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Erin Smith

EDCI 402 Dr. Shindler

Winter 2004

Instructional Strategies Plan – Endangered Species


Unit Overview

          This two-week unit is designed for fourth grade students and explores the topic of endangered species.  Children are taught from a young age about different kinds of animals.  They read books on animals, watch television shows about animals, and they learn about animals in school.  Some of the animals that these children are learning about are being destroyed every year, and many animals are becoming endangered or extinct. Young children are often surprised to learn that their favorite animals from books and in zoos are not prevalent in the wild and are the victims of environmental changes.  This unit will be implemented in the two weeks preceding Earth Day.

This unit on endangered species is to promote awareness of endangered species, as well as of ways in which endangered species affect humans.  I want students to be able to share their knowledge about endangered species with others, so that they can improve the quality of the lives of animals and their environment, as well as develop a respect for all living things.  By allowing the children to learn of the many endangered animals throughout the United States, I hope that someday they will try to protect animals from extinction.  This is something that we will begin working on in the classroom.  I also want my students to be aware of the ways in which the environment and the world work as one community. 

Most all children have a fascination with animals and wildlife, and I hope that this unit will provide them with new and interesting information, as well as a different perspective of the world.  This unit will include many areas of learning, such as language arts, math, and technology.  It will also incorporate a great deal of cooperative and self-directed learning.  I am hopeful that through this unit, students will learn much about endangered species, the environment, and themselves.

Learning Goals of this Unit

  1. Students will define endangered species, threatened species, and extinct species.
  2. Students will identify a number of endangered species.
  3. Students will learn many reasons why animals become extinct.
  4. Students will be able to research and report information on given endangered species.
  5. Students will be able to use different resources to acquire and apply information on endangered species.
  6. Students will understand why preventing the endangerment and extinction of animals is important.
  7. Students will learn ways to help save threatened and endangered species.

Instructional Overview

            This unit is taught in an inductive manner.  We will begin with specific facts regarding endangered species, such as definitions of words, lists of endangered animals, and other facts about endangered species.  As the unit progresses and the students acquire more knowledge about the topic, I will encourage them to draw their own conclusions about endangered species.  We will examine such questions as why did these animals become endangered or extinct and what can we do to prevent this from happening.  We will ultimately arrive at the end of the unit where the student will be able to create their own theories and generalizations.  For example, we will examine the global effects of endangered species. 

          This unit is also thematic in nature.  The lesson plans of the unit incorporate a number of other areas of study.  For example, the students will have to apply their knowledge and skills in language arts, math, and technology when completing the lessons of the unit.  Cooperative learning will also be implemented.  Many of the lessons involve group interaction and collaboration.  Cooperative learning allows for the students to work together and to take responsibility for their own learning, as well as the learning of the classroom.  However, there are also some activities included that are to be completed individually, in order to account for all of the student’s learning styles.

            This unit promotes student-centered and self-directed learning.  However, the teacher must serve to facilitate this learning.  The teacher will do this by providing the students with the tools necessary to learn and expand upon the material.  For example, the teacher will present the information needed to complete the lesson, or instruct the students on how to acquire this information themselves.  She will not expect the students to simply memorize and reproduce the information learned.  She will allow the students to draw their own conclusions regarding what they have learned, by posing different questions to encourage them to think critically.  The students play a very active role in this learning and the teacher is there to guide them through it.

            The lessons plans of this unit progress from lessons, which emphasize the specifics of endangered species, to lessons that require the students to create generalizations about endangered species and their effects on the world.  The first lesson serves as an introduction to the unit.  It focuses on definitions and other facts about endangered species.  It serves as a good knowledge base for the students to later draw upon.  The lesson utilizes a website slide show that includes many pictures and questions that will peak the student’s interest.  The second lesson also incorporates this slide show.  It serves as a good review of the information learned in the slide show and it calls for the students to use their computer skills.  Because this lesson is to be completed in pairs and is in a game format, the students will highly enjoy it, while they are learning.

            The next few lessons expand upon the student’s knowledge about endangered species, while also incorporating different areas of study.  For example, one lesson calls for them to create an endangered species acrostic poem.  This lesson incorporates their language arts and writing skills.  Another lesson allows them to utilize their math skills, as it calls for them to gather information about endangered species from different graphs and charts.  Throughout the unit, each child will also be developing a report and presentation on a chosen endangered species.  This report will require them to acquire information on their endangered species, using different methods, and to draw conclusions about the information that they have gathered.  It also incorporates different areas of study, including art, as each student will create a drawing of their chosen endangered species.  Each lesson, including the five lessons already developed, as well as the lessons not yet created, provides the students with further knowledge and requires them to use their critical thinking more and more. 

