Assess Prior Knowledge
This unit of study can begin with the question “What is the circle of Life?" and playing song from Lion King which is familiar to children. At this point, all questions of unit (see text box) should be displayed around classroom.
This can be followed with a concept splash (a splash of words on smart board or just pictures for lower grades) and have students put these in groups. This can lead to discussion of what criteria they used to make these groups (i.e. fur, backbones, water animals). Once students’ prior knowledge is apparent you can proceed to start an in-depth look at each animal group. This would be done during first week and would have to be differentiated for ELL students (more visuals) and age appropriately.
At this point it would be beneficial to show students different leveled texts in classroom library on various animals and animal groups. Each day you can focus on one book or a portion of one for a shared reading lesson. This gives you the opportunity to also do a quick review of Non-Fiction text features. Students should be encouraged to read an animal book independently.
It is important to have many levels of text so that all students can enjoy learning about animal groups. For the first two weeks of this unit, students should be exposed to various texts as well as videos/pictures of animals in their living environment. They should be ready to pick a book for their own animal focus in this unit (or paired with a partner depending on reading levels in your class). This is an opportunity to answer some essential questions and have students begin writing informational text. Some suggested texts would be:
Gail Gibbon’s series on Animals including Owls, Whales, Horses, Beavers
Seymour Simon animal books including Wolves, Gorillas
Bobbie Kalman books such as How Do Animals Adapt? And What Are Camouflage And Mimicry?
- Time for Kids, National Geographic texts and Zoobooks
- Big Book Collection on Animals by Marcia E. Freeman
Learning About Food Chains
Once students are familiar with animal groups, discussion can continue into what each animal group eats. You can look at their habitat, their teeth structures and discuss why certain animals are carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.
This discussion can lead to a food chain discussion. You should read text related material on food chains until students are ready to make their own food chain on chart paper. A culminating activity for understanding food chains is to have each child represent an animal (or plant/sun) in food chain, whether by dressing the part (K - 1) or drawing a poster with information on their animal (3-5) and have them form a “Circle of Life" in your classroom.