Next Generation Science Standard Connection
First of all this is the third lesson in a series of twelve lessons related to defense mechanisms in animals. Reading several articles about how animals use their external features to stay alive is one way of teaching my students about animal defense mechanisms. During the lesson, the class is going to be answering a question: "What are the defense mechanisms of different animals?" The students are actually engaging in learning from text as we read and analyze different animals, and how they use their body for survival. There are some very interesting things animals can do with their body covered in this lesson that I am sure my class will remember for years to come. This lesson is really about exploring more content knowledge in regard to animals protecting themselves. My students are actually listening and reading to learn about animals and the way they use their body.
The lesson also incorporates 1-LS1-2 by having the students evaluate text and video to learn about the ways animals protect themselves. Students analyze the way the newt, hairy frog, sea cucumber, and the malayasia ant use their body parts to survive. Here students are building on their prior knowledge of human defenses, and the knowledge about the horse, kangaroo, seahorse, and chameleon. Their presentations and evaluation during the student reflection of this lesson also connect to how they can share information they have learned. In addition, the evaluation process is an opportunity for the students to engage in justifying and deep analysis of how animals use their body to survive. This lesson builds upon previous questioning lessons, and later in the unit the students write to communicate their finding about similar defense mechanisms in animals based on reading several text.
In order for students to understand the relationships between parents and their offspring, which is 1-LS1-2 I feel like I first need to teach students about animal behavior. So, this lesson really allows the class to learn about the different ways animals can use their external features to survive. With an understanding of behavior that supports survival, students are more prepared to learn 1-LS1-2 which is about how parents behave to help their offspring survive.
So we make a list in the of the defense mechanisms of the The Newt and The Hairy Frog on the website. There are 7 animals listed on the website, but we just analyze the squid and the hairy frog, because they have similar defense mechanisms. This scaffolds the instruction, because the students are thinking about a specific kind of way an animal may protect itself. For the partner work section the students make lists and analyze the defense mechanisms of the Sea Cucumber and The Malaysian Ant, but again there are 10 animals listed. I selected these two because they are similar. We actually look at the picture and read the content. There is a lot to be learned from illustrations, even though that is not the focus of the lesson. We mainly look for text evidence in the lesson.
Strategy: Adjusting Text Complexity
Since I am mostly interested in the content in the lesson and it is hard to find quality content, I just Google the topic: animal defense mechanisms. Then I find article I like, and I copy them into a document. I shorten sentence and change some words to make the text more suitable for my class. Now, I am not really lessening the rigor. I am trying to make the content presented in a way my class can understand. The big strategy I use in the lesson is echo reading, and echo reading is very difficult when the sentences are long. Likewise, I cannot constantly be explaining vocabulary, so I can some words.
As the lesson begins I want to assess my students knowledge about animal defense mechanisms, excite them about the lesson, and make learning relevant. First, I ask the students to tell their partner two ways humans defend themselves. This connects them to the lesson personally and add relevance. Then I ask them to discuss several ways we have learned that animals defend themselves. In the two previous lessons we learned about camouflage, kicking, and running.
So, to excite the class I read the highlights from this selection, Defense Mechanisms, by Regina Bailey, to get the class excited about the unusual defense mechanisms of animals. I read the second, third, fourth, and sixth paragraph. If I notice the class drifting in attention, I just leave off a sentence or two at the end of the paragraph. This article just gives an overview of defense mechanisms.
Now, to make the lesson even more relevant, and I ask the class to raise their hand if they have ever smelled a skunk. I share, "It stinks! But, this spay is their defense mechanism." Get ready to learn more about how animals protect themselves to stay alive.
Then I share the lesson goal: I can determine several ways the newt, hairy frog, the sea cucumber, and the malaysian ant use their body to stay alive.
As the guided practice begins I project the website on the Smart Board. Then I begin reading the two paragraphs under the image of the hairy frog. I read the text three time, and the students are supposed to follow along. I am modeling tracking, but also exposing the students to the new content and vocabulary. I stop at threaten, strands, and warding to explain what the words mean. I even reference the other words in the text and to show how I use context clues to help me determine the meaning of these words. "I know threatened means scared because I see that I can feel that way, and the words weapon and defend are in the sentence. I know strands because it says it is on the skin and they hold oxygen. So, I can look and see them on the frogs skin. Warding off is something frogs do to attackers, so it must mean make them leave." Now, I only pick a few vocabulary words to stop and discuss, because of time and the students attention span. Throughout the reading most everyone practices tracking, some students do just watch me, because I have a full inclusion class. This repetition is really building content knowledge.
