Information Gathering: Facts About Spiders

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SWBAT create a list of characteristics and interesting facts about spiders.

Big Idea

Students critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific information to gather evidence about the natural world.


10 minutes

This lesson aligns with checkpoint 1 on the unit planner found in Introduction to Spider Biodiversity Quest.  At the completion of this unit, students will be able to answer how changes to the spider's ecosystem effects the populations found inside that ecosystem (LS2-4).  Students don't often recognize the huge impact that spiders have on the ecosystem or how critical they are to human survival.  This fact will be appreciated by the end of the unit and students will develop some ideas for maintaining spider biodiversity (LS2-5).

When students get settled I begin by having them work as a lab group to create a list of facts they believe to be true about spiders.

Today we are going to begin gathering information about spiders.  Before we begin our research, work as a lab table to create a list of the things that you know, or think you know, about spiders.  Everyone should keep record of this list in your science journal.

I like using this strategy for a variety of different reasons.  First, this helps students activate their prior knowledge in a way that allows them to benefit from the combined knowledge of the group.  Second, this helps students to begin forming questions about the topic of study.  Third, generating this list gives students focus when they begin reading.  Finally, this strategy helps students connect new information to existing knowledge which helps with retention and understanding of the material.

Once students have their list generated, I take a few minutes to create a class list on the board that students can refer to as they are reading.  This again allows students to benefit from other ideas that they may have overlooked.


30 minutes

To begin their research, students are given two articles that pertain to basic characteristics of spiders: Spiders and Biodiversity (Article 1) and How To Know a Spider (Article 2).  I put these articles into a Word document to allow for the changing of font size and spacing to easily accommodate different reading levels (you could even go through and change the vocabulary if needed).  

Focusing on article 1, I model the pre-reading strategy Read Around the Text.

Everyone should have the Spiders and Biodiversity article in front of them.  Do not begin reading yet, first lets get our minds ready to gain new information.  We are going to use a strategy called Read Around the Text. Have any of you used this strategy before?

Some students may have experience with this strategy.  If they do, I allow them to briefly describe the process.  If not, I project this image and explain the process.

Reading Around the Text -- looking at pictures, captions, charts, titles, and opening/closing sentences helps a reader to generate questions about what you will be reading and stay focused while reading.  Look at the pictures in the article, what ideas are presented?

I have a few students respond to each of the steps of the process aloud.  

Now let's look at the unit check list to see what type of information we need to pull out of the article (basic info about spiders such as body style, habitat, behavior, and things we find interesting). We are ready to read the article, but as we read we are going to highlight any information that relates to what we need to know for the project.  

This highlighting strategy is another way to assist students in pulling out from a reading the critical information to help students achieve the desired goal.  

The Selective Highlighting Student Comparison allows you to see how students can identify different information from the same reading.  I like this because it allows for students to discuss the information with more detail to determine what they want to/need to use within their final projects.

Once students have completed this process, I have them create a chart in their journals of what they learned.  

Now that we have all finished reading and highlighting, we need to organize the information we learned.  Create a T-chart in your science journal.  On the left side of the chart list body style, habitat, behavior, and interesting facts being sure to leave enough room between each category.  On the right side of the chart, copy down the information you highlighted by the appropriate heading.  Be sure to write this in your own words; do NOT copy word for word from the text.

Once students are done I have them work in small groups to complete the same process with the second article. This article has a lot of information relating to the anatomy of a spider, so I provide the students with the Blank Spider Anatomy diagram to complete as they read the article.  

To help students master the alien sounding vocabulary that is associated with spiders, I created a set of flashcards on Quizlet.  I explain to students that I expect them to use these words fluently throughout this unit and within their final project.


5 minutes

At the conclusion of the class, I ask students to reflect on what they learned and compare it with the list they created at the beginning of class listing what they knew/thought they new about spiders.  Are there things we should cross off the list because they are not true?

For homework I provide students with the following 3 links:

  1. cK-12 Arachnids 
  2. Explorit Science  
  3. Spider Sense: Fast Facts on Extreme Arachnids

Students are to go through each of them and add to their T-chart relevant information.  (This can also be done in class the next day if you choose to/need to take 2 days to complete the reading)