Sunday, March 9, 2014

Animal Observations, Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about scaffolding students to observe from videos. My goal was to help students do firsthand observations of faraway animals. After all, they can't observe leopard seals in the classroom--but they can use videos to observe animals from far away.

Well, it worked out well! The students chose to watch this video about a leopard seal as our modeled experience:

As we watched, we paused frequently to write things down and talk. Students moved through several rounds of spontaneous questioning:
1. Who took this video? Why weren't they scared of the leopard seal? (We had read in Trapped by the Ice about a leopard seal attack, so they were pulling from background knowledge for this question.)
2. Why is the leopard seal swimming so close to the diver?

After our first viewing, students settled down to observe, using the observation sheet I had created for them. Interestingly, it became a vocabulary-rich conversation as students tried to find the best words to describe what they were seeing. Is the leopard seal gray? Are those called fins or flippers? How could we describe the leopard seal's shape? One student introduced the word porpoising, a word that he had learned from reading about penguins. Could we say that the leopard seal is curious?

I was especially happy to hear that just giving students an observation form could change the nature of their discussion, prompting them to use more specific language. The conversations transferred over to students' observation of the birds outside our window! "I think he's territorial," was one student's comment.

The class then moved into research mode. Some students used print resources to find more information about people and places of Antarctica; others watched videos in small groups; and others asked me to track down good links for them. It turned into a peaceful and productive time with students scattered about the room and totally engaged in learning more.

Writing Notes
-I did some very small updates to Introduction to Text Structure this weekend. I tend to fall out of love with what I have written very quickly, but the texts in this packet are still some of my favorites ever. As a teacher, I just love having five texts on the same topic with different text structures.

-I added two new iPad activities to Frolyc this weekend: Daylight Savings Time, which introduces a point/counterpoint style of persuasive writing, and Build a Butterfly Garden, which includes a persuasive text and an informational video. Both are good for teaching author's purpose and supporting positions.

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