Then I ask the class the question: "What defense mechanisms do frogs have?" I also say, "What do they do when they get scared?" (They break off thier toe and use it as a weapon.) This kind of bridges the gap for my ELL students who may not know what defense mechanisms are, but they will after this unit. After my question I ask, "Will you please reread the text and find the answer? When you finish reading underline the answer, and read your evidence to your partner." Then I ask, "Will a volunteer please share their evidence with the class." We agree or disagree by showing thumbs up or down. Next I ask, "Will you please show us where you found the information in the text?" I highlight the answer on the Smart Board and my students highlight on their paper.
Then I read the paragraph about the newt, because it has a similar way of defense. Again, I read the text three times as the entire class tracks. Then I ask them to discuss, "What does the newt does to defend itself?" (It breaks its ribs and uses them as a weapon.) After about a minute, somebody shares and we begin a discussion about the newt. "If you agree show thumbs up." I say, "Please share where you found the evidence." I also highlight the words in the text that tell me the answer, because I am modeling using text evidence.
Now it is time for the students to practice finding the defense mechanisms in text. I keep the content at the front of the focus on this section. They can write their answer anyway they choose on their paper: sentence, list, or bullets.
So, I read the text to them, and play the video of the Sea Cucumber and the Malaysian Ant, but I only show the image of the ants. (If your school blocks cool videos, download YTD video downloader. Convert the video to a MP4 and email it to yourself.) So, I give the class two text, and ask them to find the defense mechanisms for both animals. But, first I read each text once. I have already modified them, so my students can read the text.
The students are supposed to write the defense mechanism of each animal on a piece of paper. Each group has one paper, and I do encourage them to write in complete sentences. I really try to keep the focus on identifying defense mechanisms, and not grammar.
As I walk around, I stop and chat with my student. Here is what I find myself saying:
Have you found that information in the text? (Some students want to use prior knowledge. So, I am refocusing them on looking in the text.)
How do ants or sea cucumber protect themselves? (Check out my video of student discourse.)
What do ants do when they get scared?
Be sure to reread the text. (I am giving them a strategy to find the answer.) Do you want me to reread it to you? (Many students can't read this text, so support from me is needed.)
These are text dependent questions, because they are specifically related to the text. These questions are more specific and the answers must be found in the text. So, using questions like, "What happens?" is probably not the best questioning strategy.
Now the class is seated in the lounge and I select several students to read their sentences aloud to the class. The students seated are supposed to listen, and then give their peer academic feedback. For example, I agree that one defense mechanism is breaking a bone and using it as a weapon, because I read it in the text.
To get the expected behavior I say, "Criss cross apple sauce pockets on the floor, hands in our laps talking no more. Your eyes are on the speaker, listen to what they say, and be prepared to give them academic feedback." But many time the students are not confident in the skill to give feedback, so I just do it. Then they begin to try to share their thoughts. I do assess their ability to give feedback. Now, this is really informal, but it tells me who can give feedback and who cannot. Our lunch count slips are one fourth of a piece of paper and they have all of my students name on them. So, I just write the skill at the top, the date, and I put a check by the name of the students that give accurate feedback. Now, for a formal observation I make a nice little excell document, but for everyday the lunch slip is quick, easy, and readily available. I also tape them to the back of this easel I have by my desk. I see the results, but my students do not always see my information.
Now, I probably need to explain how I actually get my students to provide peer feedback. Well, I model it first. Then I sit and wait until they are ready to try. After, I am sure they know the answer and they are just begin shy I begin asking specific students. I might say, "Okay, Owen, please tell me why you agree or disagree with Emma? Do you think the text told us that the sea cucumber really does spray its intestine on predators? If so, where did you find it?" Now, I only do this if I am sure they are ready to begin verbally analyzing, but it only takes modeling a few time before they begin trying. It is just important to lead them to the correct analysis by redirecting the students to the text if they are wrong. I say, "Let's take another look at that text." I have to keep their courage up, because speaking out in class can be very scary for some children.
This is the end of the lesson and I want to do some type of quick formative assessment. I ask the class to tell their partner one defense mechanism they learned today. It is essential to only focus on one big goal at a time and the focus here is the content knowledge, so I assess that in my last assessment even though I may be aware of other things I see we need to work on. So, while the students talk I listen to assess their content knowledge. I use a simple chart to assess their knowledge and document progress. Students either get a check or a minus on my spreadsheet by their name.
Last, we chant the lesson goal: I can determine several ways the newt, hairy frog, the sea cucumber, and the malaysian ant use their body to stay alive.