I have the kids come sit on the floor one table at a time to sit like scientists. They are expected to sit quietly with their hands in their laps and be ready to learn.
I ask them to think about places where animals live. I then ask them to turn to their floor partner and share their thinking. The kids are assigned their floor partners and they know whether they are "A" or "B". I tell the kid that the B's will talk first and I set the timer for 30 seconds to tell their partner as much as they can before the timer goes off. I repeat the steps for the A's to share their thoughts.
Once the kids have had a chance to share their thoughts with their floor partner, I use a name stick can draw four names to share what their partner told them. I have them tell me what their partner told them because I am cultivating active listeners in my room and this is one way I can hold them accountable.
I record the different habitats on the board as the kids share. If a student repeats something another student already said, I place a checkmark next to the item on our list. The list is posted in for later use in the unit of study.
My goal here is to access any prior knowledge about habitats that the kids may have and get the really thinking about animals and where they live.
Since some of the kids have limited experience with animals and animal habitats, I engage them in the learning by reading Animals at Home by David Lock. I included a picture of the front cover of the book. Please note that there are two print versions and one has a squirrel on the front cover and the other has two rabbits in a den. They both contain the same text; one was just published in the UK so it has a different cover. You can order either one.
As I read the text, I stop at each habitat that is encountered and we have a quick discussion. I ask the kids questions like, "Why would a bird have to live in a tree?" or "Why do you think mice might live underground?" I do this to see what the kids already know and to keep them actively listening to the information provided in the text. I am never disappointed with the quality of answers that the kids provide. They always have something interesting to share.
When we are finished with the text, I explain the rules and expectations of the exploration.
1) All materials are to be used appropriately.
2) We share all materials.
3) We share what we observe or learn with our table friends.
4) We follow all directions exactly as they are given.
For this exploration, the kids are called one team at a time to sit at the tables. Once all the teams are seated and waiting like scientists, I bring each table a folder that has a variety of animals and habitat scenes in it, see resources.
The kids work as teams to decide where each animal lives. To do this, they follow these directions:
1) Lay all the habitat pictures across the table
2) Take turns, starting with the table leader, picking up an animal and discuss where you think the animal lives
3) Once everyone agrees, lay the animal on the habitat you think it belongs in
4) Raise your hands when you have placed all the animals in a habitat so I can check your work and I can ask your team some questions:
I ask these questions to help the kids make connections and to extend their understanding of animal habitats.
The section serves as a quick reinforcement of their understanding.
I call the kids back to the floor one table at a time. The table leaders first collect all of the pieces and place them back in the folder and bring it to me. Then the kids in the team come to their assigned spots on the floor.
We go over each animal that the kids worked with in the folders. I explain to them the correct habitat for each animal as well as why that habitat is the best fit for them. I also ask some "What if..." questions like, "What if squirrels didn't have sharp claws and small bodies? Would they still be able to live in a tree?"
It's important to go over the activity for a couple of reasons. For one, the kids need to have their work validated. Two, many misconceptions can be intercepted by doing just this one step. If any of the kids struggled with any of the animals or habitats, this time is a great opportunity to iron it out.
The evaluation of this lesson is individual and independent. I demonstrate how to complete the assignment and emphasize that they are to use only ONE drop of glue per animal. Kinders are big on glopping and wasting glue. This is a reminder I give them every time we use glue. I have the kids go to the tables one team at a time.
I provide each student with a page that has four different habitats and eight different animals. I have them cut and glue each animal into the appropriate habitat. This is a small sampling of habitats, but it gives me a quick idea of who is understanding habitats and who is still struggling.
I don't worry about kids having a confusion or two at this point because we will visit the habitats more in-depth in future lessons. I just tell them how to correct their work and ask them to do so before I place a star or sticker on it. Kids that finish significantly earlier than the rest of the class are asked to color their work and write a sentence or two abut habitats on the back of their work page.
Once their work is correct, I have them leave it on the tables to dry and we gather back on the floor for a quick recap of our learning. I ask four random kids to share one thing they learned from this lesson. I once again use the name stick can to choose the students who share.