Because birds are something students see and enjoy around them, getting them interested in birds to help them understand external in internal specialized structures to drive mastering the standard just makes complete sense to me. Birds offer so many unusual examples of external body parts that scream "this is what my beak or feet are used for!", students can't miss! To help students get background knowledge for this great activity, I asked them to join me up near the SB and sit on the floor to watch Animal Atlas, Amazing Animal Facts ( The Birds).
This video engages students with each explanation of a birds' adaptations and specialized structures . In order to keep them engaged and focused on mastering the standard, I stopped every chance I thought was appropriate to discuss the beaks, feathers, feet, legs and other adaptations. They were amazed at the spoonbills and the ostrich. We discussed how their legs served the same purpose as wings do on a songbird; to flee from predators. They took notes in their science notebooks. After the video, we discussed the many ways that they survive from predators using their specialized body parts.
I sent students back to their table groups and asked them to bring up their emails on their iPads. I had emailed them two sites that would help them with this activity. One site showed photos of the specialized beaks we had seen in video. The second site is Project Beak organization site. It is very detailed and has tabs with a lot of information to help them with understanding bird adaptations. I modified the expectations for reading for my below grade level readers, but the text is manageable by 4th grade level readers.
After about 20 minutes of note taking and exploring the page, students had discovered the "Build a Bird" tab and were playing with creating their bird. This tab helps them see how those specialized structures work together to help the bird survive. This site has its own survival rating. Soon all students were working on this tab, building their own bird and striving to get 100% survival.
Little did they know that tomorrow, they would be creating their own bird from their own research!
In 30 minutes, students couldn't explore and research the entire Bird Project page. I had encouraged them to stop as I roved and could see that notes were filling up immensely, and I wanted them join the others who had already discovered the Build a Bird tab to build at least one bird. Homework was necessary and appropriate in order to prepare for tomorrow's culminating team project!
After a few more minutes, I stopped their happy activity, bursting their bubble a bit, but wanted to explain exactly where this was all going. I asked the whole class for three "quick shares" ( less than 15 seconds) about what adaptations they had learned about so far. Students weren't quite focused on my questions because they were excited about what they learned. One student seemed to answer my reproduction question with the word "feet." She never heard my question and was simply sharing what came to mind as far as adaptations. I let the discussion and quick shares just roll along as they drove it along.
Afterward, I told them they needed to continue to read and research for homework and collect only two important facts from each tab because the site has so much information. I wanted them to focus on specialized structures of the bird, but they were welcome to research the whole site if they wanted to. I expected about 40 minutes of intense work at home, researching and taking notes. I reminded them that skimming and scanning was important to get through all the reading, but if they found they really liked one section, I encouraged them to go back and read it to enjoy it all. I told them that tomorrow, they would use this knowledge to create their own birds by desk teams, and they needed to also write about and present their bird to the class. This project would take the entire class period tomorrow.
Then, if they chose, they could watch Animal Atlas's Water Bird video for fun, but not until all of their research notes were gathered! This film adds to their research and knowledge base. I knew that some would enjoy it thoroughly as they had the first film. Animal Atlas is a wonderful resource!