Real Reptiles!

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SWBAT describe basic needs and features of reptiles.

Big Idea

Reptiles are cold blooded, born on land, have lungs, and have scaly skin!


At this point in the unit, students should have an understanding that most living organisms can be classified into plants or animals, and that there are 6 animal classes. I framed this unit around the 6 animal classes to provide a structure for students to organize the new information about basic needs and features. Please click here for the first lesson in this unit that teaches students the 6 animal classes. Understanding the 6 classes and the features that distinguish each one will help students to determine the basic needs and habitats of each kind, supporting Essential Standards 1.L.1.1 and 1.L.2.2.

For each lesson, I post both the lesson objective from the Essential Standards and a guiding question. Listen to my explanation to find out why I teach the Essential Standards for science. The guiding question helps students to understand the purpose behind the lesson and to connect to prior knowledge. I have found it helpful because it also keeps me focused on the objectives for the day. When I first introduce the lesson to the students, I write at the top of the board, 'What are the basic needs of reptiles? How are they the same and different from mammals?'



Student journals

Fact Sheet (1 per student)

Copies of the life cycle of lizards (see an example here)

Non-fiction books about lizards

Post it notes or paper for team choices

Non-fiction books about other reptiles (chosen by students at end of day 1)

Day 1 - Warm Up (Lizards)

10 minutes

To begin this lesson, we review the 6 animal classes and the features of mammals that we have already learned by singing the 6 Animal Classes Song and looking over our Fact Sheets about mammals. Then, we watch this video to begin the discussion about reptiles, and I show this one about the 'World's Biggest Lizard' just to get the students excited! As we watch, I read the text at the bottom of the video to the students.

I use lots of different media sources in this lesson because it engages students in a visual and auditory way, instead of always using a book or poster to introduce new information.


Day 1 - Activity (Lizards)

30 minutes

After we watch the video, I say,

"Today we are learning about another class of animals - reptiles! We are going to learn about their basic needs and fill out a Fact Sheet about lizards. Then, tomorrow, we will work in small groups to learn about a second reptile. Your small group will share what they learn to the rest of the class".

The Fact Sheet is a way for students to record information about the basic needs and can be used for them to remember the details, which supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, recording and communicating scientific information.

We start by reading this website together which provides much of the information we need for our Fact Sheet.

We watch this video to learn about the many different kinds of lizards. Then, I tell students that they are going to assemble the life cycle of a lizard. I say,

Student Work Life Cycle"Use the pictures I give you and put them in the order you think they go to represent the life cycle of a lizard. Then, we will see if you are right and add the basic needs of a lizard".

Students WorkingI give each student a set of the lizard pictures (cut apart, of course!) and watch as they assemble it. Understanding the life cycle of a reptile helps students to understand the basic needs of this animal group because their shelter will be different in each life stage, and students need to identify that feature of this animal group.



Students Working 2Once everyone has had a chance to put the pictures in order, we go through it as a group and I emphasize how one of the features of the reptile class is that they hatch from eggs. Then, we add drawings of the basic needs to each step and I ask questions like "Where do the infants get their food?" and "Where might an adult lizard find water and shelter?" These questions provide another layer of understanding to the concept because students have to understand that basic needs change depending on the life stage of the living organism. Students can use the information we watched in the videos and read on the website earlier in the lesson to answer these questions as a whole group. The focus is on the basic needs and not the life cycle, so we spend more time on adding the details to the pictures than on the sequence of the life cycle.

Student Work 1When we are asking the additional questions and trying to figure out the answers, we read from other non-fiction books about lizards in the classroom and complete our Fact Sheet about lizards. This supports Science and Engineering Practice 4, because students are recording information about the content.

This is a great time to introduce how to use an index to show students that skills we learn in reading are useful in other content areas. Any time I can integrate literacy into other subjects, I do! I say,

"Sometimes, when you are learning about just one or two specific things about a topic, you do not have to read the whole text. You can use the index to find just what you are looking for".

Then, I show the book on the digital projector and guide students through finding the index and looking for 'lizards'. When we find the page, we look at the information and complete our Fact Sheet about lizards. After we finish, I ask students about the basic needs of lizards. I do not always call on just the students who raise their hands - if I did, some students would never contribute to the conversation! When I call on students who don't expect me to, it can catch them off guard. To help with that, I say,

"Turn to your neighbor and share your information for about 30 seconds".

This takes the pressure off the person I called on and gives them a chance to think about an answer with another person which encourages both collaboration and listening skills.

Day 1 - Wrap Up (Lizards)

10 minutes

When we have finished sharing about lizards, I tell students that I have selected their working groups for tomorrow and I display a list of each group on the projector and ask them to sit with their new partners. I say,

"To decide which reptile you would like to focus on tomorrow, we are going to watch another quick video. Watch carefully so you will have ideas to think about with your group".

