Animals With Backbones
Getting Started Activities
Activate background knowledge:
Begin the unit by creating a KWL chart or a Concept Question board to find out what students know about animals and to help them start generating their own questions. You might consider having students bring in an article or picture about animals prior to doing this activity in class.
Give each student an animal picture. Have students sort the animals as vertebrates or invertebrates. Students are often surprised by which animals have backbones.
Animal Lab Book
folder with brads
lab report reproducibles (Evan Moor Animals With Backbones)
(paper could be used instead of the lab report sheets)
Assemble the folders to document student learning and progress. Provide time for students to record their observations and wonderings and add to their animal classification chart. Students can keep ongoing projects, research notes, etc.. in the pockets.
Build a Snake Skeleton
Reproducibles of a snake backbone
1 large macaroni shell per student
Elbow macaroni (requires a couple of bags)
Students will glue the pasta on the snake backbone for hands-on reinforcement of vertebrates.
Observe a Class Pet
Provide opportunities for students to observe a live animal such as a class pet. Have students make written notes of their observations.
Center Activity: Shoebox Habitats
pictures of animals
Decorate shoebox with pictures that depict the following:
1. Animals that walk on land
2. Animals that swim in water
3. Animals that fly in the sky
(optional: rainforest, farm, zoo)
Provide students with a set of animal cards to sort into the various boxes. This could also be set up in a pocket chart.
Language Art Connections
Marsupial Sue by John Lithgow
This is a delightful and silly story with a repetitive refrain. Encourage students to think deeply by asking them if they have ever felt out of place. For example, I am really good at ballet, but I am uncomfortable playing football. Afterwards talk about some special animals and the unique things that they can do. After reading the story, invite students to create an individual page for a class book. I am happy being _____________________. I feel good when I _____________________.
Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae
Before reading this book, play a short game of animal charades focusing on animal movements. Talk about the title of the story. Ask the students if dancing is something giraffes can do. Afterwards, chart some of the verbs students use to describe the ways specific animals move. Challenge students to come up with more colorful and interesting verbs that describe the same action. Divide students into small groups and provide each group/student with an animal movement brainstorming sheet. Students will come up with three different words that describe how a specific animal moves.
Creative Writing Extension:
Encourage students to think and talk about how it feels when someone tells you that you can't do something. Have them brainstorm about something someone told them they couldn't do. After sketching and brainstorming ideas, encourage students to write a creative story on the topic.
Animal Big Books
11 x 17 construction paper
Have students complete the story form and glue it on the construction paper. Students will illustrate their writing on the construction paper. Bind the book into a class big book!
Animal Research Project
Have students research one particular animal by examining books, magazines, and the internet.
Provide presentation options for the final project:
I highly recommend Animals with Backbones. It is a great resource filled with lots of activities and reproducible mini-books and report forms.
Links to more animal resources:
First Grade Pet Show
To celebrate our study, we conclude our unit with an outdoor pet show. All students must bring either a stuffed or live pet to the show. All live pets must be accompanied by an adult. Here is a sample letter:
First Grade Pet Show
First grade is going to hold an outdoor pet show on ______________. Each child may bring one live pet or a stuffed animal. To protect pet owners and students, all live animals must be accompanied by an adult and kept either on a leash or in a cage/carrier at all times. Please keep in mind that the animals will be around many children at one time. If an adult cannot accompany the family pet, please have your child show a stuffed animal. Pets must remain outside and may not enter the school building. Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.
Each student will need to create a poster describing his or her pet. Every animal or stuffed animal participating in the pet show must have a poster.
The poster should include the following information:
Posters need to be brought to school on ____________. Pets should be brought directly to the courtyard area on your scheduled day and time. Adult pet owners should stand in the area designated for their type of pet. First grade students will join their pets outside at their scheduled time and should be prepared to tell visiting students information about his or her pet. Elementary students will be invited to attend the First Grade Pet Show and voluntary donations of 50 cents per student are welcomed for admission. Proceeds will go to Lexeeís Legacy, a local pet rescue agency, to help care for homeless pets. Encourage your child to consider donating some of his or her allowance towards this mission project. Thanks for helping make this a memorable and special event for your child!
The First Grade Teachers
Type of Pet:______________________
q Stuffed animal
q Live (Please complete information below.)
I,________________________, agree to accompany our pet to the pet show at our scheduled
(name of parent)
date and time. I understand that our pet must be in a cage or on a leash at all times. I also understand that the pet is to remain outside and under the supervision of an adult at all times. I understand that I am responsible for cleaning up after my pet.
Signature of parent accompanying pet to pet show
Links to more pet ideas: