Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Life Science: Session 2

How are plants and animals alike and different?; STC:

classroomLesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Science & Technology for Children, National Science Resources Center, Carolina Biological Supply Center
Topic: How are plants and animals alike and different?
Grade: First

In Program Two, Stephanie taught a lesson from the Organisms unit of the Science and Technology for Children (STC) curriculum to a group of first graders. The students had recently been learning about the characteristics of living things, and had spent time observing different organisms in the class aquariums and terrariums. Stephanie wanted to get them to think about the essential characteristics of plant and animal life and about the differences between them.

Starting with two charts, Ms. Selznick asked the class to consider how all plant life is alike and different. “Typically, I’ll take two plants and put them on the counter and ask, how are these two alike? Then I’ll have them compare them to trees outside, or to the tulips we planted in the fall.” Through discussion, her students’ ideas, often misconceptions, surface: “that all plants have flowers, or branches, or that plants breath oxygen,” said Stephanie.

After her students conducted the same activity for animals, Stephanie had them discuss the similarities and differences between plants and animals while she recorded their observations on a Venn diagram at the front of the room. Finally she had the class record what they thought were the five basic needs of both plants and animals.

The lesson required the students to work hard on classification: they needed to determine how each group of organisms was alike and different, and then to classify them based on their essential characteristics. “When I start off with classification in the first grade,” said Stephanie, “I start small and with something they can handle, like M&Ms or buttons.” Her students classify them based on color, shape, or number of holes, while she records the differences in charts at the front of the class. As her students advance, the classifications become more difficult and she also has her students write up their observations. “By the time they’re in fifth grade, it’s like they are going to be absolutely perfect at observation. And that goes back to classifying,” said Stephanie, “It all starts with what they observe – that is classification.”

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