This Bear is Different...Exploring the Polar Bear

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SWBAT gather new information about polar bears and share this information with others.

Big Idea

Communicating effectively as a scientist requires skill in many areas. This lesson pulls many of those areas together into one package.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

This lesson is the beginning of the Polar Regions unit. The last few lessons of the Alpine Mountain unit are about bears.  Specifically, bears that live in the Pacific Northwest Region.  I do this for several reasons, my students live in the Pacific Northwest and this region is close in proximity to the Polar Region of the Arctic tundra.  The Arctic tundra includes the Alaskan region, which is geographically connected to the Pacific Northwest.  

Also, I want my students to see that environments are all connected and do not have those invisible fences that some students believe divide the Earth. Developmentally, it is difficult for students to envision the way environments are situated on the continents.  Second Graders tend to believe that the equator is an actual line that divides the hemispheres.  I want to dis-spell this concept for them.  

I also want to demonstrate for my students the diversity of animals that can flow from one habitat to another. Plants and animals are not exclusive to habitats, but spread across environments.  


15 minutes

I ask the children to think about the book we read earlier in our reading lessons, Alaska's Three Bears.

"Turn to your shoulder buddy and share with them what bears were in this book."  

After the children have had a chance to remind themselves what bears we read about, I ask them to think about which bear we have not really discovered and learned about yet.  Hands go up quickly and they all answer in unison, "the polar bear."  

"Yes, you are right. We have not really spent much time discussing this guy.  So I am going to ask you a few questions before we start.  Let's see if know anything about the polar bears before we begin."  

I ask the team leaders to get their team clickers and pass them out.  I bring up my Smart Board and the questions I have created.  Because I don't want to get into the place where the children are telling me all they already know about polar bears, I designed the questions to be 'yes/no' questions. However I really wanted to make the language a bit more scientific so I changed the 'yes/no' to 'agree/disagree.'  

I show the first slide and the children know right away how what to do. We use the clickers in many aspects of our day, so using them is quite easy. The children follow the directions they have been taught and are ready to begin.  

I explain to the children what the agree/disagree concept means and how they will adjust their clickers to answer.  We revisit the words as well.  The children are familiar with the words, we have been trying to use them in other science lessons, but this is the first time they will be really using them with accountability.  There are also two more answers that offer the children the ability to answer is they have no idea and also 'it depends.' Meaning, there might be more information that is needed to answer the question.  

As we go through each question, the screen shows the number of students who answer to 'agree' or 'disagree' or the 'it depends' or 'not sure.'  No names are attached, but it is a great visual for them to see what their classmates believe.  

As I pose each question and the children key in their choices, I do not allow for much conversation. Each time someone raises their hand and begins to share what they know, I quickly jump in and ask them to hold on to that information.  I don't want their ideas or misconceptions to sway anyone in the answers.  

I really want this to be a catalyst to lead into the lesson.  I want to trigger prior knowledge and help them to make connections.


10 minutes

After we have answered all the questions with the clickers, I tell the children that we are going to read apower point book on the screen.  The book is patterned after Bill Martin, Jr.'s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.  It also follows along with the same pattern and design as the Power Point book that I wrote and used for the Bears of the Pacific Northwest lesson.  I wanted the language and the pattern to be similar so the children would see the connections easily.  Besides the rhythm and rhyme of the book make it easy for the children to chime in while I am reading. Also, because the language is very 'sing-songy' it allows for the students to commit it to memory and apply the language in other areas of our learning in future lessons. 

I tell them that I will read it through one time for them and then we will read it a second time together.  During the second reading, the students will be gathering information. 


10 minutes

I ask the students to get our their science journals and open them to the Polar Region section.  By this time of the school year, the children understand that we always write on the right hand side of the pages.  Many teachers have specific reasons why they have students put certain activities, knowledge learned, whatever on certain pages.  For me it is simply that it makes it easier to maneuver with my little people.  I tell the children that while we are reading, they can collect any information they would like to gather and organize it any way they feel works for them.  We have been taking notes for quite some time and the children are quite versed in how to do this.  

We discuss briefly what they noticed about the information in the book and if there are any big ideas that we could organize with.  Because it is organized just as the Bear of the Pacific Northwest, they make that leap and many of them suggest we organize this way.  

