Mama Elephant and her Offspring

40 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT determine ways elephants use their external features to aid in the survival of their offspring.

Big Idea

Allow students to discover the unique ways animals use their body to help their offsprings survive.

Setting the Stage

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

This lesson takes 1-LS1-2 to the next level, because we are now going to begin analyzing how animals communicate with their offspring in order to help them survive. In previous lessons, we have learned about animal defense mechanisms that help them survive, and now we are looking at specific behaviors the parent engages in with the offspring to help them survive. When analyzing the standards I find it easier to break the standard down into small pieces that my students can understand in one hour and build upon these lessons to develop a more complex understanding of animal behavior.

I am also teaching about SL1.1, because the students work with a partner, present their work, and evaluate their peers' work.

Lesson Overview

We have studied animal behavior in relation to how they use their external features to stay alive.  So, this lesson moves deeper into understanding animal behavior, because we are going to look at specific ways parents communicate with their offsprings that help them stay alive. I use the last two paragraphs under the heading, The Realm of the Senses, and the third paragraph under the heading: Elephants Love Their Mamas for the guided practice. Then we use the bullets under Parental Behavior on an informative website.

The students work in small groups: peanut butter jelly partner throughout the lesson and transition frequently. I find these strategies really help my students keep their energy up and stay focused throughout the lesson.

Setting the Stage

Now in order to prepare for this lesson I have taught a unit of eleven lessons about how different animals use their external features to survive. I feel like understanding animal behavior is essential to be able to understand how parents communicate with their offspring to help them survive. So, now I can begin this unit which is about how parents use their verbal and physical communication skills to help their offspring survive. This lesson is allows the students to read about how parent communicate orally with their offsprings. Later lessons provide video to allow the class to make observations and draw conclusions based on what they see.



10 minutes


In this section I want to excite my students, engage them, and create some relevance to the lesson. So, I ask the class to think about how human babies communicate with their parents. I say, "What do they do when they are hungry, tired, or sleepy? Tell your partner." Now most all of my students have younger siblings or at least know that a baby will cry when it is hungry. So, I expect my students to say this in their conversation. I listen as they talk to assess their knowledge.  

Then I ask them what happens when they do something that could get them hurt. I say, "What does your mother do if you do something that could get you hurt?" They talk and I listen. Then I share their conversations. I say, "I heard some of you say that your mother might scold you. Today we are going to learn about how mother elephants behave, and how it helps their offspring stay alive."

Then I share that we are going to study how mother elephants behave to help their babies stay alive. We chant the goal: I can determine how animals communicate with their offspring  to help them survive.


15 minutes

 This is the time when I begin teaching my student the important science concept about how animals use their external features to help their offspring stay alive. I am teaching this specifically through reading the text that I selected. It may seem overwhelming, but we are really learning by reading instead of learning to read in the first grade. So, I read the student the text: three times, because it takes multiple readings for students to really understand what the text is talking about. 

After I read the text aloud, I ask the students to turn and talk to their partner. I say, "Talk to your partner about one way the text says elephants help their offsprings survive." Then I listen for a minute, and stop the conversations with on of my ideas on this video.

After listening, I tell the students I am going to reread the text and when I get to the answer I want them to highlight it as I am reading. So, I am basically trying to teach them to find the evidence in the text to support their answer.

Before calling on a student, I remind them to speak loud, clear, and in a full sentence. I am trying to incorporate the SL1.1 standard, but really I want my students to develop their communication skills. 

I ask for a volunteer to share one way elephants help their offspring survive aloud. Hopefully the volunteer says, "The loud noise they make sends a warning to others that there may be danger." Then I say, "If you agree show thumbs up, and if you disagree show thumbs down." If a student disagrees I ask them to explain themselves, which creates discourse among the class. The next question is, "Where did you find the answer in the text? Will you share that information?" Then the student responds with, "The last sentence in the second paragraph." I ask, "Will everyone highlight that sentence, and when you finish check to see if your partner needs any help locating the sentence?" I walk around and make sure everyone can find the sentence. I also have the text on the Smart Board and model underlining: text, which really helps them find the sentence.

Now, we have discovered that elephants use a vocal call to alarm each other of danger. But there is a comparison of how humans and elephants are similar in the paragraph under Elephants Love Their Mamas which brings in relevance to the lesson, because students can reflect on ways their mothers protect and communicate with them.

