Animal Guest #1 (Meet the Gecko!)

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SWBAT record specific observations about an animal. They will then discuss how its physical features and behaviors may help or hinder it in the local environment.

Big Idea

An animal's ability to survive in a given environment depends on a complex set of innate species characteristics, individual traits, and responses to expected and unexpected environmental circumstances.


15 minutes

I engage the students by showing them this short clip of two different animals that have similar adaptations to living in a sandy environment.  I ask them to listen and watch for specific details about the animals' physical features as well as how they move.  Then we discuss it and make a list of how some of the physical characteristics are linked to how the animal has adapted to its environment.  (See the chart below).   After we watch and discuss the video, I explain that today they will be making the same kinds of observations about an animal from our local environment.

Shovel-nosed Snake

Sand Fish (lizard)

long, thin body

stouter body

lots of vertebrae help it twist & turn

4 legs

scaly skin smoother than the lizard

able to quickly wiggle body back and forth

shovel-shaped front of head

dull colors

brightly colored



can run on top of the sand

can quickly bury itself in and move through sand

can dig down and bury itself in sand




25 minutes

An Animal Guest

The goal of this lesson is to continue to develop students’ ability to speak and write about specific, detailed observations. 

This lesson can be taught with any animal that is common in your area.  I use those that are easily found in the local environment.  That makes it practical for me and relevant for the students.  The animal guest in this lesson is a Common House Gecko (an introduced species, but fortunately not harmful to the local environment).  A student brought it to me one morning after rescuing it from behind a door.  Other animals that have visited my room this year are grasshoppers, sphinx moths, and a horned lizard.  As long as you take precautions, obviously, you can bring something as seemingly ordinary as an ant.  

I provide students with this Animal Guest Observation Sheet to give their note-taking some structure.

Explore Your Thinking: Would You Want to be a Small Animal?

30 minutes

At the conclusion of this lesson, I ask students to use their observations of our animal guest, in this case a gecko, I ask students to reflect upon what they wrote, my comments, and how to make their thoughts more specific and clear.  Here is example of my comments to students on their work.   I find these individual records very helpful in monitoring the specific progress of each individual student and also use them as a tool to help me plan how to redirect the entire class in the development of their understanding of the difference between a claim and a fact.

For students who have completed the initial writing task and want to go further, I have them go to  Gecko Web and write down the names and specific observations (from the photos) of at least 5 different species.  Even the varied eyes of different gecko species provide many avenues for conversation!