We begin reading the slides one by one.  The children are excited and continue to make connections back to the clicker questions.  I hear all kinds of comments....

"OH, I answered that one right" and "ohhhh, that is not what I thought."  

We continue through the entire power point.  Reading the book and listening to the video clip that is embedded with the slides.  (This is the video clip). 

Each time a slide came to a question that was asked earlier in the clicker questions, we discussed what the children answered and why they answered the way they did in the beginning.  Many of the questions are not directly linked to what was learned in the Bears of the Pacific Northwest lesson, however, with higher level thinking connections can be made. My hope is that the students will be able to take the prior learning and begin to make those connections independently.  



15 minutes

I want the children to be able to use these notes for more than just the practice of gathering information and documenting their learning from media (SP8).  The students gather on the floor with me and bring their journals with them.  I have an anchor chart ready and I explain that I want them to help me put all their information into one chart.  I further explain that I am sure they did not all write down the same pieces of information so this will be a good way for us to combine all that we have learned together.  

My anchor chart is ready ahead of the lesson.  I like to use Circle Maps a lot, however a Circle Map really signals to my students that we are brainstorming ideas.  And this part of the lesson is not a brainstorming session, but more of a "bring all of you've learned to the carpet" lesson. For this reason, I have changed the format of this anchor chart a bit.  Rather than putting the circle in the middle and writing the ideas the children share with me around the circle, I have put the topic in the middle, divided the page into four sections and left it at that.  

The students come to the carpet and bring their journals with their notes. I have my anchor chart on the easel to write while they share their ideas.  The children notice that I have divided the chart into four sections. Without even asking them what I should write in each section, someone mentions that their notes were very similar to the last lesson of the Brown Bear and the Black Bear lesson.  The children suggest that I write the words, "habitat, diet, characteristics and attributes" as my heading words.  

I am pleased that they have made that connection on their own.  I write the words and begin to ask them what they believe are the most important pieces of information for me to include.  They have so many concepts to include on the anchor chart and I do my best to include all their suggestions.  

This is a real testament to me that the learning they were able to do independently while reading the Power Point and listening to the video clip really took place.  

This is really offering me an opportunity to evaluate in an easy way what the children were able to get from reading the Power Point Big Book, the video clip and their note taking.  While my purpose in this entire lesson is to reinforce obtaining, evaluating and communicating what we have learned from media as scientists, it also addresses the need to help prepare my students for the Smarter Balanced assessment that students take in the spring in Washington State.  

Extends- 2 or 3 days after the lesson

60 minutes

I want the children to be able to take the notes they have taken and organized and use them for more than just notes.  I have taught many of my writing curriculum elements through my science work during the lessons.  And this will offer one more opportunity for the children to practice their explanatory writing skills.  

The children notice during the evaluation phase of the lesson that there are some text features they recognize....headings and bullets to be specific. Our district writing curriculum utilizes the Step Up to Writing curriculum and this is a perfect graphic organizer that includes the topic, key ideas and details. The beauty of the organizer is how it lays out the science information, but leads into the writing.  

I take a red and yellow marker and mark the sections that will correspond with these colors in the system we have taught our children.  

Yellow being the key ideas and red relating to the details.  I also draw a small green heart next to the topic words 'Polar bears.' This is because I tell my children that the heart of their writing will be the topic and it is to remind us to write a topic sentence that will grab our readers with the subject of our writing.  Next to the 'yellows' I draw a small glue bottle.  This represents the 'glue' sentences that will connect our topic sentence to our detail sentences which are those red sentences.  Right away, the children ask me if I will draw some meat next to the reds....Our mnemonic to remember the details is 'meat' because the details in our writing are really the meat of what we are writing.  

It may seem crazy to attach icons like this, but to my students, they really remember these concepts and it helps them to continue to focus on the skills and processes we are pulling all together.  

I explain to the children, that all scientists have to share their work in some form. They have many different avenues to share their work: writing for journals, sharing at a science conference, or writing up their research for another scientist.  I tell them that we are going to use our work from our research gathering to practice writing up what we have learned to share with each other.  It may take us a few days to put it all into place and get our writing to a place we are all comfortable with, but we have the beginnings in our organization.  

For the next few days during our reading and writing block, we take this work and put together our writing piece to demonstrate or science and writing skills.