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Instructional Unit: Historical Animals Term Paper

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Theme: The Dodo-A cross-curricular thematic unit

This thematic unit is appropriate for students in grades K and 1-2 grades.

Focus

The focus of this thematic unit is on historical animals by integrating science, language, and mathematics and emphasizes on the need for children to recognize the importance of environmental conservation to prevent extinction of endangered plants and animals. Children learn to explore different aspects of prehistoric organisms including the climate of the time, the uniqueness of the prehistoric animals and factors that led to their disappearance. This theme forms one of the basic themes that allow every child to explore nature and develop curiosity into prehistoric life and the essence of environmental conservation. How the pre-historic earth was like and what led to the disappearance of pre-historic animals and plants, are the essential questions covered by this thematic unit.

Objectives

By the end of the thematic unit, each student should be able to:

  1. Describe the appearance of the Dodo as a large flightless bird, its mode of nutrition and its lifecycle.
  2. Understand nature and the implications of climatic changes on both plants and animals.
  3. Identify the conditions that contribute to some species becoming extinct or endangered.
  4. Understand that fossils such as buried bones and other materials are evidence of existence of the prehistoric animals and plants that became extinct due to climatic changes.

The specific objectives for this thematic unit as per the curriculum areas are in accordance to the Sunshine state standards benchmarks. According to these benchmarks, the writing process for K, 1-2 grades, the students will use prewriting strategies to plan and create learning ideas (Florida Department of Education, 2003. In this regard, the objectives for the integrated areas of science, mathematics, and language arts will include:

Science

By the end of the thematic unit, the student will be able to:

  1. Describe the conditions that facilitate extinction of some species of plants and animals.
  2. Describe the appearance of Dodo as a large flightless bird and group them as either flesh eaters or plant eaters.
  3. Explain the lifecycle of Dodos involving hatching of buried eggs into chicks that grow in size into an adult Dodo.
  4. Explain that fossils are evidence that the Dodo, other extinct animals, and plants used to exist on earth a long time ago, in spite of the fact that people cannot see them today.
  5. List the characteristic features of birds and distinguish them from other animals.
  6. Illustrate, in sequence, the lifecycle of the Dodo and compare with that of any other existing species of bird.
  7. Explain that the Dodo’s bones, wings and other objects known as fossils exist under the earth.
  8. Describe the factors that contribute to climatic changes and the implications of these changes on life on earth.

Language/Reading Arts

By the end of the thematic unit, the students will be able to:

  1. Develop a good command of English words, sounds, and intonation patterns.
  2. Participate actively in choral speaking in class, conversations and play an active role in class discussions.
  3. Share ideas through conversations and class discussions under the supervision of the teacher (Brown, & Green, 2006, p. 41).
  4. Learn to use relevant and appropriate vocabulary relating to plants, animals, and archaeology.
  5. Demonstrate improved writing skills of scientific terms by keeping a journal.
  6. Be able to write independently upon dictation by their teacher.
  7. Be able to read scientific words and explain their meaning to the class.

Mathematics

By the end of the thematic unit, each student will be able to:

  1. Carry out a classification of objects based on size, appearance, and source and be able to record the information in a table or a graph.
  2. Compare the sizes of animals by arranging the pictures of a Dodo, a dinosaur and an elephant from the smallest to the largest in terms of size.
  3. Count numerals from one to a hundred and understand simple addition and subtraction using counters.
  4. Arrange the objects in a sequence from largest to the smallest and vice versa through inductive inquiry.
  5. Measure and compare the objects as heavy or light, long or short, using non-standardized units.
  6. Explore concepts of time and understand the difference between the prehistoric ages and the present times.

The two-week thematic unit will cover seven lessons but the unit expects the students to have a prior knowledge (Lorenzo, Green, & Brown, 2009, p. 115) before teaching the thematic unit that includes:

  1. The student should be able to count numbers from one to as far as he/she can.
  2. Arrange objects in terms of size from the smallest to the largest and vice versa.
  3. Identify animals and plants and note their basic characteristics.
  4. Able to measure objects with a ruler or a string.
  5. The student should have previously participated in group activities or discussions.
  6. Is familiar with pictures and can identify printed objects.

