As shown in this assignment, student involvement in determining research topics and posing questions for assignments raises their interest level and helps them focus on the process. Students also use prior knowledge of life science as they make animal fact cards.
Connecting to AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:
- Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge (1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.7, 1.3.5).
- Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge (2.1.2, 2.1.4, 2.1.6, 2.2.4).
- Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society (3.1.4).
- Pursue personal and aesthetic growth (4.1.5).
(from Nebraska Department of Education)
- An understanding of the characteristics of living things
- An understanding of the life cycles of living things
- An understanding of living things and their environments
- Multiple Literacies: identify, locate, and evaluate information
- Extract and construct meaning from reading
- Apply the writing process to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish writing
- Science curriculum text materials
- Online subscription databases such as Grolier Online and World Book Online
- Age-appropriate animal Web sites such as:
The classroom teacher frontloads the characteristics used to identify and describe living things. Students need to understand terms including "vertebrate/invertebrate;" "carnivore/herbivore/omnivore;" "predator/ prey;" and "threatened/endangered/extinct."
Although the school librarian leads the research process, the students themselves formulate questions and establish the project criteria. Keyboarding skills are reinforced and formatting elements within word processing are taught as necessary to the project.
Both the classroom teacher and school librarian work together to monitor the students' abilities to take accurate notes and give credit to information sources.
Students are encouraged to use sticky notes for writing questions and areas of interest as the teacher presents the foundation for the project. These questions are posted on a classroom inquiry wall. Using the computer with projection screen, the school librarian enters ideas that students feel should be covered when researching individual animals. This list is compared with their questions to see that as many ideas as possible are included. The classroom teacher and school librarian use this list to develop an organizer that students use to complete their research (see Animal Fact Organizer).
A list of animals is prepared ahead of time (see Animal List). The list provides available topics so students are successful in their research, but they are not limited to animals on the list. They list their three top choices so that no two children research the same animal.
With organizer in hand and animal selected, the students spend two class periods gathering information. As research nears an end, the whole group meets to determine what should be included on the fact cards.
Again using the computer with projection screen, the school librarian lists information students feel should be on the fact cards. With teacher guidance, information is organized into meaningful categories. Students enter animal information on one side of a page and a picture of the animal of the opposite side (see Animal Fact Card Template).
Students have the option of finding a picture of their animal on one of the online encyclopedia databases or drawing their own. (School rights with both Grolier and World Book include student use of pictures for educational purposes.)
After printing, pages are folded in half so that the picture is on one side and the information on the other. The cards are laminated so that students can handle them like oversized trading cards.
The Animal Card Rubric is used for students to guide their work and for teachers to assess student work (see Animal Card Rubric).
Since students remain interested in animal topics, searching the online library catalog can be reviewed so they can locate additional nonfiction materials for future reading.
Animal Fact Cards can be displayed at an interest center for student viewing. Students are encouraged to sort cards by various criteria. Once this is done, other students can use background knowledge to see if they can determine the sorting criteria.
Where does my animal live?
What does my animal eat?
Is it a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore?
What are its characteristics? (size, coloration, special features, life span)
What family is it in?
Is it a vertebrate or invertebrate?
Does it hibernate?
Where is it in the food chain?
Is it a predator, prey, or both? Explain. What does it use for defense?
What is its life cycle?
What are groups of this animal called?
Other interesting facts...
Name of Animal: