rely on the teammates to help them and continue to learn from them as they work and discuss the comparing and contrasting.  

While the children are working within their teams, I am walking through the room.  Listening carefully to the language they are using.  I want to hear the children pulling language they see from the Process Grid and use it within their conversations with each other.  When I hear this, I know that the language and vocabulary is becoming a part of their speaking vocabulary.  Which will in turn, lead them to be able to read the words when the approach them in text. 

The rationale behind using a Venn Diagram is to offer the practice the students need to classify in science.  After completing the task, my hope is that the students are able to discern independently that insects have commonalities that make them unique and different from other creatures.  The diagram also provides the chance to describe the relationships the insects have to one another. (SP4)

Next Steps

5 minutes

My next step after completing this lesson is to use the learning to incorporate writing.  The Process Grid and the Venn Diagrams lend themselves to write an explanatory writing prompt about the body parts of an insect.  Each of the essential elements are present and available for the class to begin work on this next step in their learning.  

Because the Venn and the Process Grid have already sorted the characteristics of the insects, it is easy to demonstrate the use of key ideas and details woven into the writing.