Students will learn about classifying Utah animals - specifically amphibians.
Amphibians are a group of cold-blooded animals that includes frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders. They typically spend part of their life in water, part on land. They are distinct from reptiles in that their eggs must be laid in moist conditions and their soft skins have no scales. The larvae usually live in the water, while the adult lives on the land and is generally four-legged and carnivorous. The process of metamorphosis, hatching from eggs into gilled larvae that later develop into land-loving adults with lungs, is a distinct characteristic of amphibians.
Eighteen different kinds of amphibians can be found in Utah. There are eight toads, nine frogs (two of which are not native), and only one salamander. Amphibians exhibit a wealth of amazing adaptations that help them survive, including many protective and warning colors, poisonous secretions to avoid being eaten, many types of feet for various means of travel such as climbing, swimming and even gliding, and natural anti-freeze in their blood to keep them from freezing.
Frogs and toads are not exactly the same. Frogs have bulging eyes, webbed feet, and powerful hind legs useful for jumping great distances. Toads are more at home on land, however, they return to the water to lay their eggs. Toads have shorter hind legs than frogs and move in short hops. Because escape from predators is difficult, toads have poison glands on both sides of their necks. If an animal bites a toad, the animal may get sick from the poison.
This activity is further work in the classification of Utah animals, specifically amphibians. Studying them provides practice in classifying animals in Utah by physical characteristics. The word “dichotomy” means “division into two.” A dichotomous key reduces the task of identifying something into a series of questions that are based on physical features. Each set of questions eliminates others, eventually leading to the name of the mystery item.
Fourth graders do not need to know specific animals, but a general knowledge of them is helpful. Some of the more common species in Utah are:
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
Invitation to Learn
Teach a short song to the students. It is sung to the tune of “Are You Sleeping?”
What’s it got?
What’s it got?
Let’s identify it
Come on and just try it
“Have,” “Have not”
“Have,” “Have not”
Try singing it as a round. Discuss what the song is about and define classification and identifying animal groups with dichotomous keys.
Ask the following oral True/False questions and have students answer with the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” game (Up=True, Down=False) to pre-assess prior knowledge for this investigation:
Adams, D., & Hamm, M. (1998). Literacy in Science, Technology and the Language Arts: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey, p.10.
This text deals with science and mathematics inquiry processes as tools that enable students to gather and discover data for themselves through the process of scientific inquiry. As information is observed and identified, recording it becomes an integral part of the process and leads to integration in language arts.
“By constructing their own knowledge in a meaningful context, children can gain a conceptual understanding and develop the means for integrating language and science knowledge into their personal conceptions. To really learn the skills of language and science, students must follow a learning cycle: explore new phenomena, construct their own understandings, examine, represent, solve, transform, apply, prove, and communicate.”
Lemlech, J.K. (June 2001). Curriculum and Instructional Methods for the Elementary and Middle School. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.
This text covers how children learn, delivery of instruction, implementing curriculum and professional growth. It explores the “how’ and “what” in preparing instruction. There is emphasis on interdisciplinary use of journals, cooperative learning, and a variety of other strategies to teach in all subjects.
The science journal is “a practice manual, a workbook that allows students to wrestle with ideas in a manner that is comfortable and productive for them as individuals. Journals created in this manner allow teachers to see how a student thinks and where to aim instruction to assist individual and class development.”
Martin, D. (2000). Elementary Science Methods: A Constructivist Approach. California: Wadsworth Thomson Learning, pp 79, 83.
This text is for college students preparing to teach elementary science using the constructivist theory to learn methodology for teaching inquiry and other science processes. It is also an introduction to National Science Standards and how to identify developmentally appropriate science material for grades. The text identifies learning styles and how to adapt science instruction to meet the needs of all students.
Text remarks concerning teaching classification (emphasis added):
“Classifying objects by considering relationships that are subordinate to a larger group as a whole is called class inclusion and is a skill that is learned in the early concrete operational stage of cognitive development. It is important to note that the ability to sort (or classify) does not come spontaneously to children; they must be exposed to the phenomenon. They must be encouraged to do many sorting activities using many different kinds of things to gain experience in the skill of classification. …Hierachical (sub-groups with two or more sub-groups) systems of classification require higher levels of cognitive skills.”