What is a Habitat? What is Biodiversity?

41 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT explain that different animals live in different habitats and that biodiversity is the variety of life in those habitats.

Big Idea

We can use a Frayer Model to help us learn vocabulary!

Teacher Notes


Are you ready to take your children's understanding of biodiversity to the next level?  You can do just that with an activity called "Gems of Biodiversity."  This activity will be done at the end of each of the individual habitats studied--rain forest, desert, ocean and woodlands.  After the children have gathered information about each habitat, the class will make comparisons about the animal life found there using a visual model.  This repeating activity is called "Gems of Biodiversity Set Up."  It unifies the concepts taught plus it creates a common ground for comparison among the habitats.  Please make sure to check it out since it is well worth the effort and can be used year after year.  Sound interesting?  Check out the above link.  Life at the next level is pretty sweet!

Activity Description

(Note:  The activity listed above, Gems of Biodiversity, is not part of this lesson.  I included it here, since this is the first lesson of the unit, and I wanted to give you a "heads up" about the activity so you could start preparing for it and gathering the materials needed).  

This is one of the beginning lessons for a study of the great biodiversity of life. The children will use a Frayer model to help them understand vocabulary terms.   Then the book I See a Kookaburra! will be read and discussed.  We will also go over the Essential Questions of the unit. This is a long lesson, and you might want to consider breaking it into two sessions as noted.

NGSS and Common Core Connections

As a performance objective, the children need to make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life.  This lesson is a foundation to that knowledge.  It also helps the children develop vocabulary strategies that will help them understand the idea of biodiversity.



Frayer model TEACHER organizer NO LINES (I use this one for this lesson) --pulled up on Smartboard

* OR Frayer model Biodiversity TEACHER organizer (this one is for later or use in a different lesson)

Frayer model notebook size NO LINES (I use this one for this lesson) --1 per child

here is another one with lines --If you want a full page one, click here.

Essential Questions for the unit

I See A Kookaburra! book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (other suggestions would be this video, or the books Nature's Patchwork Quilt, and the ABCs of Habitats.)


10 minutes

Note:  Before this activity started, I secretly took all of the children's crayons that they share in a common bin and replaced them with crayons of just a few colors.  When we get to the "Explore" section, I want them to experience what it is like NOT to have a variety of something.  Shhhhh.....don't say a word.

Back to the lesson.....To begin the unit, I question the children about the word biodiversity.  

Biodiversity is a really important term, since it is the main topic of the next unit.  I have noticed that my children need to use more scientific words in their speaking and written work.  So I chose to create a Frayer model.  This strategy stresses understanding words by requiring students first, to analyze the items (definition and drawings) and, second, to synthesize/apply this information by thinking of examples and non-examples. In future lessons, we will be using this strategy, so learning how to use them together is time well-spent.

For our next unit we are going to be studying about biodiversity.  Does anyone know what that big word means?  What we do when we don't know what a word means?

I am pretty sure no one will know what it means, but I want them to see what we can do if we don't have an answer to a question.  One of my high-tech children said we need to google it.  So I ask if I can have a volunteer look it up for us on my computer so we can project the definition on the Smartboard.  I tell the boy to type in the words "biodiversity define", of course I need to spell it for him.  Bingo! The definition pops up large and clear at the top of the screen--"the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem."

I pass out the Frayer model.  I tell the students that we are going to be using an organizer to help us learn and remember what the word "biodiversity" means.  Biodiversity is a mouthful for second grade students, but the idea and meaning behind the term is something that I believe that children of this age can understand.  I shorten that definition a bit to make it apply to the standard and also to second grade students.  I pull up the Frayer model TEACHER organizer  on the Smartboard.  In the middle of the page, I write down the word "biodiversity."  Then I write down "the variety of plants and animals in a habitat" in the upper left-hand side of the organizer and instruct the children to do the same.

We are going to write the definition down on an organizer called a Frayer model.  The Frayer model is an organizer that can help us remember what a word means.  