Lesson 1: The Dodo- Prehistoric times

The main objective for this lesson is that the Dodos used to exist million years ago and that their fossils are the evidence that point to their existence. Students will also learn that the Dodos ceased to exist and their number today is zero

Student Group Activities

Learning Materials and Resources
  • The Book: The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen.
  • The teacher places the pictures of Dodo shapes of different sizes and kinds from various prehistoric islands are at the art center.
  • Various books on dodos, their nutrition, and reproduction during the prehistoric times placed at the library.
  • Paints, colors, markers, paints and play dough material at the Art center
  • Audio tapes about prehistoric animals and plants at the library
  • Dodos made of plastic of distinctive colors and sorting trays, which the students shall use at the science center.
  • Cardboard for illustrations of prehistoric times, graphic displays and word tags such as long ago, smallest, largest, zero, small and a numerical card ranging from zero to 10 at the mathematics center.

Introducing the Idea

The children should all sit on the floor to allow them to see the illustrations. The teacher will begin by talking about the dodos and explain why they are no longer there today (Quammen, 1997, p. 7), draw illustrations and share his/her reactions with the children. During this session, the teacher will explain the concepts of size and time to the children and draw a large diagram of the dodo on the cardboard. He/she will explain the details of the activities of the unit including digging up dodo bones, drawing diagrams of dodos and making up dodo fossils, before allowing the students to visit the writing/language center, mathematics center and science/art centers.

General group activities

The student activities at the art center will include making drawings of what they believe was the appearance of the earth a long time ago. This will help them know the time that the dodos existed and the prevailing conditions then. They will also draw the different shapes and sizes of the dodos and place them in the bulletin board. At the mathematics center, the students will use graphic displays to complete the sequence of different sizes of dodos and the sizes of their eggs. They will also cut small and large geometric shapes of the dodo and their eggs. At the science center, the children will classify the plastic dodos and sort them in terms of their sizes or similarity in appearance.

Discussion Questions

The discussion questions that can elicit the student’s curiosity and create a discussion (Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Trevisan, & Brown, 2009, p. 53) will include; what does the expression, “long ago or prehistoric times” mean? Is it recently or many years ago? What does becoming extinct mean? What caused the extinction of these giant animals and plants of prehistoric times? With respect to size, appropriate discussion questions will include; what is the meaning of being “big” or “small? Does it mean being taller or shorter? In between these questions, the teacher should pause for children’s responses. With respect to numbers, appropriate questions include; what does it mean to say that the population dodo is zero today? Does it mean no dodos? How does the number zero appear like?

Explaining the idea

To help the children understand the concept of prehistoric times and the animals that existed, the teacher will describe the prehistoric animals and plants and explain how they became extinct through natural changes. He/she will describe how the remains of these animals exist deep in the earth and through excavation; the paleontologists are able to obtain the evidence of their existence. The number of dodos existing today is zero, all of them being extinct. The students will then participate in choral speaking and other activities such as demonstrating the sizes of the dodos, flapping wings, and demonstrating their movement.

Conclusion of the lesson and Assessment

After reconvening the entire class, the teacher will conclude the lesson by engaging the students in the choral speaking. He/she will ask the students to name the existing bird species they know of. Then, using large diagrams of dodos of different colors and shapes, the teacher will give a summary of the lesson. Assessment in this lesson will involve oral interviews including the topic of the day’s lesson, the new words learnt, and the sizes of dodos and the meaning of prehistoric times. The teacher can assess the performance using the students drawing and the student’s ability to organize information in the graphic displays (Green, & Brown, 2002, p. 42).

Lesson 2: Extinction of the Dodos

The objective of this lesson is that, by the end of the lesson, each student should be able to understand the causes of extinction and how unfavorable conditions on earth led to the extinction of dodos.

Student group activities

Learning Materials and Resources
  • The book for this lesson includes No Dodos: A Counting Book of Endangered Animals by Amanda Wallwork
  • Paint, brushes, strings and cardboards
  • Different illustrations of the dodos at the science center
  • Word tags with words such as evidence, extinction and endangered at the language/writing center and numerical numbers

Introducing the idea

The teacher will read the story ‘No dodos: a counting book of endangered animals’, to the children. He/she will then explain the activities of the students at the art center, the mathematics center, and the science center. At the science and mathematics centers the teacher will explain how unfavorable environmental conditions led to the extinction of the dodos and that, the number of dodos in the world today is zero. At the writing center, the teacher will require the students to write stories about extinction of animals.

The student’s activities during this lesson will include measuring the sizes of dodo illustrations and comparing them with their own. By comparing the height of the dodo illustrations and their own height, they will be able to estimate the sizes of prehistoric animals. Next, the students will learn the food or diet consumed by the dodos at the library center. They will also read a book about extinction and listen to audio version of the same book. At the mathematics center, the children will count to their partners the number of plastic dodos and sort them according to size using graphic displays. They will also hide them to signify extinction.

