The Structures and Functions of Amphibians

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SWBAT identify the different structures and functions of amphibians.

Big Idea

If you are an Amphibian, you might be a salamander, a frog or a pollywog!! Did you know amphibians do really cool things that engineers can use to create new stuff? Check out how first graders discover more about amphibians and Biomimicry!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants and animals. This is called Biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about Biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

In this lesson students will learn about the different structures and functions of amphibians.  They will identify that frogs have sticky feet and live on land and water.  This lesson builds upon the idea that engineers can observe and copy things that animals do to create new inventions.

Home to School Connection:

In this unit we will be learning animal and plant parts. Students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature. The NGSS standards ask students solve a human problem by mimicking how plants and animals survive.  Each a day a student in class will be able to take home the Organisms Bag. In this bag I have included a recording sheet, crayons and pencils, and the book What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These are the vocabulary that will be covered in this unit that addresses 1-LS1-1.  You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit.  You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.


Anchor Chart - Animal Classifications

Video: Toad, Frog, Pollywog - Amphibians Kids Song

Investigation Worksheet -Amphibians

Amphibian Books

Amphibian Figurines

Tree Frogs

Ipads - Amphibians - I like to use PebbleGo because they have a large animal database.

Presentation - Biomimicry and Amphibians

Elaborate - suction cups, sticky notes, sticky hand toys, different size flippers, a mini wet suit

Frog cut-out

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Science Journal Prompt: What are the structures and functions of amphibians?


5 minutes

The NGSS does not require students to know the different classifications of the animal groups so the focus of this lesson is to allow my students to explore animal parts (structures) and functions while introducing them to the different classifications.

I begin this lesson by referring to the anchor chart we created in our previous lesson Animal Classifications.  We review all the special characteristics of the animal group Amphibians.

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I begin this lesson activating prior knowledge for my young students with this fun video about Amphibians.

I refer to our Structures and Functions anchor chart. This anchor chart is a tool for tracking our learning throughout this unit. Students will use this as a reference book as we learn about the structures and functions of different animals in different animal groups. 

Boys and girls, today we will be studying Amphibians - frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. With your turn and talk partner please share what you know about a amphibians.

I listen in on conversations and then bring then back together. 

Amphibians are very helpful to scientists. In fact there are a lot of scientists studying frogs today to help solve problems. Today you are going to do an investigation to answer this question: What are the structures and functions of different Amphibians?

First you are going to learn how to do research by using an important tool called note-taking!  You know that research is a very important science word. It means you have to find the answers to really important questions. As a reader, thinker and writer there is something very important that you need to do when you are researching.  You get to jot down notes. Today I am going to show you how to do that. I use the book Frogs by Elizabeth Carney

Boys and girls when you read something that you really want to learn about you have to do something really important.  First you only read a small amount. I only read the size of my hand. I put my hand on the book page.  After I read that amount then I STOP and think.  I touch my hand to my head to show I am thinking. I model this. I read that small amount and then think.  Now I can jot down a quick sketch on my sticky note so I remember what I read. Remember this is not time for artwork. This is just a time for me to make a really quick picture of what I remember. Let's see I just read that frogs jump so I will draw a picture of a frog jumping. Look at the picture. Can you see those long legs? I better draw LONG legs in my sketch.  I model this several times and then I ask my students to do it as I read.  After a few practices, I allow my students to give it a go.


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures (animal parts) that help animals survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on the animal parts and functions of these parts.

For this exploration my students may work with their workshop partner or alone to try and identify structures and functions of different Amphibians.  I ask my students to record their notes on their Investigation Worksheet -Amphibians.

I create 4 stations for my students to explore:

*Station 1 - At this station we have a live Tree Frog and Tree Frog poster for my student to observe.

Let's Investigate - Tree Frogs

Let's Investigate - Tree Frogs

Let's Investigate - Tree Frogs

Let's Investigate - Tree Frogs

Let's Investigate - Tree Frog Poster

*Station 2 - At this station I have Amphibian figurines for my students to observe.

Let's Investigate - Frog figurines

*Station 3 - At this station I have Ipads for my students to use to research information about Amphibians: World Book Online - Amphibians or PebbleGo

As my students research different amphibian parts, I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. I refer back to our question:  What are the structures and functions of different amphibians?


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain information from observations. In the explain section I want my students to share their observations with their turn and talk partners.  Each partnership will engage in accountable talk agreeing or disagreeing with each others' observation notes.  I want my students sharing their observations and explaining their thinking as well as engaging in high levels of student discourse and reasoning. 

Thank you for meeting me on the carpet with your observations. We can call the work you have in front of you, your data.  Each of you have collected a lot of really good data today.  Now you get to do just what scientists do. You are going to share your data with your turn and talk partner.  Your job is to have a thoughtful conversation with your partner about your findings and your partners findings. As your partner shares his or her work with you, I want you to listen carefully to your partner today.  Are you ready to give this a go?

As my students share, I listen in on their conversations. Then I bring them back together and ask them to share their Investigation Worksheet -Amphibians . We use their work to fill in the structures and the functions on our anchor chart on amphibians.


15 minutes

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I elaborate on our learning by showing my students a slide show with different animal parts and different inventions that have been made by copying each part. After watching the slide show we go back to our anchor chart and record possible human inventions created based the parts we recorded during the Explain section.

Presentation - Biomimicry and Amphibians

After our slide show I pass around different suction cups, sticky notes, sticky hand toys, different size flippers and a mini wet suit.  As my students explore these human inventions I ask them to tell me where they should go on our Structures and Functions anchor chart. I allow my students to engage in discussions that allow for students to respectfully agree or disagree.  We use our anchor chart on accountable talk for managing disagreements politely. 

After our conversation we record the human inventions where we can.


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals, a little paper frog and ask them to write the answer to our big question: "What are the structures and functions of different amphibians?"

I encourage my students to include both illustrations and words that describe the different animal parts and functions and I am hopeful that my students may start mentioning Biomimicry in their journals.

Field Trip Extension:

60 minutes

For this lesson I take my students on a walking field trip to the pond in the neighborhood across from our school. This pond has amazing bird life from Red-Winged Blackbirds, Chickadees, finches, ducks, swans and geese.  My students will bring a clipboard and Field Trip - The Pond recording sheet.  My students will record their observations on this form and we will add these observations to our Structures and Functions anchor chart when we return to school.