Learning Plans & Activities
What Is That Hiding in My Backyard? (And, Can I Keep It?)

Our youngest learners ask questions, lots of questions, much of the time. Educators have two choices: constantly repeat,"Not now" and "ls that what we are talking about?"; or embrace this questioning model and teach with inquiry in mind. Because most content areas for Kindergarten are introductory information, they are considered an entry level-learning concept. Because this is the base upon which the rest of the standard is scaffolded, it is imperative that students are motivated and engaged at this initial introduction. Team planning (librarian, classroom teacher, and literacy coach) is a great way to brainstorm skills to enhance and highlight, and the collaboration throughout the activity assures that the needs of all the students are met, wherever they are along the learning continuum.

Grade Level: Kindergarten

Information Literacy/Inquiry Objectives:

Connecting to AASL's Standards for the 21st-century Learner:

  • Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge (1.1.1, 1.1.3, 1.2.1, 1.3.4, 1.4.2).
  • Draw conclusion, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge (2.1.2,2.4.3).
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society (3.2.2, 3.2.2).

Curriculum Objectives:

Students will become aware that all living things have basic needs, and the backyard habitat provides this for many animals. Students will be introduced to the concept of learning what information is, what questions to ask, and how to gather information


Instructional Roles:

The classroom teacher and the school librarian identify the purpose of the lesson plan and identify the Essential Questions that link to the standards being addressed:

  • How can some animals live and thrive in my backyard?
  • Where can I look for answers and how can I figure out if they are right? Resources are identified, timelines set, and agreement reached on who is doing what.

Procedures for Completion:

In anticipation of this inquiry project, the classroom teacher reads aloud Babies in the Bayou by Jim Arnosky, modeling how to look at things like a naturalist, questioning aloud to share the experience with students. If possible, several walks around the school and neighborhood will also help to build the wondering anticipation. The teacher, librarian, and literacy coach collect nonfiction books and magazines for the wandering and wondering inquiry step. Not all of these books need to be at kindergarten level— great photographs with captions are also informative. There needs to be a plethora of books, some with a general overview, others with specific animals highlighted. At least two books per student should be available, more if possible. While the wandering piece is sitting in place looking at books, the wondering phase is interactive.

This initial step is so important because often students don't know what they don't know. Students will develop a greater breadth and depth of questions, if time is allowed to wander and wonder before creating the "I wonder" or KWHL chart.

Led by the school librarian, students wander and wonder through books that show many animals and creatures commonly found in local backyards. Here is an opportunity to discuss the differences between fact and fiction books. There will be much modeling throughout this process, using "I wonder" questions while browsing through a book, such as, "I wonder why this animal is always shown in a tree?" or "I wonder if all squirrels are gray." The "I wonder" questions can be a way to guide inquiry, while asking questions about life cycles, food, or predator/prey issues. After a period of wondering, students will be more than ready to post questions they have discovered.

At this point, students gather at the Smart Board (or other space for group writing) and create a list of backyard animals they want to learn more about. It is most beneficial if teacher and school librarian do this together; one can engage students with the questioning while the other serves as scribe. Questioning may be started with what kind of animals were discovered, and used to narrow the scope of research, before the class makes the list of "I wonder" questions to find answers for during group research time. A simple graphic organizer may be used for individual students to either list or draw the animals they most want to study. This can be a differentiated activity with students writing if they are ready or drawing if they are not.

The next time the class meets, students are divided into groups based on the animals to be studied. The more adults available for this portion, the smaller the groups will be and the more opportunity for students to remain actively engaged. (We were able to include the literacy coach and a reading teacher.)

Each group, with an adult collaborator, creates a list of questions to investigate, and then works together to find the answers in resources provided. These are written interactively on chart paper or sentence strips, or even on the Smart Board. This piece is exciting, because the "voice" of the student comes through both with their choice of question to answer and with their interpretation of the answer. In this group research project, students should frequently check in with one another to discuss their progress and to ensure that they are not missing important facts.

Finally, each student selects fact(s) to represent using the Pixie software. Here they illustrate what fact(s) they have discovered. This is a great informal assessment opportunity to discuss with a child what they are including in their picture and why. (Student-generated facts are typed onto a Pixie drawing by adult scribes because this lesson is to learn how to learn and how to share information, not how to type.)

Additionally, to include another presentation medium, students record their facts by speaking into the Pixie program. A class slide show is the final product, which can easily be turned into a podcast for posting.

Student Assessment/Reflection:

This will be formative: through conversation, kid watching, and final product demonstration of understanding. Students will also evaluate their participation in the project with an evaluation form that consists of pictures (see Evaluation Form in attached PDF).

Professional Reflection:

At our reflection meeting, we decided that it would be nice if each child had their own copy of the book to take home, as well as access to the podcast on the class Web site. We were also concerned that while we had discussed how to find information, we did not require any kind of resources cited page, and will add that to our criteria, along with a Web sites to visit page to enhance the class Web site connection for more family interaction.

Liz Deskins

MLA Citation Deskins, Liz. "What Is That Hiding in My Backyard? (And, Can I Keep It?)." School Library Monthly, 27, no. 2, November 2010. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2010368?topicCenterId=2158551.

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Entry ID: 2010368

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