The discussion questions for this lesson include, is there any living dodo on earth today? If any, how many exists? What happened to these birds or what killed them? Did they have any natural enemy and is it the enemy responsible for their disappearance? Alternatively, is the lack of food the reason for their disappearance? What evidence is there to support their existence?

Explaining the Idea

The teacher will explain to the students the word “evidence” on a word tag. He/she will explain to the students why fossils are a pointer to the existence of dodos on earth many years ago. By measuring their sizes, the students can determine the information about their mode of nutrition and life cycle. In addition, during this lesson, the teacher will explain to the students the various theories that, based on evidence, attempt to explain what happened to the dodos. Among the theories that the lesson can explore include;

  1. Perhaps a cosmic disaster led to climatic change that led to the disappearance of the dodos.
  2. Perhaps they had natural enemies that fed on them driving them to extinction
  3. Perhaps climatic changes led to the scarcity of their staple food, which led to their disappearance

Conclusion and Assessment

The lesson will conclude with the students’ recitation of choral about the extinction of the dodo. Assessment in this lesson will involve oral interviews including the meaning of extinct/disappearance, causes of extinction and the students opinion as to the causes of dodo’s extinction. Additionally, the teacher can use the completion of individual’s work and group tasks as assessment criteria of this lesson.

Lesson 3: Fossil Records

The main objective for this lesson is that each student should be able to understand how careful observations of the fossil records can lead to determination of the physical characteristics of prehistoric animals (Wallwork, 1993, p. 78).

Student group activities

Materials and Resources required
  • Chart showing the bones, beaks and skeleton of dodos at science center
  • The book: I Am Dodo: Not a True Story by Kae Nishimura
  • Word tags for words such as imprints, paleontologists
  • Sample chart showing the excavation process at the science center

Introducing the idea

The teacher can begin by describing how personal items such as size of clothes can identify the owner of the items and relate it to how fossil records are useful source of information regarding the prehistoric organisms (Nishimura, 2005, p. 7). In the same way, the dodo’s fossil records such as bones and skeletons are evidence of the bird’s existence.

At the science center, the students will bury the model bone fossils and carefully dig them up using small brushes, through a fossil hunting exercise. The teacher will demonstrate how careful excavation can be done to avoid destroying the fossils. At the mathematics center, the children will count the plastic dodos provided and describe their appearance. At the art center, the students, using play dough, will make imprints of fossils using leaves.

Discussion Questions

From the fossil diagrams, the teacher can pose the following questions to elicit a discussion; do you think the bird was flightless? If you think so, what was the purpose of its wings? What do you think was the size of the dodo, large or small?

Explaining the Idea

In explaining the concept of fossil records and excavation by paleontologists, the teacher will read the book, ‘I Am Dodo: Not a True Story’ to the students and explain the meaning of fossils or remains and paleontology at the language/writing center. At the science center, the teacher will explain the discovery of fossil records by paleontologists before demonstrating the process of excavation of fossils. He/she will then describe how, by observation of the fossils, the scientists are able to make inferences into pre-historic animals.

Conclusion and assessment

Before concluding the lesson, the teacher will organize the students into groups, and then each group will challenge the other on particular evidence and ask them to identify the animal using the clues provided. In this way, the teacher will facilitate a discussion amongst the students and can assess effectively the performance of each group. Additionally, oral interviews about paleontology and excavation can assess the students’ individual performance.

Lesson 4: The types of prehistoric dodos

The main objective of this lesson is that each student should be able to identify the different kinds of dodos using different shapes or pictures.

Student Group activities

Materials and Resources required
  • Diagrams of the different dodo species
  • Audio books about dodos at the reading/listening center
  • Graphic displays to compare and contrast the dodo types

The students’ activities will involve identifying the different kinds of dodos by observing their body features on the diagrams at the science center. The students will also engage in fossil matching whereby they will match the fossils with the corresponding picture of dodo before its extinction by eliminating the pictures that do not correspond to the fossil records (Overholser, 1996, p. 283).

Discussion questions

To raise curiosity that will lead to a discussion, the discussion questions for this lesson will include, how many kinds of animals live in a zoo? Are the animals of the same size or shape? How do the fossils help us discover and identify the various types of dodos? Are the fossils of the same size or shape?