            This unit will conclude with a lesson called the “Web of Life.”  The students will use all of the knowledge that they have acquired about endangered species to complete this task.  This lesson shows how groups, and their environment, change when their numbers change.  It also shows that animals can also affect each other, and when their populations dwindle, there are many effects.  The students can use this information to draw conclusions about the entire world, including the human race.  The teacher will have to facilitate this activity by providing the students with key questions for them to analyze.  The students will then be given the opportunity to share their findings and conclusions with the entire class and discuss their new insights.  We will create a bulletin board to display this.  This final lesson will truly emphasize the meaning of the unit for the students, as it allows them to apply the concept and implications of endangered species to their own lives. 

            This unit provides the students with a great number of positive learning experiences.  They will not only learn about endangered species, but they will learn about working collaboratively with their peers, about ways of acquiring new information, and about using their critical thinking skills.  This unit teaches the students how to build upon the information that they are learning in order to create their own ideas and conclusions.  The unit incorporates both direct instruction and student centered learning.  However, it emphasizes the importance of appropriate teacher facilitation and discovery learning. 

Assessment Techniques

          For this unit, I plan to use a wide variety of assessment techniques, including informal assessment, selected response, personal communication, and performance assessment.  It is important to include many different assessment techniques in the classroom, to account for all types and areas of learning.  I will incorporate informal assessment in each lesson of this unit.  This informal assessment will consist of circulating in the classroom, in order to observe the students involved in the lesson.  For example, during the “Tracking the Wild Ones” and “Risky Critters” lessons, I will informally assess the students as they are completing the tasks at hand.  I will observe their ability to complete the task, their affect while performing it, as well as their ability to work collaboratively, when called for.  I feel that informal assessment is very important in the classroom because it allows the teacher to take a step back and observe the “whole picture,” instead of having to focus on one aspect of a lesson.  It allows the teacher to collect an authentic assessment of the students, as they are engaging in the lessons.

            I also plan to implement the use of selected response assessment in this unit.  Although this type of assessment tends to focus on right and wrong answers, it is often necessary when teaching in public schools.  The administration, parents, and children expect to receive grades at the end of a lesson or unit.  I will implement this type of assessment in the “There is Still Time” and “Tracking the Wild Ones” lessons.  In these lessons, the students are to complete worksheets, in which they utilize the information learned about endangered species.  These worksheets will be graded, as a class.  I will assess them on their ability to complete the worksheets, but will also give them a chance to correct any wrong answers, as we correct them as a class, before turning them in.  This puts the emphasis on learning the information, rather than just getting the right answer.

            Another important assessment technique I will use is personal communication.  I will do this in the form of class discussion in the “Tracking the Wild Ones”, “There is Still Time”, and “Web of Life” lessons.  I will start the lesson by asking the class questions to stimulate their critical thinking skills.  I will also end the lessons with discussions, in which the students will use the information learned in the lesson to re-examine the questions proposed at the beginning of the lesson.  Because not all students are willing or feel comfortable to participate in class discussions, I also plan to incorporate personal communication assessment on a more one-on-one basis.  As I informally assess the students, through observation, I will move about the classroom and take a few moments to speak to each child, when time allows.  For example, during the “Endangered Species Acrostic Poem” lesson, I will circulate the class as the students are creating their poems.  I will approach students individually, in order to talk to them about the process that they are engaging in.  This will help me to get a better idea about their level of understanding, as well as their affective attitude towards the lesson. 

            I believe that performance based assessment is an authentic type of assessment used in the classroom.  It allows the teacher to examine the process of the lesson, as well as the product, and to measure how well the goals of the unit are being met.  This type of assessment is measured best with the use of a performance assessment instrument, a rubric.  Each lesson should include a rubric, whether it is a checklist, a trait scale, or a holistic rubric scale.  I have included a holistic rubric scale, which was created for the assessment of the “Web of Life” lesson.  This rubric covers all aspects of the lesson, including the gathering of the information necessary to complete the Web of Life worksheet, the presentation of this information to the rest of the class, and the creation of the Web of Life bulletin board.  I also plan to implement performance assessment in other lessons of this unit, including the “Endangered Species Acrostic Poem” lesson.  For this lesson, the assessment would focus more on the process of the activity, rather than the product because the product is highly subjective.

            The goal of any form of assessment is for the assessment to be authentic and to be relatable to the task being performed, as well as the goals of the lesson or unit.  Teachers must realize the important role that assessment plays in the classroom, for both teachers and students. 


