The 6 week unit that I am teaching is on animals and how, through physical characteristics, they can be placed into different groups. After looking over the existing science curriculum, I came to the conclusion that the focus of the lessons was too narrow and somewhat superficial. Therefore, the purpose of my unit is to enrich the Science program by taking a more lateral approach to instruction. This unit is important because students need to learn that science is every where, and it can not be taught in isolation from the other content areas. This unit teaches students to think more scientifically no matter the subject matter.
This unit is intended for a third grade inclusive class that consists of 25 children. There is one full time special education aide and one part time special education teacher in the room at various times. The class is taught as a whole a majority of the time, with pull outs for math and reading. The ability levels of the students range from non-readers to potential honors students. The class is 2/3’s boys and 1/3’s girls, with only one child of color in all. The material to be covered in my lessons has to be usable for everyone in the class or special adaptations need to be made so that all student learning will be enhanced. All Science lessons must be taught within a 30 minute time frame, every Monday and Friday.
Unit Learning Goals:
Students should know how to group animals according to their physical characteristics.
Students should be able to recognize the five major groups of animals.
Students should be able to “think scientifically” by making observations, forming a hypothesis, and drawing conclusions.
Students should understand that Science is not an isolated subject, but spans all content areas.
Students will learn how animals live and grow.
Students will learn how various animals have adapted to their environment to meet their basic needs.
Generally. all of my lessons start with some sort of prompt, either questions such as, “Why can’t cows fly” or “What makes a Mammal, a Mammal?”, or graphic organizers like cardboard skeletons, pictures, books, posters, etc. With the time constraints imposed, lessons that cover basic material are taught through direct instruction. While other lessons (i.e. bones and feather lesson and goose lesson) that require students to think more scientifically are taught from a more student centered approach. Science lends itself to an inquiry based instruction, many of the lessons use deductive reasoning. Because of the inclusive nature of the classroom, I try to enrich my lessons through the use of learning centers, heterogeneous based cooperative learning groups, peer tutoring and one on one instruction. Many adaptations to my lesson plans were made to reach the needs of all the students such as, highlighting important information, using visuals where possible and allowing some students to circle information instead of writing it.
In the beginning of the unit we start with a general concept that there are two living organisms on this Earth, plants and animals. From this very basic division we slowly introduce characteristics that cause the animals to be further broken down into more specific groups. I am trying to sequence my lessons to match what is being taught in the other content areas. Since the goals of this unit is to have the students think scientifically, it seemed only logical to start the Animal Unit with a lesson that required the students to create groupings of their own. I started this lesson by drawing on their previous knowledge of geometric shapes and had the students find as many ways as possible to group the shapes (i.e. shape, size, color). I then transferred their knowledge to animals and we discussed how animals can be classified into different groups using similar criteria. Every lesson follows the next with at least one link from the previous one. In lesson one we cover the first major division in classification, vertebrates vs. non-vertebrates. We discuss exactly what a back bone is and then imagine what it would be like not to have one. From here, we think about animals that look like they have a back bone and ones that do not. Then, we group a bag full of stuffed animals into two groups using the presence and absence of vertebrae as the only criteria. From this lesson we move on to further divide the vertebrate group into the second largest division, cold vs. warm-blooded. Through discovery the students learn that warm-blooded animals have feathers or fur to keep their own heat in, while cold-blooded animals are void of these things because they need to try to bring heat into their bodies from outside. Using Mathematical concepts , we measure the water temperature of a fish bowl and then draw a hypothesis on what will happen to a goldfish when we lower the bowl’s water by different degrees. In lesson three we move into the first of the five major classes of animals. I decide to teach my bird lessons first because Canada is being covered in Social Studies and I want to incorporate my fall/goose lesson. Through direct instruction, the students learn the scientific way to draw and record observations of bird bones. Through guided discovery, the students come to realize that hollow bones are an adaptation that birds have made so that they can fly and better survive in their environment. The goose lesson goes on to discuss flight patterns and migration and the students have the opportunity to make Canada Geese, which we than hang in “V” formation heading south. This lesson is taught in conjunction with their Language Arts lesson in which they need to memorize the poem, Something Told The Wild Geese by Rachel Field, and a character lesson , on team work titled Lessons From The Geese. The bird and mammal lessons are linked by prefacing the mammal lesson with the book Stellaluna, which is about a bat, the only flying mammal. My mammal, as well as, my adaptation lesson incorporate animals and information about Canada. We also do Animal Riddles in Language Arts that require the students to use reference material to find five facts on their chosen mammal and then produce a riddle and make a pop up card with a picture of their animal in its habitat. In Lesson Six the students are provided with pictures of spiders and insects, and work sheets. As a group we discover their differences, and then end the lesson with the children making an Insect or a Spider out of clay. The Reptile and Amphibian Lesson is taught in cooperative learning groups. In this lesson the students have to make observations on the basis of how these animal’s skin feels. Again, observations have to be recorded in a scientific style. Fish are touched upon briefly. The last lesson in this unit involves bring actual animals into the classroom. Students are required to then make observations on living animals. There should be a representative from each of the five major groups of vertebrates, plus one insect and one spider from the invertebrate group. This is a fun and exciting lesson, but strict ground rules need to be laid in regards to respecting the animals, before they are brought into the class. By the end of this unit the students will be able to distinguish between the seven major animal groups, showing some understanding of the criteria needed for certain animals to belong to specific groups. Hopefully, they will also come to realize the contributions these animals make to our world and the importance in trying to protect them and their environment.
