Friday, May 20, 2016

The Life Cycle of a Chicken Close Reading and Writing Unit

We have been learning all about life cycles in first grade this year. We watched caterpillars form chrysalises and turn into butterflies as we learned about the Monarch butterfly life cycle. We explored the life cycle of plants while we grew, pollinated, and then harvested the new seeds. What better way to end the year than hatching chicks in our class?
I decided I wanted to teach the students the real science behind hatching chicks instead of doing a cutesier version. 

I began the unit by getting the students excited about hatching chicks. I provided four pictures of the life cycle of a chicken and simply asked the students "What's happening?" As they examined each picture they wrote on a sticky note what they thought was happening. This was a great way for me to assess their background knowledge. We discussed some of the things they thought were happening. Then I told them throughout the next two weeks we would learn more about what is happening in each photo. They were so excited!

I taught them the order of the chicken life cycle and of course we had the conversation "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" We never figured it out... Together we made an anchor chart using the same images from the "What's Happening" lesson of the life cycle of a chicken. We did a fun cut-and-paste activity where I let them decide which stage of the life they wanted to start with. 

As as class, we began by exploring the hen stage. I modeled how to close read a text about a hen. We answered text dependent questions and defined unknown words together. My students were familiar with text coding by this point in the school year so I had them help code the text.

After coding the text together, the students coded their own text and took notes on their note sheet. We also added the new vocabulary words we learned on our domain specific vocabulary wall.

Our next lesson was about the egg stage of the life cycle. By this point our eggs had been in the incubator 8 days. I asked the students to draw what they thought was inside the egg on day 8. Together we close read a text about the egg. Again we coded the text, answered text dependent questions, and defined unknown words. Then we looked at and discussed the Chick Embryo Development chart.
We also watched this awesome video. 

I had the students draw a second drawing of what they thought was inside our egg so we could compare it to the first drawing. The difference was pretty amazing. 
I hung the sheets from this day in our room so we could refer back to them throughout the unit. 
Then we moved to the hatching stage. We close read a text about how the chicks hatch and answered text dependent questions together. Then the students coded their own text and defined any words that were new to them. 
Our last close read was on the chick stage. Our note sheets and vocabulary wall were finally complete. 
For our final lesson, students wrote a literary nonfiction tab-book about the life cycle of a chicken. They used their note sheets and words from the vocabulary word wall to write their book. The results were simply amazing! 

We finished just in time for our eggs to hatch. The students were in love!

We sell the Life Cycle of a Chicken texts, text dependent questions, text coding poster, chicken images, note sheets, student version of the texts, vocabulary words, cut and paste activity, inside the egg activity, literary nonfiction tab-book, and detailed lesson plans so you can easily teach the real science about the life cycle of a chicken in your classroom. You don't have to actually hatch chicks to teach this unit. Click on the image below to visit our TPT store. 

Project Based National Symbols Unit

My students loved our project based National Symbols unit this year. I started the unit by reading a letter to the class from the National Park Service Rangers. The letter tells the students the park rangers are in need of new teaching materials at each location. As a class we decided we could complete the projects the park rangers needed, but first we would need to research each National Symbol.

We started with the Statue of Liberty. I modeled how to close read the text. I projected a teacher text of the Statue of Liberty. We coded the text, answered text dependent questions, and took notes together. Here is an example of one page from the text. 

The Park Rangers were in need of a tour guide script for the Statue of Liberty. The students used their script to pretend to be tour guides. They loved dressing up as the Statue of Liberty for the tour. 

Next we researched the Flag. The National Park Rangers needed help teaching visitors how to respect the flag. Together we read, text coded, answered text dependent questions, and took notes on the Flag so we could write a "How to Respect the Flag" for visitors. The students loved having their own books. 

My students acted as tour guides and taught the "visitors" how to respect the flag. 

Next we started our research on the Liberty Bell. The National Park Rangers needed a documentary about the Liberty Bell. Students read, answered text dependent questions, coded the text, and took notes with partners so they could write an accurate script for their documentary. 
My students used their documentary script to present their documentaries to the class. They turned out so cute! 

I was able to easily assess speaking standards during each presentation using this simple checklist. 
Our last National Symbol was the Bald Eagle.I had my students complete the reading, text coding, and note taking independently. I printed off differentiated text so they could all be successful.  The students really loved this project. The rangers needed informational trading cards about the Bald Eagle. After we learned all about the Bald Eagle they made these cute cards informational cards and acted as tour guides. The tour guides told "visitors" facts about the Bald Eagle as they handed out the informational cards. 

Students assessed their own writing for this project. 
If you want to try this in your own classroom you can purchase each symbol individually or all of them in a bundle from our TPT store.