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Sunday, April 2, 2017

First Grade Life Science: Animal Life Cycles

As part of the first grade life science curriculum on life cycles, students are expected to compare ways young animals resemble their parents. At first glance, this standard appears somewhat simple. First graders can surely match baby animals and adult animals, right? In most cases, yes, they can. The challenge, though, is in explaining thinking. This part of the lesson opens opportunities for students to practice making a claim, giving evidence and sharing reasoning. There is also a huge opportunity to teach and build academic vocabulary.

On day 1, a set of familiar baby/parent animal picture cards were used as part of a Mix and Mingle. Mix and Mingle allows students to actively engage in new content by moving around the room and interacting with multiple members of the class. In this case, students holding animal baby picture cards needed to find their partner, a student holding an animal parent picture card. As expected, this activity was fun and fairly simple for students and they were able to easily make matches. The next step in the activity was a bit more challenging. Students were asked to share how they knew that their animals were a match... to give evidence and share reasoning (CER: Claim, Evidence, Reasoning). They began with very nonspecific, general explanations..."They look the same." or "Because the go together.". At this point a sentence stem was introduced and modeled to scaffold responses.

The baby ___ resembles the parent ____ because they both ______. 

The sentence stem served to deepen thinking and promoted more specific vocabulary. 


The baby flamingo resembles the parent flamingo because they both have rounded beaks and long skinny legs.

A class 'Animal Traits Word Wall' was started and additions were made throughout the week making academic vocabulary visible and readily available.

On day 2, students were grouped in 3s and 4s and given a larger group of animal baby/parent picture cards to observe, compare, discuss and pair. This activity allowed for lots of oral practice in using CER statements and academic vocabulary. Ultimately, students were asked to choose one set and use the sentence stem to record their thinking.

On day 3, I read the book, Are you My Mother, by P. D. Eastman. This is the story of a young bird in search of its mother. The bird encounters many different animals (and other things), none of which can be its mother because there are no shared characteristics. 

Using a similar story structure, students then created a plan for a video presentation (using the Draw and Tell app) that would tell the story of a baby animal searching for its mother and encountering other animals that could not be its mother because the animal did not share common characteristics. Students used the sentence stems, 'Are you my mother?' and 'I can not be your mother because...'. 
A story outline template was provided.
  • Page 1: beginning
  • Page 2: encountering the 1st animal (dialog)
  • Page 3: encountering the 2nd animal (dialog)
  • Page 4: encountering the 3rd animal (dialog)
  • Page 5: Ending
I modeled my plan along with my finished product. I think it really helps kids to see an example of an end product expectation.

On day 4, students shared their plans, got feedback, made improvements and prepared their videos. Completed videos were shared via the Seesaw app.

Below are a few examples of their work.

As an unplanned benefit, these videos served as a great formative assessment for the next science standard, investigating how the external characteristics of an animal are related to where it lives, how it moves, and what it eats.

While reviewing the videos, I noticed some misconceptions and/or possible specific vocabulary confusions.

  • All penguins live where it's cold ie in the arctic. 
  • Walruses can be found in Florida. 
  • Tusks and trunks are the same. 
  • Flippers,wings and arms are the same.
Armed with this knowledge, I can plan lessons, resources and my own specific language to clear up these misconceptions next week.


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