Adaptations: Learning to Research Traits of the 5 Vertebrates

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Students use a gathering grid to develop understanding of how to research the classification of 5 vertebrates.

Big Idea

Using two separate gathering grids and two websites, students learn to research specific and the most important information about specialized body parts of the 5 vertebrates.


10 minutes

To engage students, I opened the lesson with writing a question on the board. What is a vertebrate? How many kinds of vertebrates are there?

This led to a discussion about backbones, spines and some revealing of some misconceptions about what animals are vertebrates. It seemed that they really were not clear about certain animals being vertebrates and so I knew that my choice to do this lesson before researching a platypus was a smart move!

I opened up this Kidzone website on the SB to introduce and clarify what vertebrates are. I also wanted them to understand that there are invertebrates too. This website's first introductory page is really concise, clear and written at 4th grade level. After we wrote down definitions of highlighted words, I asked them if they knew how many classes of vertebrates there were? 

I told them they would learn about each one through researching this page in class. I told them I would support their work by roving the classroom and answering questions or helping them skim and scan. 

We discussed strategies for research. We listed " Use headings," as the first. Then someone said to look at bold words and read around them. The discussion continued as we listed that we didn't need to read every word. I told them that I would lead them through the first one;mammals. 

Research Time!

30 minutes

Earlier, I had emailed the Kidzone website to my students and passed out the Five Vertebrates Classifying Sheet (be sure to copy off twice the amount of your class.) Now, it was time that we look over the Classifying sheet together as I explicitly guided them through each step. I emphasized that if they did not read the information in the article, then they should not use their prior knowledge to just fill in the squares. I told them that I knew that some squares would be blank. Some students chose to use the Google Doc and Type on PDF to fill in their grids. This was perfectly acceptable, but could present challenges for those with needs to have their document next to them to view as they write their summaries later. However, these also can be printed. 

 As students gathered their materials, I roved about the classroom, helping my below grade level achieving readers to find information they needed.

Strategy: I decided to give them support by pairing students together whose reading levels were opposite. Above grade level to average were paired with below grade level readers. This helped support the difficult skim and scan process, even though the materials are about at grade level or a little below. This helped with confidence levels and lowered frustration levels. I was coaching them to jigsaw the work so that it all would move faster.

I roved the class as they researched, talking with students about seaching by topic gathered from the question and from the particular vertebrate. I also clariyed jigsawing and how we can divvy up the topics to make the research go faster. I noticed that some jigsawed, some didn't. These students tended to be above grade level readers. I continually had to remind them that you can't write down anything that didn't appear in the article. This was tough for them!

Homework and Closure

10 minutes

To help students continue to practice researching, I assigned a Biology 4 Kids websites by sending it through their email so they could independently gather more information about the 5 vertebrates. I reminded them that they needed to write down ONLY what they read. 

They were told to continue researching independently and fill in another grid, answering the questions by skimming and scanning the website. This website would be a little more on "wordy" side and would require a good 45 minutes of work.

In order to reinforce understanding before sending them home with the new article, we discussed what we needed to remember as a whole class. We reviewed the concept of our strategies of skim scan gather. They explained that we just leave it blank if you can't find the answers to the question and be sure to only write down what you read