Instead of jumping right in to teaching about animals and their basic needs, first students need a way to organize that information to make sense of it. Starting with the 6 animals classes and then going more in depth into each one gives us time to really study not just the basic needs but also how each animal class satisfies their needs.
For each lesson, I post both the lesson objective from the Essential Standards and a guiding question.This is to help students to understand the purpose behind the lesson and to connect to prior knowledge. I have found it helpful because it also keeps my focus on the objectives for the day. When I first introduce the day's activities to the students, I will write at the top of the board, 'What are the 6 animal classes?'
I teach the Essential Standards and although teaching the 6 classes is not explicitly required, 1.L.1 states "Understand characteristics of various environments and behaviors of humans that enable plants and animals to survive". The characteristics of various environments influence what kind of animals live there, so by understanding that fish share common characteristics and basic needs, as do the other classes, students will be able to more fully categorize animals and their needs. The writing and drawing in this lesson aligns to Common Core ELA writing standard W.1.2 because students are supplying facts about a non-fiction topic. This could easily be extended into a full writing lesson!
There are 6 different animal groups: Invertebrates, Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals, and Birds. Click this link for more detailed information about each group. When I listened to students working in the preassessment lesson, they mostly identified mammals and reptiles, which is what I anticipated. So, this lesson aims to really expand their understanding of the different groups and how each group satisfies their basic needs. This will also provide a smooth transition into learning about habitats.
*6 tubs or book boxes, each with several books and/or magazines about one animal class (1 tub for reptile information, 1 tub for mammal information, etc.)
*6 large pieces of poster board or anchor chart paper, labeled at the top with one of the animal classes (1 poster for reptiles, 1 poster for mammals, etc.)
*Song chart with lyrics to 6 Animal Classes Song
To introduce the concept that there are 6 classes of animals, first we learn a song! Songs help students to engage in a different way with the material -often, I hear them singing the tune as they work because they are remembering the vocabulary! We will sing throughout the day and add it to our repertoire which will also provide a review of the content for the rest of the year. I have the lyrics written on a song chart in my room which I will leave up for the duration of this unit for reference. The lyrics are simple, and it is to the tune of "Frere Jacques":
Animal classes, animal classes,
There are six! There are six!
Mammals and birds,
Amphibians and reptiles,
Insects and fish! Insects and fish!
We sing the song a few times and add our own hand movements, too!
Then, I draw a flow chart on the board starting with 'Living Organisms'. I say,
"What two kingdoms can all living organisms be divided into? Does anyone know?"
If someone answers correctly I write 'Animal Kingdom' and 'Plants' underneath, and if nobody answers I just tell them. Then, I say,
"For the next few weeks, we will be learning about animals. How many animal classes are there? That's right! Six! I am going to list them underneath 'Animal Kingdom'".
Although I want students to eventually become familiar with the basic needs of all of the 6 classes, for the introduction I split my class into 6 groups and assign each group one of the classes. Their job is to find out as much information as they can about their class and become an 'expert', and then report back what they have learned. I say,
"Each group is going to use the books and magazines that are in your tub to find out what you can about your class. Record your information in your science journals and remember to use details and be accurate so that when you report back to the whole group your information is correct".
I considered using jobs such as 'recorder' and 'researcher' for this mini-project, but I want all of the students looking at books and recording in their own science journals which is more important to me in this lesson than worrying about whether or not everyone is doing their own job, so instead I use expectations to guide their work. I say,
"You will have about 20 minutes to find out what you can. When we finish, every member of your group should have at least 5 interesting things that they learned. This could include a list of animals that is in this group, their basic needs, and where they live, as well as anything else you think is important".
Science and Engineering Practice 8 describes students engaging with grade level texts to learn about the natural world. Since first graders have a wide range of reading abilities, it is important to include lots of different levels of books for this activity and to make up groups considering a high reader in each group. Also, with some students who cannot yet read it is equally important to have lots of pictures from which students can gather information.
As the students use the resources and discuss the classes, I listen in for any misunderstandings that I need to clarify. I am always very careful when I have students sharing new information because if they share something that is incorrect I either have to correct them in front of the whole class, which can be embarrassing for some students, or I have to make sure I address at another time. By then, some students may have taken that information as fact and committed it to memory. So, I walk around and ask things like, "What have you found out?" and "What information are you going to share?" Watch my students working together to become experts on their animal class.
Here are some examples of student work:
Some of my students were able to really dig in to this lesson and utilize the resources, writing and recording their ideas in their journals. Some of them, however, wrote a minimal amount. Having a verbal discussion supports the lower students who are not yet able to record everything in their journals.
After about 20 minutes, I give the students a final "1 minute warning" to finish, put their books back in the tub and come to the carpet. I do all of the writing on the posters because I plan to use them as reference tools and add to them throughout the unit. Also, by students just recording their information in their journals they are not as distracted as when they get to design a poster!
As this is the introductory glimpse into each class of animals, I want the students to finish the lesson with a few examples of each class and some key things that make that class unique, like mammals having backbones and amphibians spending some of their life in water. This is not a comprehensive look at all 6 classes because the following lessons will go much further into detail about each one. One at a time, I ask the students from each group to share one thing each. This engages them in sharing scientific information together and we can show respectful listening to our peers again.
I take notes as they talk and create a working chart that lists each animal class. As the students give examples or features that are accurate, I add them to the chart.
When we are finished, I say,
"We have read and found out some really interesting things today. At the bottom of your page, please write one or two questions that you have about one or more of the classes that was not answered today".
This encourages future research and inquiry based lessons and it supports Science and Engineering Practice 1 by asking questions based on observations. If a student is really interested in something, I try carve out some time for that student to become an 'expert' and share back to the class. This is also a good way to find out what the students are interested in to integrate into literacy and math!