What if I had animal teeth? Could I eat my morning cereal? Would I be able to brush them all? We have our teeth to help us eat and survive and animals have special teeth to help them survive.
This Unit on “What if I had Animal Teeth” helps students to research various animal teeth and decide how that animal’s teeth help them adapt and survive in their habitat.
I love starting this unit off with the book “What if I had Animal Teeth” by Sandra Markle. The students think the book is hilarious. It really is very creative.
In the next few days, I group students up. I give them some freedom to choose the animal that they want to research, but I also, group the students by levels. My goal is to have at least a low student in a group with a high student. The student’s assignments will be differentiated, but the high student can help the other students read the research information.
Before students begin their research, they will fill out their first columns on their inference sheets. This also helps them to figure out what they already know about their animal.
Each student is given a close reading passage on their animal. I also get out all my animal and habitat books and lay them out. Our school is fortunate to have 8 chrome books in the classroom. The students use these for research as well.
Research Must Be Taught
Doing research with a book, computer or iPad, must be taught. Since this is our first research unit that we do using the computers, I teach a mini lesson on how to do research on the computer.
Kids and Internet Research Hints
When students are doing research in the classroom, I always instruct them to type their topic and then type “for kids” after. For example “tiger teeth for kids”. Using this method helps students to find articles that are kid friendly and written in an easier language to understand.
My next method is having students use kiddle.com as a search engine. It works just like Google, but it is kid friendly. This will eliminate any bad sites they might come across. I would still recommend that they put “for kids” after their topic.
National Geographic for Kids and major zoos like the San Diego Zoo also have great kid friendly sites with information that they can use.
Once the students have gathered all their information that they need, they put it all together on a group poster and fill out their own mini poster. We then work on our informational writing . For my students this is not the first round for informational writing, so they are used to the methods that we use, but all these methods are included inside the Animal Adaptations Unit.
If you are looking for a general Informational Writing Unit that fits with any subject, we use this Informational Unit.
I use the same methods for each informational writing that we have done to keep things consistent. I do remind students how the process works. Again, these are differentiated, so they are working on a level that they need.
Depending on the progress we are making for our writing, I don’t always save the art project for the end. I do an art project each Friday, so I will pair up the week’s art project with their animal teeth project. This is the time when they get to make a picture of themselves with construction paper and add their animal teeth to it. They look so fun afterwards and the kids get a good laugh.
When the writing is completed, we will attach the writing to the bottom of their animal face. This makes for the perfect hallway display or classroom display of their research and hard work. You do need space if you planning on hanging the entire class set.
We always end this unit with a culminating event. A culminating event is when we take all the information that our class has learned for the unit and we present it in front of an audience. It is the best practice for public speaking.
We practice a lot, but no matter how much we seem to practice, it is never enough. We also do a “dress rehearsal” the day before. At this time, we go over the rubric of what is expected when they speak and present. The students give each other a score. If they are willing to give a score, they must give a valid reason. We practice how to kindly give criticism. The students are also allowed to go back to their seats and fix mistakes or correct their paper. Also, after students see their peers do their animal, it may encourage them to make their paper even better.
Who is your audience?
We use the parents. It depends on the class I have and the time of year, sometimes I have a lot of parents come and others not as many. If this method doesn’t work in your school, your audience could be another class. I like to do an equal grade or one below so that they have more confidence.
Each group gets to present their group poster, the student either tell facts about their animal or they read their papers. All students get to show off their animal faces. When it is all done, we lay them out on the desks so that parents can come around and view them. It is also fun for the students to lay out all their work from the unit so that parents can see the progress that was made, notes that were taken, etc.
If your able to, run a slide show of students working hard, parents like to see the pictures of students on task working and what all happened for them to get to this point.
What is Project Based Learning?
Don’t let PBL scare you off, this unit doesn’t have to be a PBL project, but it works great for one if you do them at your school.
Project Based Learning or PBL is taking the standards and correlating them to a real life issue and then connecting them to all subject matters. There are various elements that a PBL project should have. This project meets each of them.
Significant Content: Students will be working with numerous Common Core ELA Standards and NGSS Science Standards.
21st Century Skills: Students will be working in a group, collaborating, doing research together and problem solving together.
In Depth Inquiry: Students will be researching in their group and investigating the driving question.
Driving Question: This gives the students a purpose to do the project. How can we as scientists write an article about the influence of animal’s teeth on their survival?
Public Audience: Students will do a presentation in front of parents to present their animal project.
Need to Know: The idea of learning about animal teeth is very fun and exciting to the students.
Voice and Choice: Students have lots of choice throughout the unit; choose their animal to research, books they want to use, websites to use, how to set up their project, which role to be in the group and how to decorate their animal face.
Revision and Reflection: The students do a “dress rehearsal” in front of peers before their presentation. During this time, their peers give them ways to revise and students can go back and make some changes.
I love teaching writing. My favorite method of teaching writing is by using the Writer’s Workshop methods. If you are curious on how Writer’s Workshop works in the classroom, check out my blog post on it.