Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.
In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.
When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them we are going to watch a short video clip about the animal of the day. I give them clues like, “This animal hunts mainly at night. This animal is a carnivore. This animal has incredible hearing and vision.” It is interesting to note that whenever I do questions like these I get either mammals or reptiles. Not many students think of the bird family or the fish family. The clue that usually gives it away is when I say, “This animal is considered very wise and hoots.”
“That’s right it is the owl. Now let's use our scientific eyes and ears to get some information on the owl.”
Videos on a variety of owls can be found on the Humpty Dumpty website.
Once the video is over I ask two or three students to tell me the most interesting thing they learned from the video clip. I use the Fair Sticks to select the students.
After the students have responded I prepare the students to hear the story which is the center of the focus lesson for the day.
I use the guessing game and the videos to help build student interest in our topic. Once the students are interested int he topic it is much easier to engage them in the activity relating to the topic of the day.
“The book for today is called Owls. In this book Gail Gibbons is both the illustrator and the author. What does that mean she did?”
“That’s right Owen; she wrote the words and drew the pictures.”
“Looking at the cover of this story do you think it is going to be fiction or non-fiction?”
“Why do you think it will be fiction Carson?”
“I agree the pictures are drawn rather than photographs. That is a good observation Carson.”
“Well let’s go ahead and read to see if our prediction is correct.”
During reading I will ask questions of the students to see;
(a) If they are paying attention, and
(b) To make connections to previous discussions we have had.
For example, “If this bird comes out at night, what type of behavior do we call that?” “What other animal did we read about which swooped through the night?”
We will also discuss new vocabulary words as we come across them. Words such as; raptor, talons, continent, etc.
On the page that means all the Owls of North America I point out the Barred Owl which is the most common owl here in eastern Maryland.
When we come to the page where it discuss about hoe owls cannot move their eyes but move their heads instead, we do the same thing. I have the students try not to move their eyes but move their heads instead. We try looking as far over our shoulders as we can.
On the page where it discuss how the feathered facial discs of the owls face act like and antenna we review how the bats ears are also like an antenna catching sound. We repeat the activity where we cupped our hands over our ears with the opening facing towards the sound to “catch” it.
We discuss why it would be easier to eat prey head first. I use a student to model how easily a body folds in on itself as I start at the head rather than opening out or bits like arms and legs flopping out perhaps creating a choking hazard.
I will also have the students practice resting with their heads on their chests and then try resting their heads on their backs.
All of these activities help maintain the readers/listeners interest in the text. These actions also help the students make a connection to the animal itself. When you are able to make a connection to nature it is much easier to build empathy for an animal or plants plight which in turn helps our students become better stewards of the Earth.
When the book is over I go back to the question I asked before reading, “So now that the book is over, who thinks they know if the book is fiction or non-fiction?”
“I agree with you Benjamin. The book is non-fiction. The book was filled with facts and information we could use about owls. Just because a book has drawn pictures instead of photographs does not necessarily mean that it is a fictional book. Long ago before cameras were invented scientists and doctors had to draw what they saw in order to share information and teach others. That is why when I ask you to illustrate your work I ask for as many details as possible.”
Now I turn back to the page with the owl pellets on it. “So how would you like to be the same as the scientists here in the book?” Many students are usually very enthusiastic about wanting to be real scientists.
“Well today we are going to take apart owl pellets and try to discover what the owls of Maryland eat. We are going to answer the question; What is in an owl pellet?”
“At this station the first thing we will do is take the owl pellet out of its wrapper. Do you think in the wild it comes in a wrapper?”
“You are right Rachel it does not come in a wrapper. These owl pellets came from a company that collects owl pellets and bakes them in an oven and then I bought them for us to dissect. Why do you think these owl pellets were baked?”
“Those were all good guesses. The owl pellets are baked to kill the germs and bacteria that the pellets maybe carrying. Why do you think they may have germs and bacteria on them?”
“That’s right it does have dead stuff in there which is decomposing. Well done Justin.”
“After we have looked at the owl pellet as a whole, we will take it apart using tweezers and then we will sort the items we find into groups. There is a resource card we will use to classify the items so we can determine what our owl ate. Then we will use our science journals to record the items that we find in the owl pellet.”
“Does anyone have any questions?”
Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;
“Table number one let’s go have some owl pellet fun.
Table number two, you know what to do.
Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and
Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”
I work closely with the students at this station. I remove the owl pellet from the packet and have each student hold the pellet while it is whole having them comment about what they are easily able to see. Student observing 1
Next I break the pellet into halves which I place onto the tray which is on the table. Then I have students take turns pulling things out of the owl pellet to examine and place in groups around the tray. We make constant reference to the resource card to make sure we are classifying our items correctly. Student observing 2 Students observing 3 Student classifying 1 Student classifying 2 Group of Bones Student recording
Another pellet provider is Genesis Inc.
I have generally found students love this activity and talk about it for days afterwards.
See students at work on their Owl Pellet Journal Entries
Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”
Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time. Student sample 1 Student sample 2 Student sample 3
Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one place I could go to get information.
Once a student has told me his/her research technique they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.
For this assignment I work alongside the students and take note of the students who are able to use the books and resource cards to classify the items we find in the owl pellet as well as label the items in their science journal accurately.
Make and owl craft using a paper bag. Decorate his wings with /ow/ words – cow, how, now, etc.
Owl hunting video about hearing and showing diurnal (daytime) owls.
At reading work stations we read sight word readers about owls. For my highest group I use the book Incredible Owls published by Scholastic.