Famous Biographies, Grade 2

Animals, Grade 2nd and 3rd
Jan Witt and Diane Fessler
Overall Impressions
“Help! We need your help finding information about animals that interest you. The
information that we need, could help save the life of that animal. Animal habitats are
being destroyed. Their food sources are disappearing”. This opening letter is a powerful
way to connect students to the content for the unit. Students will work hard to understand
the world in which their animal lives and make every effort to save them!
Your teaching and learning events are a collection of ideas rather than an integrated
whole. While the ideas are creative and appropriate for primary children, without careful
scaffolding students will not understand the big ideas and concepts you intended. You
have intuited that you can’t save what you can’t understand. Now you need activities that
will support their growing understanding of animals. Additional ideas have been listed in
a separate document.
Engaging the Learner (The Hook, Authentic Connection, Final Team Performance)
Authentic connections give purpose and meaning to the content being presented. The
idea of sharing information with the conservation office is a great way for your children
to retell what they have learned about animals! You may want to consider having them
share first with their local community by displaying at the library.
The final team performance focused on your benchmarks.
 Classify living organisms using a variety of characteristics.
 Categorize the various stages of life cycles.
 Compare and contrast relationships among living things and their environment.
Illinois Goals/Standards
Benchmarks were age and grade appropriate however, the second benchmark could
be revised in the following way:
 evaluate needs of animals at various stages of their life cycle (they will then
understand life cycles and the changing needs of animals)
Teaching and Learning Events
Having students bring in pictures or stuffed animals is a good way to begin instruction.
Bringing a bird and a cat or dog into the classroom for comparison of features would help
students compare feathers to fur, mouth parts, etc.
Another strategy for helping them understand features would be for them to pair up and
draw an outline of one partner then draw in and label their features. Next have them
discuss how they use each of their features. This positions the class to scaffold to an
understanding that all living things have features and that those characteristics help the
organism survive. Their job is to discover how features help animals survive.
Transition to studying animal features with an examination of bird’s beaks. This and
other suggested activities are contained in the document, Animal characteristics.doc.
Individual Student Assessments
The assessments appropriately targeted the benchmarks.
Preparation for Final Team Performance
Students need to be given opportunities to develop their powerpoint presentation rather
than wait until the end. This gives them a chance to synthesize information through
retelling to a real audience, scaffolding from basic information (characteristics of
animals) to more complex (saving the habitats).
Use of Technology
Level of technology use: Literacy with a focus on acquiring technology skills
Reading Activities
Making Connections:
You opened you unit with many opportunities for your students to connect to the content;
the displayed pictures, word sorts are good examples. Adding additional activities will
allow your students to scaffold knowledge from one activity or concept to the next.
The invitation from the conservation office was so well done that students will want to
connect everything they are learning about animals to the task of saving them. You
simply need to help them plan those connections by developing the PowerPoint.
Asking Questions
While you had developed two documents for practicing the QAR only one was
positioned in the unit plan. Students need to be explicitly taught the types of questions
and reader’s responses, preferably before the unit begins.
In planning your second unit or when implementing this unit a second time be sure to
allow children time to continue asking and investigating their own questions.
Determining Importance
This strategy helps students know what is important as they are reading from multiple
sources. The Frayer Model and IWAC were organizes used to define important words
and concepts developed during the unit. There was no indication that students continued
to take notes during the remainder of the unit.
This unit has multiple opportunities to teach how features of text give clues about what
authors think is important to include in a book. Walk through each book and have
students notice pictures, bold and/or italic word formats, captions, etc. At the end of the
book ask, “What did this book tell us about
“? Record the information on the
semantic features chart. With continued practice they will begin to notice features of text
yield important clues about information being presented in the book.
Visualizing and Inferring
You did a nice job in planning opportunities for your students to use these strategies
throughout your unit by having them locate and classify pictures and creating habitats.
The inferencing activity you planned but did not include would offer good practice for
this skill. By identifying an essential question to guide student inquiry children will
move to higher levels of thinking and reasoning.
Your final team performance positions your unit to support children's understanding of
something far more important than just knowing about this topic. However, you will
need to include opportunities for them to work toward their project goals throughout the
unit. For example, have students investigate endangered species and determine what
major factors are contributing to their decline. Then have them create slides for the
conservation office.
When students are able to understand that the content they have been studying is needed
to solve a real-time problem then you have achieved synthesis.