Which Bear Goes Where?

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT compare/contrast their habitats and adaptations of various species of bears.

Big Idea

Now that we have learned a little about adaptations in the past few lessons, students will expand on their knowledge of adaptations by comparing similar species to learn how they adapt to their environment.


5 minutes

This lesson has been adapted from an original lesson created for the Project Wild curriculum.

I start the lesson by displaying the first slide of the slide below and having the students study it carefully for about one minute, making mental observations and inferences based on the pictures.  Once they have had a chance to observe all of the animals carefully, I have the students use their technology devices to go to our Padlet* (online brainstorming wall) and to answer the questions that are posted there. The questions are as follows:

  • How are these bears similar?
  • How are they different?
  • Describe the habitat where you think each bear lives.


The students will answer each question and read through their peers' comments as we discuss them as a class. After a short discussion of everyone's responses, I pose the following question to the class:

Obviously, these animal are all bears, and look somewhat similar. There is not as much variation in their body structures as the birds we have just studied.  Since this is the case, then why must they live in such different parts of the world? Why don't all bears just live together?

*Click here to learn how to create a Padlet for your students.

*Click here to learn how to have your students work with Padlet.


5 minutes

Next, I divide the students into eight equal groups, each consisting of 3-4 students. Each group selects one of the bears to research further. (Because there are eight groups, each bear should be researched by two different groups.)

Once the groups have selected the bear they want to research, I give them a printout of the bear they have selected. (These are included in the slideshow; see "Engage".) The students will cut out the bear on the printout and glue it to a large piece of construction paper or butcher paper. Each of the students in the group will research the bear and will complete one of the following jobs:

  • Student 1 - Habitat Expert: This student will research and draw the ecosystem and the particular habitat of their bear, including the water source, on the paper containing their printout. The entire paper should be made to look like the animal's home.
  • Student 2 - Nutrition Expert: This student will research and draw all of the components that make up the bear's diet. This may include plants, animals, etc. These will be cut out and glued onto the paper with the bear, once the habitat expert has completed their portion.
  • Student 3 - Adaptation Expert: This student will research and summarize all of the adaptations acquired by the bear in order for it to thrive in its environment. Students will write each adaptation and its purpose on a small sticky note or 1/2 of an index card, and then glue them next to the corresponding structure or behavior on the animal.
  • Student 4 (if applicable) - Relationship Expert: This student will research and write a short summary (2-3 paragraphs) explaining how this bear provides a service or benefit to the other plants and animals who share this ecosystem. *If there is not a 4th student in the group, this job can be shared by all members or can be given to the student who finishes their job first.

For differentiation purposes, the jobs listed are in order of complexity, with the first one being the least complex both in content and in process. If you are creating mixed ability groups, you will want to assign roles 3-4 to higher performing students.

*Assigning specific roles for students is a great strategy for promoting engagement and holding all students accountable. It also provides an opportunity for students to communicate information to each other that is necessary to meet the team goal. In the video clip below, the "relationship expert" is sharing information about the roles of the polar bear with the "nutrition expert" so that he can draw the correct foods to place on their poster. This will also help them understand more about animal niches, which we will address in a future lesson.


**While the students were working, some came across what seemed like inaccurate information online. One of their sources stated that pandas were carnivores, and this didn't sound accurate to them. Not only did they question the source, but they actually decided to look up more information from other sources to check its validity! I was lucky enough to catch them on video at just the right time!


5 minutes

Once all students have finished their posters,two students from each group will switch places with two students from the group who studied the same bear. I explain to the students that they will be teaching their classmates about their bears in a short time, so they need to make sure their information is correct.

They will conduct a modified version of Two Stray, One Stay, in which two students visit another group to compare their findings and ask probing and/or clarifying questions. This gives each group a chance to verify the accuracy of their research by sharing out their findings with a group who studied the same species.

While comparing their work, they are responsible for sharing what each expert learned, and clarifying any discrepancies by accessing reliable sites together to find accurate information. Then they return to their groups and share out what they learned, making any necessary adjustments or adding "finishing touches" to their work.


5 minutes

Once each group feels confident with their findings, I ask the groups to come up with 4-5 questions they would want to ask the other groups about their posters and what they learned about their animals.

Next, we display the posters around the room and conduct a four-round gallery walk/stay and stray. For each round of our gallery walk, three of the group members will view one poster they haven't already seen, asking the questions they created earlier, as well as any clarifying questions they may have. For each round of the gallery walk, one of the original creators of the poster will stay with their work to answer these questions. Each student must stay back with their work at least once, and they must be sure to visit posters for all three different species of bears. The three group members who are not staying with their poster should travel together for each round, but may need to separate for the last round, as they will need to visit the species of bear they missed when they stayed back with their own poster. 

Gallery Walk / Stay and Stray in Action:




5 minutes

As a final assessment of my student's knowledge of the alignment between environments and adaptations, I have the students research and complete three extended response questions, located at the end of the lesson slideshow.