So, I focus on that paragraph now and I ask the class, "How does the mother elephant use her body to help her offspring stay alive?" Then I ask them to talk to their partner. I listen for about a minute. Then I reread the paragraph under the heading: Elephants Love Their Mamas. I ask the students to highlight the answer when I read it. So, they are finding the evidence in the text. Then I ask for a volunteer to share their thoughts and where they found the answer. Hopefully my volunteer says, "The first sentence says the mother gives the baby milk for two or three years." Then I assess the rest of the class by saying, "Please five me a thumbs up if you agree and a thumbs down if you disagree." I model highlighting the answer on the Smart Board. 

Last, I say, "We have now learned that elephants protect their young by using a loud call to alarm others, and they feed their baby milk for two to three years." This is important to point out the big ideas we have identified.  I have the class chart all of their information in their science notebook on their t-chart.


20 minutes

In this section I write three questions on the board: t-chart. I read each question then I ask the students to explain the answer to their partner. As the students are discussing I listen to see what they learned. Then I ask a volunteer to share their response. I add anything I feel that the class need more explaining on to the end of the class discussion.

These are my questions:

How do mother elephants help their offspring get milk? (They bend their leg.)

How do mother elephants tell their offspring they did something that they should not do? (She slaps it with her trunk.)

What might a mother elephant do if her calf is too tired to walk? (She might carry it.)




20 minutes

Then I share, "Now we will watch actual video footage of elephants and their offspring and looking for these types of behaviors."

After the video I ask the students to talk to their partner and answer, "How did the mother help her offspring? What body part did she use?" (She uses her trunk to push and lift the baby.) Then a volunteer shares and we have a class discussion.

After the video I ask the class to talk to their partner and discuss, "How do the elephants protect the baby?" (They keep it in the middle.) Then a volunteer shares.



 After the video I ask the class to talk to their partner and answer, "What do you hear the elephants do as a warning sign?" (They roar.) Then we have a volunteer share.

After the students see these videos this is what I expect them to have on their t-chart. As they mention them in the evaluation section I record them: elaboration t-chart.


15 minutes

During this time I select three students to read: presentation their work to the class. I do use popsicle sticks so I make sure everyone gets to present. We have these presentations almost everyday.

I also assess their speaking and listening skills on a spreadsheet. I have found that it is essential to teach students to speak, listen, and communicate appropriately. We went on a field trip and the speakers could not understand my students. I of course knew every word they said, but I learned that they were not speaking loud and enunciating their words. Many of my students are English Language Learners, so I put a special emphasis on really teaching the students to communicate correctly.

This is also the time I want the students to really focus on whether their peers found the correct information in the text. By asking my students to evaluate their peers responses I am engaging them in a very complex task. I know if they can determine whether their peers are correct or incorrect and justify themselves then they know how mother elephants help their offsprings survive. 

So, to be proactive and make sure the students listen to the presenters I say, "Criss cross apple sauce, pockets on the floor, hands in your laps, talking no more. Your eyes are on the speaker. You are thinking about what they are saying." This usually makes sure all of my students evaluate their peers.

Then I need to get the students speaking and actually evaluating what the speaker says. So, I first model an evaluation.  I might say, "I agree with Owen, because the text says that mother elephants bend their leg to help their baby nurse." If the students still do not feel comfortable evaluating I begin with this, "Oh just try.  Do you agree or disagree with something they said? Did you find the same answer? Can you add to anything they said? Remember we are in a risk free environment. Just try, and remember we learn more from things we get wrong than things we get right. Nobody is going to judge you here." After all of that begging somebody talks, and I usually give everyone some kind of reward: extra recess, candy, or one minute of dance time. It takes courage to speak out and I want to encourage discourse. Eventually the students get so good at this section I feel like they could do it without me, I really transition into a facilitator later in the year.

As the lesson winds down I want to really assess if my students know how elephants use their body to help their offspring survive. So, I use this really neat app called Plickers. I just ask the class my two questions and use my iphone to scan the room and see who understand the information. So, I type into the iphone my two questions, because it saves my students answer, so I know who to reteach. 

The two question are:

1. What is one way a mother elephant uses her body to help her offspring survive?

A. roaring call to alert of danger   B. barks     C. plays dead    D. swings from trees


2. What is one way a mother elephant helps her offspring survive?

A. hopping    B. bending her legs to it can get milk   C. sleeping in the day    D. biting at insects


Then I share the correct answers and explain that the next lesson is going to be about noticing behaviors like these in video footage. We are going to take a closer look at how elephants behave. But for today we learned about the roaring alert call, feeding the baby milk for two to three years, bending her leg, and carrying the baby. Let's all chant: I can determine how animals communicate with their offspring to help them survive.