To set students up for success, I know it is important that we go through this website together first before starting our research on iPads. Fossils for Kids is a great website that gives students a chance to explore, make choices about what site they would like to study all while supporting mastery of the standard.
Before they began, I knew that they would need support in reading and understanding the site. So, with the whole class seated on the floor in front of my Smart Board, I brought up the website and showed students each section and how to navigate it. We first looked over the section "Now and Then" to help us understand the directions on their interactive worksheets, Fossils for Kids p.1 & Fossils for Kids p. 2.
To step up the rigor a little, I added a question for them to answer on a separate sheet of paper to the first section of "Which do you think is the most interesting fossil?" I asked them to write a short paragraph explaining why they chose that fossil and what they learned about it just from reading captions or doing some extra searching. This was to be turned in with their worksheets.
Soon, after we had poked around and viewed a little of each area, students were sent back to work to independently research and learn more about fossils.
On this section of the worksheet, it asks students to look for their state and find some cities where fossils have been found. As students turn to this page, they are presented with a chart. This chart shows the city, county and what fossils have been found there. I roved the classroom and listened to them working on this site. I needed to stop the class for a moment and talk about what the chart was saying to them. Helping them understand the large words for fossils mentioned was important. I explained that if they wanted to see what these fossils looked like, they should open another page, Google the word and then look for images of the fossil. This helped them get their mental image, even though they do not know what period the fossil was from.
I aided this by explaining that many of these fossils mentioned in Wisconsin were from a period of time when our state was covered with water millions of years ago. I reassured them that they would understand how that would all fall into place after this investigation. One student was surprised at the variety of Wisconsin fossils. I emphasized that they needed to carefully copy words correctly from the chart. I encouraged students to work further into the next section.
As students progressed to the next section, I thought it would move quickly. To my amazement, they did not understand the concept of Amber. I thought the photos alone would tell the story well enough that they would easily understand that amber contains insects. I asked questions about amber as I roved from student to student. They could hardly believe that insects in the amber were as old as they are. I began pushing them to infer from photos just a little harder. I explained that the insects were fossilized within the tree resin. I told them that resin is different than sap. I asked if they thought insects were here before humans. I was hoping to get them to start thinking about how some life that still exists goes back far into time.
When students opened the Sands of Time page, I saw that they were struggling with the concepts that this chart was conveying to them. Many of the images on the chart are completely foreign to them which helps them understand that these creatures are long gone. However, the frog is still alive and for them to find it so far down on the chart amazed them. I had to help several students understand the chart. This chart starts to help them understand that the Earth's creatures began very simply and that they were first water creatures and plants. I stopped and brought this page up on the Smart Board and showed them exactly how to read the chart. This supported them as they master CCSS RI 4.7 that explicitly expects them to read charts fluently. Their understanding of eons, eras and periods needed to be clarified. But, this chart is rich with information and really fun to look at! They continued to work independently on these first three sections of the assignment. As we transitioned into the next section, I realized that I would assign this part for homework.
I assigned the last three activities for homework. Cool Links leads them to various websites about fossils. They could choose three of these sites to research and then answer the questions from the sites. I told them that one of my favorites was the site about trilobites. I think they are amazing and that site would give them incredible information about the Permian period.
I asked them to work independently at home and complete the sheets.