Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal..."

Ok, so they weren't filthy, but I'm currently watching "Home Alone" and I do want to share "Animated Animals" with you!

Last month, 3rd grade students completed animal reports.  With Common Core curriculum, exposure to nonfiction is vitally important.  So is writing!  Enter animal reports.

Building Background Information:
We began with habitats.  Each guided reading group was given a habitat to research during their background group time.  At our school, we are lucky to have a "push-in" teacher during our reading block.  Each background group met with Mrs. Dolf, our P.E. teacher and reading push-in, and researched their assigned habitat.

We had a giant butcher paper chart that listed the habitats, characteristics, challenges, resources, and adaptations within that habitat.  Students used post-it notes to record their research.

Since we were also learning about synonyms and "spicy words," they also created posters for their habitat.  On one half of the poster they created an illustration. On the other half, they wrote adjectives that described their habitat.

In guided reading groups with me, students read leveled readers about different animals and habitats.  We used a RAN chart to catalog our learning about animal adaptations.

Animal Vocabulary/gestures:

  • Vertebrate: Students run a hand up their spine
  • Invertebrate: Students slump over like a rag doll
  • Adaptation: Students pretended to pet something (fur) and flapped arms (wings)
  • Reptile: Students shivered (cold-blooded)
  • Mammal: Students fanned face (warm-blooded)

Research Reports:
After a couple weeks of reading and taking notes about habitats and adaptations, students chose an animal from their habitat to research.  They were given graphic organizers to organize their notes as they read.  We went through the whole writing process: graphic organizer--> rough draft -->final draft on notecards.

Students used encyclopedias and animal books to find their information.  It was great practice with nonfiction text features like the table of contents, indexes, and glossaries.  This is a hard concept for third graders!  Using specific graphic organizers helped the process along.  I also met with students periodically during guided reading groups to check on their progress.  

We used Whole Brain's genius ladder technique to edit their sentences.  Having a log of spicy habitat words in their writer's notebooks helped too!

Since Common Core includes several Speaking and Listening standards, we wanted students to have a chance to orally present their reports.  

Students created cue cards for themselves.  They put a heading on each card: habitat, looks/characteristics, protection, food, and interesting facts.  On one side they recorded their final drafted sentences and on the other they illustrated the information.  

Our fabulous art teacher helped students make masks for their presentations.  We also turned the classroom into different habitats! Groups worked together to create their area.  I was amazed at their creativity!  Desks were turned upside down to make trees and one group created a giant iceberg!

As classes came in, students stood with their hand out.  On their hand was a marker drawn "button." When a visitor pushed the button, the "animal" came alive and began the report.  They held up their cue card so the visitor could see the illustration and they could use the notes for reference points.

Parents and several classes visited our "zoo."  The kids had a fabulous time and really retained their knowledge.  Several students incorporated gestures in their reports! 

Rainforest habitat


Polar region (see the poster with spicy words?)

Temperate forest- one tree for each season!

Ocean habitat

All in all, it was a great experience for the kids.  One student said, 
"How do you stand all day, Ms. Mahan?!" :) 

If you're interested, I have an Animated Animals pack for sale on TPT, complete with cue cards, graphic organizers, resource materials, and teacher tips! 

There's also a free graphic organizer for animal adaptation notes.

How do your students research in your classroom?
Happy Whole-Braining!

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