As a whole this unit would be considered a lateral unit incorporating all four of the major content areas. Math is used in the form of measuring temperature and area, and counting. Social Studies is integrated into the unit through geography. Language Arts are used extensively in the form of letters, poems, reference material and riddles, plus Art is incorporated into almost every lesson.
Lesson Plan Index:
Lessons covered in this unit:
(click on lesson title to go to full lesson plan)
1. Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates... Just What is a Backbone?
2. Cold-blooded vs. Warm-blooded...Characteristics and Habits.
3. Cow Bones vs. Bird Bones and Feathers... Why Can’t A Cow Fly?
4. Geese Migration, An Inquiry Into How and Why They Do It.
5. Mammals... What Makes A Mammal, A Mammal?
6. Insect vs. Spider... The Construction of Clay Models.
7. Amphibians vs. Reptiles...Just What is the Difference?
8. Fish...Something’s Fishy, Can You Guess What?
9. Animals in the Classroom!!! Classify Them Quick, Before They Get Away!!
10. Chapter 2 Test. Hooray! We’re All Prepared!
Lessons covered in the next unit:
11. Adaptations... Ha Ha You Can’t See Me!
12. How Animals Live and Grow Together... Population/Community/Habitat
13. Consumers and Producers...Look for Food Chains and Food Webs.
14. How Animals Help Us....Please Pass the Pork Chops.
15. How Humans Effect Animals. Read Oil Spill. Do oil spill experiment.
16. Guest Speaker to talk about Exxon oil spill and cleanup.
17. Science Jeopardy Game...Review.
18. Chapter 3&4 Test... Hooray! We’re All Prepared!
It is my belief that students not only learn differently, but they also express what they know differently. That is why it is so important to vary assessment techniques as well as instructional ones. I will be able to see evidence of my student’s learning by doing casual assessments through personal communication on a daily basis to make sure the material being covered is being internalized. I also use this technique to assure that the lessons are engaging and not too dry. Since my first lesson, the students have been required to keep a science booklet, in which they draw an example of every animal that we cover in class, such as a vertebrate and an invertebrate, a cold and a warm-blooded animal, etc. I chose to incorporate artwork into my assessments because of the large population of students who have problems with written expression, this may be one of the few ways that enables me to see if they truly understand. Along with the drawings most students have to list general characteristics that go along with that particular animal. In this way I get further information on whether the concepts we covered in the lesson were understood or not. A classification chart is also constructed that illustrates how animals are grouped and their major characteristics listed. This chart spans the length of the unit. It enables the students to see how the animal groups are divided, and allows me to see if the individual child understands the divisions by how logically they place them on their charts. A spider or insect is constructed out of clay, and than assessed on whether it is structurally correct, to see if the students know how many body parts and legs each animal has. A variety of worksheets will be included with many of the lessons. Also, as part of their final performance assessment, the students will also be given the opportunity to observe real animals. They will have to list all observable characteristics and name the group the animals belongs to. All of this information will be part of their science portfolio, which will be assessed on organization, and the completion and correctness of it’s contents.
Lastly, an objective test is given at the end of the unit. A majority of the class will take this test in a written form. According to the IEPs of the students with special needs, some will have their tests read to them, while others will have a separate test all together. The test will be in the form of multiple choice, short answer, and short essay. All of the performance assessments, along with the objective test will be used to come up with a final grade for the student.