Learning about penguins helps students understand how some animals live in very cold places and thrive. Teaching about penguins is always a fun experience for my students (and for me!) because there are so many things that you can do. I love the integration into many subject areas.
Before You Begin the Unit
I like to start by finding out what kids already know about penguins. Or, in my experience, what they THINK they know. I want to be able to teach students to VERIFY their “facts” by teaching them to research and think critically. (I first learned this extra step in a workshop put on by Tony Stead.) First, students are given 3 sticky notes to write what they think they know, what they wonder about, and what they want to learn.
After we finish with our sticky notes, we have a class discussion on the “facts”. Some we know for sure and they can be placed on verified. Many go to the Wait section and need further investigation.
Beginning the Research
I review text features with students that I taught them in my Literacy block (see 2nd & 3rd Grade Year Long Writing Unit) and with my Just Chillin’ Winter Math and Literacy set.
As students are reading and researching and learning more about penguins, they learn to think critically and recognize some of the facts from our anchor chart. If they find the fact and it has been verified, the sticky notes from the We Will Find Out section go to the Verified section. Sometimes, we can’t find a fact and verify it so it stays in the “we are not sure” section. As students research, they put together a mini penguin book that showcases the learning thus far. It’s a great formative assessment tool to use as students are engaged in the learning process. You can quickly see where they are in their learning and where to go next in your teaching.
Lap Books and Literacy Centers
Students love putting this together! It’s a great summative assessment for the end of your unit and the perfect thing to share with parents and for students to take home and keep.
The second thing we work on is “writing in role”, or point of view. I use this Penguin Perspectives set in the writing center. Here, students use this colorful non-fiction-type journal prompts to write fiction. Students write in the role of the penguin and answer fact-based questions like they are a penguin writing in their journal. My students loved this! It was also another great way for me to see how much my students had learned in the unit.
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