Explanation of the idea

The teacher will explain the different kinds of dodos to the students before extinction by matching the fossil records with the imagined appearance of these birds. For example, small footprints will mean a small bird, while a large one will correspond with a larger bird. She/he will also explain where the sources of the fossils and the mode of nutrition of the different types of dodos based on the structure of their beaks.

Conclusion and assessment

The teacher will give a summary of the lesson before assessing the student’s understanding of the concepts. The assessment will include oral interviews about the kinds and the various sizes of dodos and their identifying features. Each individual performance determined by assessing each student’s level of participation and completion of class activities.

Lesson 5: the diet of the Dodos

By the end of this lesson, each student should be able to know the diet of the various kinds of dodos as either flesh or plant eaters.

Materials and Resources required

  • Diagrams of various kinds of flesh-eating and plant-eating dodos
  • Meat and plant-derived foods including hot dog and fruit salads
  • Chart showing the specific kind of dodo, its staple food and the appearance of its beak
  • Animation videos of dodos feeding on plants and meat/fish, which is fascinating to the students (Brown, & Green, 2008, p. 16)

The teacher will require the children to tell the diet of dodos by observing the appearance of their beaks, note the differences between flesh eating and plant eating dodos, and identify the diet of the plant and flesh eating dodos from the foods provided. They will also match the beak type with the diet of the bird. The students will identify the flesh-eating and plant-eating dodos from the animation videos and make drawings of the same.

Discussion Questions

The discussion questions for this lesson includes, what are the differences in beak structure between a flesh-eating dodo and a plant eating one? Is flesh-eating dodo large than a plant eating one? What kind of claws does a flesh-eating dodo have? How can one tell the diet of a dodo, is it by looking at its beak structure?

Explanation of the idea

The teacher will explain the various beak types and their corresponding diet to the students. She/he will explain that the fossils discovered are of different shapes and sizes, which implies different diet for each species. Each type of beak is specialized for a particular function for example curved; sharp-pointed beaks imply that the dodo was a flesh eater while broad beaks mean that the bird fed on plant material. Paleontologists rely on this information to classify the dodos into different groups such as flesh eating or plant eating types. The teacher will explain the fossilized materials that identify the diet of these birds

Conclusion and assessment

After the children reconvene, the teacher will recap the activities of the lesson before conducting oral interviews about the diet of the dodos. How, through observation of the structure of the beaks, one can tell the diet of dodos. Oral interviews regarding the diet of the dodos and the differences between flesh-eating and plant-eating dodos will act as an assessment of the students.

Lesson 6: The reproductive cycle of dodos

By the end of the lesson, the students should be able to describe the lifecycle of dodos as they hatch from eggs to young ones that grow into adult.

Materials and resources required

  • Charts illustrating the lifecycle of dodos
  • Diagrams representing dodo eggs and young ones
  • Plastic models of young dodos, eggs and adults at the art center
  • At the science center, videos and magazines with pictures of animals and birds
  • Word tags with the words life cycle, young one and adult at the writing/language center

The teacher will read the story ‘chickens are not the only ones’ and then ask the students about their opinion about the story. They will then illustrate the diagram of young one hatching from the egg using the chart at the reading/writing center. At the mathematics center, the students will illustrate the reproductive cycle of dodos and describe it to the other students.

Discussion questions

To trigger a discussion, the teacher will pose various questions to the class; are dodos born or hatch from eggs? Does the young one feed on the mother’s milk or on food? Do you think the young ones look for their own food or their mother feeds them?

Explanation of the idea

The teacher will explain to the students that dodos, just like any other bird, hatched from laid eggs. Using the magazines and videos, the teacher will explain how a young one emerges from an egg. After the hatching of the eggs the dodos mature, mate and have more young ones. Older dodos die of old age. However, natural enemies destroy nests and feed on these eggs reducing their population.

Conclusion and assessment

After the students have reconvened, the teacher will give a summary of the lifecycle of dodo and relate it with that of other birds. Assessment will involve oral interviews, assessing the students’ ability to arrange in sequence, the life cycle of the dodos while identifying correctly the pictures of dodos and other birds.

Lesson 7: the impacts of natural changes

By the end of this lesson, each student should be able to explain the difference between extinction and existence as part of natural changes. Mathematics will be essential in explaining the different natural changes i.e. comparing two aspects of nature.

Materials and resources required

  • Illustrations of prehistoric conditions, animal life and the natural features on the surface of the earth
  • Books with illustrations of different dodo types
  • Videos showing the prehistoric conditions and animals
  • Paint and chart board

The student’s activities will involve drawing maps of continents arising from the drift of a single land mass at the art center and a diagram of dodo before the extinction. Writing a story about a dodo he/she owned as a pet at the writing center and reading it to the rest of the class.