To help contextualize the word variety and define in at a second grade level, and with Halloween coming up, I knew just the example to use.  

It's almost Halloween.  Did your parents buy any candy yet this year?  Several hands shoot up.  Did any of them buy a variety pack? I like to buy variety packs since I like lots of different kinds of candy.  Sometimes when we buy the little chocolate candy bars we buy the variety pack since it has bars like Hersheys, dark chocolate bars, Musketeers and Reese's peanut butter cups.  That way everyone in the family has a chocolate bar that they like.  If we bought just dark chocolate bars, my sons, Zach and Kyle, would not eat them since they don't like dark chocolate.  So variety means that it has a little bit of everything.  

In my story, I talked about variety or diversity of types of chocolate.  What do you think variety means now?  

When scientists are talking about variety of life, such as plants and animals, they add the word part "bio-" to the beginning of the word diversity. The prefix "bio" means life.  So the word biodiversity means the variety of plants and animals in a habitat.

 Understanding how words can be taken apart to help them define the word is an important life skill.  Helping them see the relationship of the word parts is helpful in building vocabulary skills.  This is part of the common core and also NGSS.


10 minutes

Remember how I secretly took the children's crayons and replaced them with crayons of only a few colors?  Now is the time to see if my little trick worked.  I want the children to explore the idea of variety by having them experience what the lack of variety means.  So I hand out a half sheet of blank paper to the class.

Since we have been talking about habitats,  I would like all of you to draw your best picture of a tree.  In the tree I want you to draw a cardinal and a bluebird.  

I don't have to get any further.  The room is filled with gasps and and shouts of "What in the world?  What happened to our crayons?" (Click to see the short video clip of the children experiencing what variety means).

What is the matter?  There is enough crayons for everyone, correct?  

Yea, but what happened to all of the colors?

Of course, the gig is up.  They have figured out that I did something to their crayons....hmmm....they know I probably have something up my sleeve. And I certainly do!  Even though this little trick only lasted for less than a minute, I think something of essence was learned.

Why do you think I took some of your colors?  What could this possibly have to do with what we have been talking about?

The kids have a few answers, and then suddenly a girl figures it all out (see video clip).  

Yes, to have a variety of something, like crayons, means that you have different types of things.  With your crayons, you have lots of different colors.  What was it like when you discovered you didn't have the right crayon?  What do you think it means to have lots of variety of plants and animals? (See short clip for a student's answer).

Let's look at our Frayer model.  I want you to think about the variety of plants and animals that might live together in one place.  This is what biodiversity would be look like, lots of different types of plants and animals living together.  Please draw what you think biodiversity would look like in the upper-right hand box.  

I point to the proper spot on my Frayer model TEACHER organizer that is pulled up on the Smartboard.  


10 minutes

We continue to use the Frayer model.  We are now moving to the bottom sections. I typically have them write or draw several examples in this box, however, with the word biodiversity, I think drawing one main picture would be sufficient since it would be difficult to write examples.

We now have two bottom boxes to fill in.  In the bottom left-hand side you need to sketch examples of biodiversity.  Let's think about the ocean for this, since many of you are familiar with it.  I want you to close your eyes and think about a section of the ocean that had a lot of variety of life in it.  In other words, it showed biodiversity, what might it look like?

The students say it would have sharks, dolphins, and fish in it.  

What else can you see?  Think of everything, including any plants you might encounter.

They add seaweed, starfish and octopus. I continue to encourage them to think of more plants and animal life.  Now that they have a good vision in their mind, I have them draw what they see in the bottom left-hand side of their paper.  I encourage them to add as many different types of animals that they can, plus the seaweed.  I remind them that to sketch first and then if they have time they can add color.  Otherwise they spend all of their time coloring and forget about the true meaning of this exercise.

In the right-hand box we need to draw a picture of an area that would be a non-example.  I ask the children if what they drew with lots of different plants and animals shows biodiversity, then what would show non-biodiversity?  What would be a non-example?