“Web of Life” Rubric



ü      Completed all 5 sections of the worksheet

ü      Collected 2 pictures of assigned animal from the Internet

ü      Recorded answers legibly on worksheet, in the proper spaces

ü      Presentation of information lasted 5 minutes

ü      Spoke clearly and audibly during presentation

ü      Posted worksheet and pictures on bulletin board



ü      Completed 3-4 sections of worksheet

ü      Collected 2 pictures of assigned animal from the Internet

ü      Presentation of information lasted 2-4 minutes

ü      Spoke clearly and audibly during presentation

ü      Posted worksheet and pictures on bulletin board



ü      Completed 2 sections of worksheet

ü      Collected 1 picture of assigned animal from the Internet

ü      Presentation of information lasted 1-2 minutes

ü      Spoke clearly and audibly during presentation

ü      Posted worksheet and pictures on bulletin board



ü      Completed 1 section of worksheet

ü      Presentation of information lasted less than 1 minute

ü      Posted worksheet in bulletin board



ü     No sections of the worksheet were completed

ü     No pictures of assigned animal were collected

ü      No effort was put forth to complete this project





There is Still Time


Topic: Endangered Species                      Time: 60 minutes                  Grade: 4th


Goal: To introduce students to the endangered species unit.  In this lesson, the students will use the Internet in a variety of ways to learn about the importance of saving endangered species. 



Life Sciences 3 – Living organisms depend on one another and on the environment for survival.

Investigation and Experimentation 6.c. – Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.


  1. The learner will define the following words: endangered species, extinct, threatened, ecosystem, habitat. (Knowledge)
  2. The learner will describe why animals become endangered and extinct. (Knowledge)
  3. The learner will be able to make a list of endangered species. (Knowledge)
  4. The learner will describe ways to help save endangered species. (Knowledge)
  5. The learner will explain how endangered and extinct animals affect other animals and their ecosystem. (Comprehension)

Materials: Computer for Internet slide show (http://training.fws.gov/deo/endang/INDEX) and crossword puzzle handout.


Anticipatory Set:

  • This is the first lesson to introduce the unit on endangered species.  Before viewing the slide show, have a short class discussion.  Start by asking if any students know what an endangered species is or if they can name any examples.  This will serve as a good preface to the slide show and will allow the teacher to get a sense of what the students already know about endangered species.


  • Begin this lesson by viewing an Internet slide show at the following site: http://training.fws.gov/deo/endang/INDEX.  The slide show will introduce the students to many definitions and many different kinds of animals considered endangered.  It will give the students a sense of why the problem exists and how it can be eliminated.  This slide show will take about thirty minutes to complete.
  • Once the slide show is completed, engage the students in a short class discussion to review the information that was covered in the slide show and to answer any questions they may have.  Some questions to begin the discussion may include: Can you name a few endangered species?  What are some reasons which have led to endangerment or extinction?  What can we do to stop the extinction of animals?
  • Once the students feel comfortable with the information from the slide show, hand out the endangered species crossword puzzle for them to complete.  The crossword puzzle can also be found at http://training.fws.gov/deo/andang/INDEX.


  • Once the students complete the crossword puzzle, go over the answers orally, as a class.  Answer any questions that the students may have.

Assessment:  For this lesson, I will assess informally, using the class discussion following the slide show.  I will also incorporate selected response assessment, by collecting the completed crossword puzzles.  I will check them to make sure that the students completed them and that they corrected any incorrect answers when we reviewed the answers in class.




Risky Critters

Topic: Endangered Species                      Time: 45 minutes                  Grade: 4th


Goal: Students will review the information learned during the “There is Still Time” lesson, by participating in a computerized jeopardy type-game, called Risky Critters, in the computer lab.



Reading Comprehension 2.7 – Follow multiple-step instructions in a basic technical manual.

Writing Strategies 1.9 – Demonstrate basic keyboarding skills and familiarity with computer terminology.


  1. The learner will recall the information learned from the “There is Still Time” slide show, such as names of endangered species, reasons why they become endangered, and ways to help stop this process. (Knowledge)
  2.  The learner will demonstrate that they can successfully use a computer to play the game. (Application)
  3. The learner will work collaboratively with their partner to succeed in the game. (Application)

Materials: Computers in computer lab and score sheet.


Anticipatory Set:

  • Hand back the crossword puzzles completed the previous day and review the information learned from the puzzle and the slide shown, through class discussion.
  •  Have the students choose a partner and line up with their partner.


