Comparing and Contrasting Animals

(a K-2 Animals lesson plan)

From the unit: How are animals the same? How are they different?

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Students will ask and answer questions about the classroom's animals.
Standards and Benchmarks
AAAS Benchmarks
  • Describing things as accurately as possible is important in science because it enables people to compare their observations with those of others.
  • Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another.
  • Living things are found almost everywhere in the world. There are somewhat different kinds in different places.
  • Students will ask questions that compare and contrast their classroom animals and other animals
  • Students will collect and analyze data to answer their questions.
  • Students will draw conclusions about their questions and communicate these to the class.
Class Time Needed
One week to several weeks (depending on data collection)
A variety of resource materials (Internet, magazines and journals about animals, if students are able to access these resources)
Click here to download the Animal Research Guide
Science Background

How are our classroom pets like other animals from around the world? How are they different?
Animals are similar to the animals from around the world because of their characteristics (made of cells, obtain and use energy, grow and develop, reproduce, respond to their environment, and adapt to their environment) and needs (water, food, and air, for our purposes) are basically the same. Animals from everywhere have also adapted to their environment so that they can live and even thrive in this environment.

Animals are also different in a variety of ways. They are different in where they live, the type of food they eat, how they obtain this food, how they have adapted to their environment, etc. Find out information about different backyard animals at Backyard Nature.

Note to K and 1st grade teachers
This lesson will probably be too difficult for your students. Reading text for information is a pretty complex task, and it's likely your students will need much more direction from you than this lesson describes. One alternative activity you might consider is helping the class ask a comparison question (as described in Part One). Instead of allowing students to research on their own, however, you could find a few picture books that provided the information needed to answer the question. As you read the book aloud (or project a website to the class), model how to keep track of facts that help you answer your question. You could do this through keeping a list or making a Venn diagram. You might even give students a simpler version of the Animal Research Guide and fill it out with them on the overhead. Not only will they learn about how animals are the same and different, they will also learn how to glean information from text.

Part One: Asking Questions

1. Ask students to respond to the following question in their science journals:
  • What is your favorite animal?
  • Why is this your favorite animal?
  • What do you know about this animal?
  • What do you want to know about this animal?
2. Have several students share their journal entries with the class. Try to get a diversity of animals, including large and small ones, animals that live in far-away areas, etc.

3. Explain to students that they will be using their observations and natural curiosity to ask questions about how their classroom animals are the same and different from other animals from around the world. They will be answering the subquestion, How are our classroom pets like other animals from around the world? How are they different? They can pick their favorite animal that they wrote about in their journal, or another animal. It should be their choice. Option: Students will be performing research on their chosen animal through the Internet, books, magazines, etc. If you have limited resources, you may want to place them into groups of three and have them choose one animal per group.

Use the Animal Research Guide to guide the students through each step from choosing a question to presentations.

Students need to develop questions that will focus their investigations. In other words, they should not be researching the broad question of how their animal of choice and their classroom animals are the same or different. Instead, they should focus their research on several smaller questions. For example, a student might ask:
  • How is where a rabbit lives the same as where a tiger lives? How is it different?
  • How is what a rabbit eats the same as what a tiger eats? How is it different?
[?] Why should my students ask and answer questions in science?
[?] How can I help my students ask and answer questions in science?

Part Two: Collecting Data to Answer Our Question
  1. Explain to students that they will need to collect data to answer the questions they developed in part one. This data collection will take place over several days (or even over several weeks, time permitting).
  2. [?] Why should students collect evidence to answer questions?
  3. [?] How can I help my students collect evidence?
  4. Have students brainstorm all the different types of data they can collect to answer their question. Write these on the board.
  5. Students may mention: making observations (including carefully watching the animals, which may mean they need to make additional observations of the classroom pets), looking on the Internet or in magazines and journals, asking questions of scientists, bringing videos or other information from home, etc.
  6. To focus students' observations, you may want to send them to specific websites that have a lot of information on animals. These can be found in the Ideas and Resources section in this unit.
  7. Have students collect their data by reserving the technology center or library, checking our relevant books and magazines, etc. If students are not able to use the Internet, you may want to print the information for them and provide it as another source of data in the classroom.
Part Three: Communicating Findings

1. Have each pair of students do a presentation on the question they asked and the conclusions they drew. Stress to students the importance of backing up their claims with evidence. Other students in the class should be expected to record this information in their science journals.

2. Be sure to have the class ask questions at the end of each presentation. The class should be asking questions like:
  • Do you think the data you collected answers your question?
  • Are there other types of data you would collect if you could?
  • What would you do differently next time?
3. What other questions do you have now that you've done this?
[?] Why should students communicate and justify their findings?
[?] How can I help my students communicate and justify their findings?
Classroom presentations should serve as the assessment for this lesson. Students should be able to ask questions, find ways to answer these questions, draw conclusions, and communicate findings.
Images of Inquiry

How Kayla taught this lesson
Kayla decided that this was too big of a project to turn over to groups. She spend a few days selecting 3 questions and 3 sources for each question that she knew were appropriate for her readers. Then, she let each group choose from the 3 questions and go from there.

Kayla decided to walk her students through each step of the Animal Research Guide. She knows that helping them read for specific information and learn to use that evidence to craft an answer to their question is difficult for them, but she also knows that her students are not only learning about scientific inquiry and animals but learning the basics of informational reading and research as well.

Author(s): CASES Team

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