Thursday, October 23, 2008

Intro to Hibernation

After my little hiatus from blogging, it seems apt that I have a post on hibernation ;-)


hibernation by Life As Art

The Lesson

I was starting a small unit on hibernation for my mixed grade (4 - 7) science class and came up with a modified 'concept attainment' lesson to introduce the topic. Here's how it worked.

I gave students a list of animals in alphabetical order. I then told them I was going to be placing them in 3 groups labeled A, B and C. Their job (with a partner) was to figure out why I grouped them the way I did. I told them that it might be difficult because they may not know very much about some of the animals that I listed, but that was ok.

I started introducing each of the animals, in alphabetical order, by showing them a photo of the animal and then showing them which group I placed it in. After each of the groups had one or two animals in them I asked the students to discuss with their partner why I was grouping them the way I did. I did not get them to share their ideas with the entire group at this point (even though some of them really wanted to!) I showed them a few more animals and where I grouped them. Again they were asked to share their ideas with their partner. They were also asked to share their ideas with the group next to them. I continued showing them animals, but I would ask them to predict which group I was going to put it in. As the group got a clearer and clearer idea of how the animals were grouped their predictions improved and loud cheers would go up when their predictions were proved correct. Once we made it through all of the animals I asked different students to explain why the group A animals were together, then why the group B etc. By the mid-point of this activity all of the students were completely engaged, and by the end I felt that the class as a whole had a basic understanding of 3 of the main ways that animals cope with winter (hibernation, migration, and adaptations such as thicker white coats of fur, broad feet to move through snow etc.)

The Slide Show

The slide show I used for this activity is embedded below. Please note that I included bears with the hibernator group, but many people do not consider them to be true hibernators. All of the photos I used were under Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives licenses. Group A are the animals that do not hibernate or migrate, but adapt to the cold weather. Group B animals migrate to warmer climates during the winter. Group C animals hibernate.


I have done concept attainment lessons before, especially as an introduction to a new concept. I've found it particularly effective in Biology 12 when introducing biomolecules; one group would have molecular structures of amino acids/polypeptides and the other group would have molecular structures of the other biomolecules we would eventually learn about; carbohydrates, nucleic acids, and lipids. It focussed the students on the key structural characteristics of amino acids. I have also used it in Biology 11 when introducing gymnosperms.

This particular lesson on hibernation was for a mixed grade (4 - 7) science class. In all cases, most of the students enjoyed figuring out the puzzle and the focus was on sharing their thinking/hypotheses with a partner and constantly reassessing. It can sometimes be challenging to structure the activity in such a way that students don't come up with the answer right off the bat. With this hibernation lesson, I suspected that many students would know that we would be working on hibernation, so that is why I used 3 groups instead of just hibernators and non-hibernators. I am happy that I did because it got the students looking, at least in a basic level, at the different ways that animals cope with winter.

Take It Please!

Please feel free to use this lesson (or pass it along to a colleague), and modify as needed. If you would like me to send you the original Google Doc file or a Power Point version, just let me know in the comments. Better yet, if you know how I can post the file here for you to download I'd really like to find out. Please keep in mind that the photos are all CC attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives. Any feedback you have about the lesson is also appreciated. If you use it would be neat to hear how it worked out for you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hiatus Over...

Yikes! I haven't blogged for over a month. Time to get back into the groove. Though I haven't been posting, I have been doing a lot of reading and commenting.

Favourite Blogs

All of the blogs in my reader are great, but with over 200 unread posts, there are a few that I ALWAYS stay up to date on. In alphabetical order they are Drape's Takes, dy/dan, Hurrican Maine, and Practical Theory. Combined, these people are challenging me to reconsider how I teach and how I use technology.

Lately Louise Maine (Hurricane Maine) and Dan Myer (dy/dan) have been really influential. Louise posts great stuff about what she is doing with her biology students. She is a queen of the wiki and does engaging project based learning with her students. This post of Louise's is a particular favourite of mine. Louise inspires me to share what I do and make the learning meaningful for my students. Dan Myer writes great posts and asks the questions that need asking. His dy/av video series this summer was amazing. At the beginning of September he posted his entire Geometry curriculum on-line, complete with his slides in PPT and other formats. Add to that he's a fan of The Wire and The Office--what more could you want?! A recent post of his that has caused me to get it into gear was this one where he lamented the lack of Web 2.0 technology that is transforming math instruction. It made me realize how few blogs in my feed reader are by subject specialists sharing what has worked for them in their practice.

Time To Kick It Up A Notch

The influence of the four bloggers that I mentioned above has caused me to re-evaluate what I've been posting here. A lot of what I post is about my experience with blogging and with the technology. I think this is to be expected from a new blogger. This is a way to reflect on what I've been learning. As I near my one year blog anniversary though, it is time to kick it up a notch. This weekend I probably put in 3 hours preparing a resource for a 45 minute class!?!! Add to that it was for a mixed grade class (gr 4 - 7), where I will see the grade 4s for 2 more years, which means I can't use it again for 3 years. This is not being efficient!!! However... if I share what I did so that others can use it, well, then the time investment was worth it. I will post on this lesson soon.

How 'Bout You?

If you blog, are you content with the focus of your blog? Or are you like me, re-assessing what you do. Love to hear from you!