Discussion Questions

To encourage a discussion and imagination, the teacher will pose the following questions; will the extinct dodos ever come back? If they returned to earth, will they be able to co-exist with humans today? Can people house them in a zoo or they will remain wild? What will be their main diet?

Explaining the Idea

The teacher will explain to the students how, using fossils, people are able to understand the appearance of the dodo, its life cycle, its diet and the pre-historic conditions on earth. By comparing the prehistoric conditions and the present conditions, it is possible to identify the natural changes that contributed to their extinction.

Closure and Assessment

After reconvening the students, each will share the stories about their pet dodo, wrote at writing center. The teacher shall use oral interviews to assess the performance of each group and individual writing assignments. Additionally, the teacher will use level of completion of an activity, participation in group activities and use of correct illustration for assessment.

Lesson Plans

Lesson 1

    1. Objectives

By the end of this lesson, the students should be able to:

  • explain the meaning of “long ago” and fossil records and “extinct”
  • explain that dodos are extinct birds that existed a long time ago i.e. their population today is zero
    1. Teaching strategies
  • Involving the students in learning through activities such as drawing diagrams to represent the prehistoric earth and animals
  • The students will work as groups in carrying out various tasks to promote collaborative learning
  • Interdisciplinary learning by allowing students to visit the art center, the mathematics center and the language/writing centers
    1. Learning Activities
  • Making drawings of what they believe is the appearance of the earth a long time ago.
  • Drawing diagrams of different types of birds
  • Arranging the plastic dodos in sequence from the largest to the smallest and vice versa or based on their appearance
    1. Learning Resources

Books, pictures of birds, audio and video tapes of prehistoric animals

Lesson 2

    1. Objectives

By the end of the lesson, each student should be able to:

  • explain what causes extinction of animals and plants
  • describe the unfavorable conditions that lead to extinction
    1. Teaching strategies
  • Active learning-encouraging participation in group activities such as making illustrations
  • Use of games and experiments by hiding the plastic dodos to show disappearance of a species
  • Interdisciplinary learning
    1. Learning activities
  • Drawing/illustrations of the earth in prehistoric times
  • Organizing the dodos/eggs according to their sizes
  • Sorting the dodos according to similarity/difference in appearance
    1. Learning resources

Books, plastic dodos, graphic displays, audio and video tapes of prehistoric animals

Lesson 3

    1. Objectives
  • Each student should be able to identify an organism from the fossil records
  • Each student should be able to predict the physical characteristics of the dodo by observing the fossils
    1. Teaching strategies
  • Problem-solving strategy through fossil hunting
  • Interdisciplinary learning
  • Active-learning by allowing participation of students in choosing learning activities
    1. Learning activities
  • Hiding bones in the sand to signify the fossils buried in earth
  • Digging up the bones in fossil hunting exercise
  • Making imprints of fossils on play dough
    1. Learning Resources
  • Charts with illustrations of dodos bones and skeletons
  • Books, videos and graphic displays of excavation process

Reference List

Brown, A., & Green, T. (2006). The Essentials of Instructional Design: Connecting Fundamental Principals with Process and Practice. London: Prentice Hall.

Brown, A., & Green, T. (2008). Issues and Trends in Instructional Technology: Making the Most of Mobility and Ubiquity. Educational Media and Technology Yearbook, 33, 16-20.

Green, T., & Brown, A. (2002). Multimedia Projects in the Classroom: A Guide to Development and Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Florida Department of Education. 2003. Sunshine State Standards and Benchmarks for Writing. Web.

Lorenzo, B., Green, T., & Brown, A. (2009). The Use of Multimedia Graphic Organizer Software in the Prewriting Activities of Primary School Students: What are the Benefits? Computers in the Schools, 26(2), 115 – 19.

Nishimura, K. (2005). I Am Dodo: Not a True Story. London: Clarion Books Orlich, D., Harder, R., Callahan, R., Trevisan, M., & Brown, A. (2009). Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Better Instruction. New York: Wadsworth Publishing.

Overholser, J. (1996). Elements of the Socratic Method: Self-improvement. Psychotherapy, 33, 283-86.

Quammen, D. (1997). The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. London: Scribner publishers.

Wallwork, A. (1993). No Dodos: A Counting Book of Endangered Animals. New York: Rugged bears publishers.

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