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Animals Characteristics and Functions
In Science class, I have been working with the 1st grade students on animal characteristics and functions. We talked about what animals need in order to survive. After which, I shared some pictures of some animals. The students were given time to talk with their partner about the animals characteristics and the function of it. In the next, lesson we are going to read a book about animals characteristics and functions. What did you find successful in your classrooms?
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You might enjoy this free book chapter on animal behavior: What Oh What Can An Animal Do?
Also, this book chapter by the Picture Perfect Science Lessons authors is a good one for k-3: Wiggling Worms .
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As a third grade teacher, I usually start with what we see around campus so I start with birds. We make observations of the different birds on campus (we have at least 6-7) and then I show students pictures about the birds and information about what they eat and how they fly.
We talk specifically about wings, bill/beak, and feet (whether they walk or fly).
Then I have students create their own birds with a bird wing, bill/beak, or feet template. (you could have a variety of flightless, water, forest, migratory birds)
The students have to explain what their bird does.
If you're looking to remain focused on animals, then magazine cut-outs of animals would work. If you want to spark imagination, you could take features of animals and have them explain what it would be like on another animal because it might help them to really understand the function of that animal. For example, "What would an elephant's trunk be like on a giraffe?" Granted, I'm more of an upper-grades teacher, so I'm not sure if 1st graders are developmentally ready for the creativity. My colleague (also 3rd grade) loves that exercise. Maybe you could focus it on "What would life be like if YOU had an elephant's trunk?"
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You could do a variety of experiments that simulate the functions of various parts of animals. For example, baleen whales eat by filtering sea water through their baleen bristles. You could have students use a fine-toothed comb to pick up small styrofoam pellets in a bowl of water. To emphasize the importance of this characteristic, have them do the same experiment with chopsticks to show how inefficient it would be for a whale to have a "beak". I think having students conduct these types of experiments would really help them understand why animals have developed such distinct characteristics.
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I also have a hard time trying to find lessons teaching the different animal characteristics in functions to my first graders as well. If you live in Hawaii, I really enjoy having the University of Hawaii CTAHR department come and talk to my students about termites. They do an excellent job of going over all the different body parts of termites and what their functions are and how they contribute to the termite family. Besides learning about termites, I introduce my students to different pictures of animals. The students make generalizations about the animals they see and what characteristics they share. This helps them look closely & make observations of the animals they see.
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Thank you for the info. I didn't even know that University of Hawaii CTAHR was a department that visited classes. That is a great idea and I will look into it more. Does is cost anything?
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To teach animal characteristics and functions I usually use this Project GLAD strategy called input charts. I draw one animal and usually talk about the features of the animal when I'm drawing it. It helps the kids to visually remember each part. Then I write notes next to each part so that the students can refer back to the chart if they need help. The important thing that I try to emphasize is the vocabulary since it seems to be the hardest part of Science.
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Hi Donnalyn - The UH termite project is free. You can even arrange it to have them come to you classroom and setup the termite jar. They are very good at giving you supplies and resources appropriate for students in each grade level. For example, they provided me with pre-cut construction paper and brads to put together mini-books to help students remember the different types of termites and their jobs/functions. They also provided me with the supplies to do sand art with my students so they would remember the 3 different body parts insects have. I've had the privilege of working with them for 3 years now and each year I feel like I'm always learning something new about termites. Hope that helps!
As a student teacher this worked extremely well: I prepared a power point with zoo animals featuring many opposite types of adaptations (include the zoo cams too). Eighth grade students loved trying to outsmart each other by pointing these out from slide to slide faster(wait time included). Then they made a beautiful coloring book using what they could remember about specific creature features and by looking through slides and pictures again. I was very impressed with how well they could illustrate organisms they rarely see, and with the level of creativity of their insights into structure and function. Don't forget to include what to feed the zoo inhabitants, and include something critical to their habitat, along with natural competition. Your elementary audience will probably adore a simpler version of this "middle school" activity.
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Thanks Lori and Juliet!
I like the idea of having students imagine what it would be like to have different parts of an animal on a different animal. My third grade students would have a blast with this. And Juliet, I like the idea of having the students experiment as if they were the animal, so the students could explain how different body parts wouldn't be as successful on certain animals. It would help the students understand what structure and function really means.
I created a structure and function lesson on the Hawaiian Monk Seal. I taught students how to create a diagram and they wrote pieces on why each body part was so important to the seal. Then we discussed ecosystems and what endangered means. Eventually, the students wrote letters to politicians explaining why the monk seals need our help to protect them.
I think I now would add on to this lesson by the ideas I got from the forum. I would have students replace the body parts of other Hawaiian animals and try and act it out to see if it would be as effective.
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Amy that is an awesome book!
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