At first they say, no animals or plants.  Since that is not the direction I was going, I try to redirect them.  

Think back to the example that I gave you when we were first discussing variety.  I was telling you that I buy the variety pack of chocolate bars for Halloween.  The variety pack had lots of different types of chocolate candy bars. When I bought the regular pack, the one that is NOT the variety pack, it contained just one type of candy bar, like Snickers.  Now let's apply that to the natural world.  You just sketched a picture of a section of the ocean that had a variety of animal and plant life.  You probably sketched a shark, dolphin, starfish, octopus, seaweed and more things.  This shows biodiversity.  Think about what you could sketch that would be a NON-example of this.

The children can relate to this story, so it was like someone turned the light on.  Several children commented that we would draw the same scene, but this time with just one type of animal, maybe 8 fish, all of one kind.  I have them draw their scene in the last box.

Great, you have just completed the Frayer model.  It shows the word, its definition, a picture, examples and non-examples.  This will help you learn and remember words better.

Using the Frayer model is very effective.  It greatly helps the children learn and remember vocabulary words better than other methods.  This is really important that they understand the word since much of the rest of the unit relies on the meaning of this word.



30 minutes

Now that the children have experience working together to fill out a Frayer Model, I am going to let them try to do the same with another word.  Since we are still new to this, I am going to have them work in partners.  I make sure to pair high and low achieving students since this is a great support for those struggling students.  Also the high achieving student also learns by teaching or helping someone else.  The idea of working together is a main thrust of the Common Core and the NGSS.  Since I want to make sure that I have the right combination today, I pair the students up myself.

Now that you know how to use the Frayer model, I would like you now to try this with another word.  We are going to be working with partners.  This time we are going to be filling out a Frayer model for the word "habitats".  Where should you write the word that we are going to find out more about?

Right, you are going to put it in the small circle in the middle.  Please do not fill anything else out on the model until we have some input.  We are going to read a book about habitats called I See A Kookaburra! and an e-book (alternatively you could watch this video about habitats.)  I would like you to listen and see if you can find a definition for the word "habitat", think about what it would look like, think of examples and non-examples.  When we are done with the book, you will work with your partner to fill the Frayer model sheet out.

However, we are going to make some changes to the way we did it for biodiversity.  Instead of drawing pictures of examples and non-examples, we are going to be just writing words instead.  

It was too difficult when completing the Frayer model for the word biodiversity to write examples.  With the word habitat, it should be easier, so I made this change, which is the way most models show.  

I want to give the children experience with using the Frayer model and also familiarity with the term habitat.  This activity gets at the heart of both.  Using a picture book and e-book always a great way to sustain the children's attention and hook them into learning without them even knowing it.


15 minutes

In the children's science journals, I have them reflect on today's lesson.  I write the sentence frame "Today I learned......" on the board for them to copy and finish with their own thoughts and ideas.

I want you to reflect on our learning today.  We have used a Frayer Model to learn about the words biodiversity and the word habitat.  We listened to a book about all different kinds of animals that live in different habitats.  I would like you to think deeply.  To think deeply means to make connections between the big concepts that we learned about today.  If I said I learned that an iguana is green or that a macaw lives in the rain forest, those ideas would just be simple facts, not deep learning.  Think deeply...what is the most important thing that you learned?  I would like you to copy the beginning of this sentence and then continue with your own thoughts.  Think like a scientist and bridge the big ideas together!

I give them ample time to complete the prompt.  I am looking for them to possibly use the words biodiversity or habitat in their writing, or tie-in some of the examples we used in class (see Frayer Model student notebook sample--both sides).  Here is a sample of where the student complete the form correctly and wrote a big idea.  In the second sample the student did not get the correct idea of the prompt, although she filled out the Frayer model correctly.  The child in this Frayer sample 4 has the main idea also, but needs to write on the lines.

I end this lesson with introducing the Essential Questions for the habitat unit.  I pull the colored copies up on the Smartboard.  I tell the students that we will be working on trying to answer the questions with each lesson that is learned.