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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everything You EVER Wanted to Know About Groundhogs...

As our class began reading about Groundhog Day in preparation for our Groundhog Shadow Hider challenge, I noticed that scholars were very interested in groundhogs. They had a lot of questions and a few misconceptions. I thought that this natural interest in groundhogs presented a unique opportunity for some student selected research and expository writing. The kids were thrilled with the idea.
We began with a RAN (Reading and Analyzing Non-fiction) chart. This chart allowed us to record everything known and thought to be known about groundhogs prior to any research.

Ideas were recorded and placed in the appropriate columns.
Then, together we read books and watched videos about groundhogs to gather information.  We answered questions, cleared up misconceptions, recorded new informations and, like all researchers, were left with a few things to wonder about.

Expository writing, or informational writing, is part of our curriculum so it seem only natural that scholars write their own 'Expert Books'...after all, they ARE experts on groundhogs now.

Ideas from the chart were synthesized and organized using a Tree Map on iPads using an app called Popplet.
I introduced the idea that the study of animals and animal behavior is really all about survival and adaptations. Kindergarteners LOVE big sciency words and began to play around with using them. 'Survival' and 'adaptation' became the frame of reference for Tree Map.

Scholars used their Popplets to guide their book writing.

Before scholars began writing, I shared the expository writing rubric that outlined expectations for final products.  Making students aware of expectations up front serves to guide them successfully through their work.

Below are some excerpts for some of the Expert Books.

Groundhogs have fur to last the winter. Groundhogs have sharp claws to dig.

In the summer, groundhogs eat tree bark, sticks and plants to get fat for the winter to hibernate.
Groundhogs live underground. Groundhogs live in burrows. Groundhogs live in 5 chambers so the don't get eaten by predators.
Groundhog Life Cycle: Groundhogs have kits then they turn into middle aged groundhogs then they turn into grown-ups.
Groundhogs eat, eat, eat in spring and summer but they sleep, sleep sleep in the winter. Another way to say sleep is hibernate.They eat plants and they gnaw on sticks.

You can easily see from these writing samples that scholars were able to do more than just regurgitate simple facts. They were synthesizing information through the lens of survival and adaptations to make meaning of how groundhogs live.

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