  • Walk the students to the computer lab and have two students sit at each computer.  Each pair will work together to answer questions in the Risky Critters game.  The game is found at the following website: http://endangered.fws.gov/kids/index.html
  • Before they start, explain the directions of the game and hand out a score sheet.  Explain that they play this game by choosing a category and a point value (the more points, the more difficult the question), and then click on the underlined number, which is the point value.  Have them keep track of their score on the handout by circling the point value of the questions they answer correctly and by marking an X on the questions they answer incorrectly.


  • Once they have completed the game, lead the students back to the classroom.  Have the students hand in their score sheets and ask if they have any questions about the activity.  This activity will allow the children to become more comfortable with the new information that they have been learning, about endangered species.  It also enables the students to work with the computer, to utilize their technology skills.

Assessment:  I will use informal assessment for this lesson.  While the students are playing the computer game, I will circulate around the computer lab to ensure that they understand the questions and that they are able to answer a fair number of them.  I will also collect the score sheets to evaluate the amount of information they are retaining.



Tracking the Wild Ones


Topic: Endangered Species                      Time: 40 minutes                  Grade: 4th


Goal:  To use statistics about endangered species to learn more about how they affect the world.



Number Sense 3.1 - Demonstrate an understanding of, and the ability to use, standard algorithms for the addition and subtraction of multi-digit numbers.

Statistics, Data Analysis, and Probability 1.3 - Interpret one- and two-variable data graphs to answer questions about a situation.

Mathematical Reasoning 1.1 - Analyze problems by identifying relationships, distinguishing relevant information, sequencing and prioritizing information, and observing patterns.


  1. The learner will recall the definitions of the words endangered, threatened, and extinct. (Knowledge)
  2. Given the information of the graphs, the learner will use their math skills to answer the questions of the worksheet. (Application)
  3. The learner will point out the upward trend found in the graphs. (Analysis)

Materials:  Tracking the Wild Ones graphs and worksheets


Anticipatory Set:

·        Through class discussion, recall the definitions of the words endangered, threatened, and extinct.  Ask the students to share what they know about the number of endangered species in our nation and the world.  Explain that they are about to examine some current data to find out just how many endangered species have been identified. Remind them that these are the animals and plants that are known to be in trouble and that many others probably exist.


·        Distribute copies of the Tracking the Wild Ones graphs and worksheet.

·         Instruct the students to use the charts and graphs to answer the questions.


·        When students have completed the handout, correct the answers as a group and talk about the large numbers of endangered species found in the United States. Were the students surprised to find that there are more listed species in this country than in the foreign countries? How might that be explained?

Assessment:  For this lesson, one way in which I will assess what the students have learned is through class discussion, a form of personal communication.  I will pose questions to the students both before and after the activity.  I will also use selected response to assess during this lesson.  The worksheet that the students will complete using the graphs will serve as this selected response assessment.


Answers to worksheet:  (Graphs found at www.ecos.fws.gov)

1. The number of listed species grew every year.
2. 973
3. 514 more plants were listed
4. 1260, 516 animals and 744 plants
125 fish species, 95 have recovery plans
6. arachnids, 12 species
7. lichens
8. 702 more
U.S. species than foreign ones 

Tracking the Wild Ones

Using Graph A

1. Did the number of listed endangered and threatened species grow or decline during the period of 1980-2001?

2. How many more endangered and threatened species were listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2001 than in 1980?

3. In 2001, were more plants or animals listed as endangered or threatened? How many more? (Note: An animal is any creature that can breathe and move about. So, insects and clams are animals.)

4. Which group of animals has the smallest number of species in danger of extinction in 2001? How many total species of this type are endangered or threatened?

Using Graph B

5. What is the current total of threatened and endangered species in the United States? How many are animals, and how many are plants?

6. How many U.S. fish are listed as endangered or threatened today? How many of those species have recovery plans?

7. Which plant group -- flowering plants, conifers, ferns, or lichens -- has the smallest number of total species on the endangered or threatened species lists?

8. How many more U.S. species than foreign ones are listed as threatened or endangered on the current list?


Endangered Species Acrostic Poem


Topic: Endangered Species                      Time: 50 minutes                  Grade: 4th         


Goal:  Students will create an acrostic poem using information they have learned about endangered species.



Writing Strategies 1.1 - Select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view based upon purpose, audience, length, and format requirements.

Writing Strategies 1.7 - Use various reference materials as an aid to writing.

Speaking Applications 2.4 - Recite brief poems, soliloquies, or dramatic dialogues, using clear diction, tempo, volume, and phrasing.


