What Is A Habitat

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SWBAT define the word habitat

Big Idea

Before discussing some of the world's habitats, it is important to understand what the term entails.

Teacher Background

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to the term habitat. Merriam-Webster Dictionary on line,  defines habitat as, "the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows," http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habitat.

It is this meaning that it is important for children to know and be able to discuss before researching individual habitats. 

The Next Generation Science Standards talk about students being able to understand how animals adapt to their habitats. If students do not have a clear understanding of habitats, they will not be able to move forward in meeting with standard. This lesson provides a foundation for helping students to meet the life science standards.

I Can Statement

5 minutes

I begin today's lesson with an I Can statement. I invite students to read it with me. "I can define the term habitat and find examples of different habitats in the world."

"Today we will end with a definition of habitat based on what we do during science. I am hoping that by the time we finish today, each of you will be able to write his/her own definition of the word habitat. How many of you think you know what a habitat is?" I look around the room to see if students feel they already know what it is. "Would anyone like to tell us what they think a habitat is?" I let students share their current understanding of the word habitat.  This allows all children to have some basic idea of what a habitat is. 

It is important not to assume that students know a term that we may think is common. I do not want to give my formal definition at this point because I want students to develop their own definitions, but I also want to make sure they have a basic understanding before going on with the lesson. I use questions to help clarify student thinking that may be incorrect so if someone says, "a habitat is an animal," I might say, it has to do with the animal, can you think of what it might have to do with the animal or do you want a friend to help you with this ?" 

Habitat Pictures

15 minutes

I bring out a collection of old nature magazines (or it would be possible to print pictures off the internet with some showing habitats and some showing animals). I tell students, "these magazines have lots of old pictures in them. Some show habitats and some do not. I would like you to find 6 pictures,3 of habitats and 3 that are not habitats and cut them out. You will glue them on your own paper that I will give you." I hand out large construction paper and ask students to fold it the long way. "At the top of this column write the word HABITAT. At the top of the other column write "NOT HABITAT." I demonstrate and have students prepare their papers.

"Now I will give you about 10 minutes to find your 6 pictures, cut and glue them. Please only take 2 pictures out of 1 magazine and then put it back in the center of your table and take another one. That way everyone will have a chance to find different pictures." I check for questions and have 1 student repeat the directions for clarity.

Students work independently for 10 minutes. I circulate around to ask students about their work.

Defending Our Choices

20 minutes

I want students to engage in meaningful conversations about science. I want them to be able to explain their thinking and listen to and comment on the thinking of others. I say, "now you will have a chance to share your pictures with your partners. You will each have a chance to tell why you decided which pictures were of habitats and which were not. You may also ask questions of your partners about their choices. We will keep track of our sharing, questions and answers with blocks today."

I decide today to put students in groups of 3. I give each group a pile of blocks in 3 different colors. I tell them that blue is for when they tell about their own choice, yellow is for when they ask a question about someone else's picture and green is for when they answer someone else's question of them. I say, "here are the three colors. Each time you speak, decide if you are telling about your picture and then you would take a blue block; asking a question about someone else's picture and then you would take a yellow block, or answering someone else's question you would take a green block. I am putting the key to what the blocks mean on each table for you to look at. If you should run out of one color, just raise your hand and I will bring you more. I want you to see if you are taking part in the conversation that will help us decide what a habitat is."

I model using the blocks with two students. I bring everyone to the rug and show the pile of cubes. I borrow one student's paper and invite 2 others to sit in the center with me. I begin by showing one of their habitat pictures and saying that I put it there because it has sky in it. I take a blue cube. I ask the other students if they have any questions about my choice. I tell them to take a yellow cube when they ask me a question and I take a greeen when I answer it. I let the other two students do the same. I ask for questions and then break the students into their work groups and provide them with the cubes and the key.

I observe the groups as they are working. Using Cubes To Discuss Habitats

Writing Our Definitions

10 minutes

When the groups have finished sharing I ask each child to return to his/her own seat with their papers and the blocks they have collected. I tell them to put any unused blocks back in the bucket. I count backwards from 30 while students are making the transition.

"First I would like you to look at your blocks. Looking At Our Blocks How many of you have blue blocks from sharing your ideas?" Students raise their hands. "How many of you have yellow blocks from asking a question?" Again hands are raised. "I am glad to see so many of you asking questions about what your partner is sharing. That shows that you are interested and paying attention to them.  How many of you have green blocks because you answered a question?" Students raise hands. "It looks like there were some good conversations going on in the room. You were talking about science and learning about habitats from each other.

Now I want you all to take out your science journal and write down what you think a habitat is. You can start with, "I think a habitat is... or use your own beginning. I will write mine on the board in case you want to use it. When you have written your definition you may play with the blocks you have collected until everyone is finished."

I allow students about 5 minutes to write. I collect the journals so I can assess student understanding of what a habitat is. A definition that shows understanding,  A definition that shows a misconception or partial understanding

We close today by looking at the I Can statement. I ask for a thumbs up  if they think they wrote a definition of habitat and found some examples of different habitats. 

This brings closure to the lesson for students.