I show this video and then ask the small groups to talk together and pick 3 reptiles they would be interested in learning about. I ask one person in each small group to write down their 3 choices on a post it note. I have the students write 3 choices to ensure that I will be able to find enough resources for them.

Student Choice Post It Notes

Student choice is important for learning because it really allows the teacher to focus in on what the students are interested in. If students are interested in the topic, then they will be more ready to learn about it! Since I can pick lots of different resources for my students to use tomorrow, this is a good activity for them to choose the topic for.


Day 1 - Assessment

After the lesson, I collect all of the journals and complete a Science Journal Check in Sheet to see how well my students are collecting information, recording information, and whether they understand it based on their notes. However, since some of my students are still very early readers and writers, another way I assess their understanding of the content is through questioning during lessons and also by listening to their partner/small group conversations to see if they are demonstrating competence through conversation.

Day 2 - Warm Up

5 minutes

Miles and Miles book coverOn the second day of this lesson, I read Miles and Miles of Reptiles by Tish Rabe and illustrated by Dr. Seuss to my class during literacy, which I teach before science. This provides an opportunity for us to really enjoy the text and the rhyming patterns and to prepare for more learning about reptiles during science!

I want to get students working in their small groups on their own Fact Sheets as quickly as possible, so the Warm Up is quick! We watch this funny video of lots of different types of reptiles and dance a little bit so we can settle in to work together in our small groups.


Day 2 - Activity

15 minutes

Today, the students are working in their small groups on their self-selected reptile of choice to complete a Fact Sheet. Watch them doing their group work. I chose to have students work as a small group to ensure that there are capable readers and writers in each group. Some students would not be able to work independently on reading and writing information at this point. Each student must complete their own Fact Sheet and they are all responsible for the information so that they can all help to present to the class.

Book Tub 1Each group has a tub of materials with books, pictures, and any other resources I could find on their reptile. I made sure that some of the information was on a first grade reading level so that the students could work as a group with limited teacher support, enabling me to see how well they can determine basic needs of their reptile. This activity addresses Science and Engineering Practice 4, recording information and Practice 8, sharing information. I say,

"Today, you will work in your small group to complete a Fact Sheet about your group's reptile. I will come around and help you read tough words. Use the resources in the tub on your table to work together to find out about the basic needs of your reptile. You will have about 15 minutes, then we will take turns presenting the information to the class. That way, we can all learn about all of the animals!"

Book Tub 3Book Tub 2As the students work, I go from group to group making sure everyone is on task and helping with difficult text. Providing a lot of different books, as well as multiple copies of easier texts, gives students a lot to read and work with! Watch this classroom engagement in action!

After about 15 minutes, I say,

"In about 1 minute we are going to share what we learned. Each person in your group needs to pick one thing that they are going to tell us about your reptile. Work together to decide who will tell which piece of information".

Here are some examples of student work from today:

Student Work 1     Student Work 2     Student Work 3

Day 2 - Wrap Up

15 minutes

When the students have decided what information they are going to share, we sit on the carpet and I call each group up to present just a little information about their reptile. I want each child to have a chance to stand in front of the group and speak to support the Speaking and Listening standard SL1.1, as well as Science and Engineering Practice 8 (communicating information). Spending time sharing this information is as important as completing the Fact Sheets in this lesson because it shows that the students are beginning to build a solid understanding of this class of animals. After each group has shared, I say,

"I hope you learned some interesting new things about reptiles that perhaps you did not know before! Turn to a partner close to you and whisper one really cool thing you learned".

This provides another opportunity for students to quickly communicate their new information. Then I say,

"We have learned about both mammals and reptiles, and next we are moving along to something a little fishy! Bet you can't guess which class we are learning about next?!"

Of course, we are moving on to learn about fish!

Day 2 - Assessment

5 minutes

Student Assessment 1

I use a lot of formative assessment during my lesson when I listen to conversations, read student journals, and ask questions during whole group instruction. However, there also is a place for summative assessment to check that all students are on track with the objectives. At the end of this lesson, I give a Mammals and Reptiles Assessment. As some students are still learning to read and write, I read the entire test to the students and they can respond by writing or drawing. Then, there is a part where they circle some answer choices - I read and show it on the digital projector. Two of my students need additional reading and writing support beyond what I do for the rest of the class, so my assistant administers the test to just those two students in a separate setting.

Student Assessment Misconceptions/Confusion

When looking at the tests after class, I noticed that some students were confusing the 5 basic needs with the features of the animal classes. It is important that they understand the difference, so I pull those students out and teach a review mini lesson, making a clear distinction between the two the next day.

*If you did not teach about mammals, you can use the Reptiles Assessment.