  1. The learner will recall a number of endangered species, in order to create a class list of animals. (Knowledge)
  2. The learner will identify and describe the characteristics of their chosen endangered animal. (Knowledge)
  3. The learner will select one animal from the list of endangered species and create an acrostic poem about this animal. (Knowledge / Synthesis)
  4. The learner will compile the information that they have learned about their chosen endangered animal, using resource books, the internet, and their memory, to create their acrostic. (Synthesis)

Materials: List of endangered species, reference books, paper, pencils, computer.


Anticipatory Set:

  • Start this activity by reviewing the information learned during the slide show, which was shown on the first day of the unit.  This includes the definition of endangered, as well as a number of endangered species and their characteristics.
  • Create a list of animals that are classified as endangered.  Do this by writing the list on the chalkboard/white board as the students recall them orally.  Make sure the list includes at least fifteen to twenty different animals.


  • Once the list is sufficient, have each student choose one animal to create an acrostic poem about.  Before they begin to work on their poems, discuss what an acrostic poem is.  It is a poem, which uses the letters of a certain word to create a verse.  This verse does not need to rhyme, but should express information about the chosen animal, such as its characteristics.

            For example:  Can always land on their feet

                                   Age seven human years for each year they are alive

                                   Take many naps each day


  • When the students are finished creating their acrostic poems, have a few students volunteer to read their poems out loud.  Have the rest of the class raise their hands to guess which animal the poem is about, from the class list of endangered species.

Assessment:  For this lesson, I will use performance assessment. Students will be assessed by their ability to carry out the appropriate steps to create an acrostic poem that characterizes the animal that they chose.  I will assess the finished product, to ensure that they understood not only how to create an acrostic poem, but also that they used appropriate information about their animal.  This will also be done informally, as I walk around the classroom while they are creating their poems.


Web of Life

Topic: Endangered Species                      Time: 3 hours (3 class periods)      Grade: 4th


Goal:  To investigate endangered species and how they impact the environment in order to complete a "web of life."



  • Life Sciences 3.b. - Students know that in any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
  • Investigation and Experimentation 6.c. - Formulate and justify predictions based on cause-and-effect relationships.


  1. The learner will compile information about their assigned endangered species.  (Synthesis)
  2. The learner will predict how their assigned endangered species will impact the “web of life.”  (Comprehension)
  3. The learner will relate the survival of their endangered species to that of other species.  (Analysis)
  4. The learner will create a “web of life”, which incorporates all of the assigned endangered species.  (Synthesis)

Materials:  Web of Life worksheet, computers, reference books, bulletin board, push-pins, yarn or string.


Anticipatory Set:

  • Begin this lesson by asking your students to describe how the absence of one student impacts the class. What needs to be done differently or in addition due to the absence? Now ask them what might happen if several students were absent. What if all of the students in the class could not be there? How might this affect the teacher's position? How would it impact the school? This is one example of how groups and their environments change when their numbers change. Animals also affect each other, and when their populations dwindle, there are many effects.
  • Divide the students into groups of four and assign each group a specific endangered animal.
  • Pass out one Web of Life worksheet to each group.


  • Each group will work to complete the questions of the Web of Life worksheet.  They may choose to do each question as a group or assign each person a question to be responsible for.  They are able to use books, the computer, or their own notes to gather the information needed to complete the worksheet.  They are also to find two pictures of their animal on the Internet and print them out.  
  • On the following day, have each group present their findings to the class.  Allow them to ask and answer questions of the class.
  • On the final day, all of the groups are to work together to create a Web of Life bulletin board in the classroom, which includes their worksheets and the pictures that they printed of their animals from the Internet.  They will pin these items to the bulletin board, using the string to connect the different animals, to create a web, to show how each animal depends on others for survival.


  • Once the bulletin board has been created, lead a discussion about the significance of the web of life.  They will now be able to visualize how all species are connected.  Ask such questions as, What would happen if one of the animals were extinct?  How would this affect the other animals?  How does this affect our lives, as humans?  What can we do to stop the problem of extinction?

Assessment:  I will emphasize the process of the lesson, rather than the product.  Because of this, I will use informal assessment as the groups are preparing their presentations and as the class creates the bulletin board.  I will also use essay performance when assessing their ability to provide explanations and solutions to the questions proposed in the worksheet.  Finally, I will implement performance assessment to assess their ability to create the final product of the lesson, the web of life.



Web of Life

How does this animal impact its environment and fit into the “web of life”? Why is it important?