Under the Sea
Students learn to use a table of contents, index, and glossary to research marine animals.
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will understand that non-fiction books have features like a table of contents, a glossary, and an index, which can efficiently help them find information. They will also learn how to narrow the search for information by breaking the topic down into smaller categories.
- Locate and use the table of contents, index, and glossary, in non-fiction books.
- Sort ocean animals into different categories according to ecosystem and/or classification.
- Projector or chart paper to record responses for KWL Chart (PDF): what students know, what they want to know, what they have learned
Markers or pens
A selection of non-fiction books to read aloud on ocean animals
Colored sentence strips
- Index cards (40)
Tape or magnets
- Cart of books on ocean animals
- Bookmark forms with Name, Animal Name, Page Number, Index, Table of Contents, and Glossary printed on them
- Task card
Set Up and Prepare
- Print the KWL Chart or make one on chart paper with three columns: what students know, what they want to know, and what they have learned.
Post chart paper or get an overhead projector
Select students who will copy animal names off the chart and onto the blank index cards (one name per card).
- Have a system to quickly divide students into small groups of 3-4.
- Have students who finish class-work early, or are willing to stay in at recess time, help you find a book that mentions each animal that you have on index cards. Use the index card as a bookmark for the page in the book that talks about the animal.
- Prepare enough books so that each group will have at least four books. Each set of books can be placed in a tub for easy distribution.
- Place task card in computer center in the classroom.
- Write the classes of ocean animals (fish, mammal, reptile, crustacean, mollusk, amphibian) on one set of sentence strips.
- On sentence strips of a different color or white sentence strips with a different colored marker, write the following ocean zones: the sunlit zone which includes the coral reef, the tide pool, the rocky ocean floor, and the sandy ocean floor; the twilight zone; the deep ocean; and the abyss.
- Duplicate bookmark forms (enough for the class plus fifteen).
- Get an overhead projector.
Step 1: Assess Prior Knowledge
"Now that we have learned so much about the ocean and its importance to us, it's time to study specific animals and their ecosystems in the ocean. You will be learning how to do research on an ocean animal of your choice. Can anyone name some animals that live in the ocean?"
Record student responses on the KWL Chart. (To save teacher time, I usually have a few students write the names of the animals on index cards as I write them on the chart.) Once everyone that would like to participate has contributed, lead the class into a discussion about what they would like to know about the various animals listed. Record these responses on the KWL Chart. Keep the KWL Chart hanging in the room and add new information as it is found.
Step 2: Introduce Research Materials
"Where are we going to find information about these amazing creatures?" (The students will have lots of ideas, such as the library, Internet, or textbooks.) "Non-fiction picture books are one of my favorite resources. I have some beautiful big books by Melvin Berger about the coral reefs and sharks. Some of you might think that big books are for younger children, but wait until you see these! I think you'll change your mind."
Read aloud and discuss the two big books. See Our Best Books for Teaching This Unit for other good books. Any book about the topic will do. Define and use the Table of Contents, Index, and Glossary. Show several examples. Explain that these tools will come in handy when students are trying to find a book that has information about the ocean animal they have chosen to research.
Step 3: Categorizing
Divide the class into small groups of three or four students. The names of the animals that the students brainstormed have been printed on index cards and the index cards have been placed in books that have information on that animal. Give a set of books or a tub of books to each group. Have students remove the cards from the books. On the board, post the sentence strips with the animal classifications on them. (Mammal, Fish, Reptile, Amphibian, Crustacean, Mollusk, etc.) Give the student groups a couple of minutes to decide which classification fits each of their animals named on the index cards. Tell the students that they will each be responsible for one animal and that they should be able to support their classification decisions based on prior instruction. Have the group agree on each member's answer. Then have each student, coming to the board with his or her group, post an animal card under the classification heading where he or she feels it belongs.
"Are there other ways to group these animals? What about where they live? What is that called?" (Students should be able to provide you with "environment" or "ecosystem.") "Either way of grouping the animals is helpful to scientists, whether it's by classification or ecosystem."
This is important because the students will need to be able to classify both ways when they choose an animal for their research. Ask the students to come and get the index cards they posted and take them back to their seats.
Change headings from classifications to ecosystems, posting Sunlit Zone (which includes different areas such as the coral reef, sandy ocean floor, tide pools, etc.), Twilight Zone, Deep Ocean, and Abyss.
Ask the students, by group, to take the same animals they posted by class and post them again where they might live in the ocean. Point out to students that knowing about an animal's ecosystem and classification can lead them more quickly to information about a specific animal. If they are looking for a Gray Whale, they won't have to look in any of the books about fishes, because whales are mammals and don't belong to the fish group.
"I will call you up by groups to retrieve your index card. After you get your cards, you will look for this same animal in one of the books I have placed with your group. You will fill out a bookmark like this one (use the overhead to show what the bookmark form looks like and to help kids track). It has a place for your name, the animal's name, the number of the page you found in the book where your animal is discussed, and how you found that page. Did you look in the glossary, the index, or the table of contents? If you cannot find your animal in any of the books at your group, raise your hand and I will let you come to the book cart to see if you can find a better book. Once you find a reference to your animal, complete the answers on the bookmark. Next, read about your animal. When you are finished, put your bookmark and index card in the book on the page that talks about your animal."
During the class period for teaching Reading/Language Arts, have students practice using the table of contents, glossary, and index of their reading books.
Homework: Students will choose two animals from two different categories (either two different classifications or two different environments) and in one or two simple sentences explain why these animals fit into two different categories. (Students could not choose a narwhale and sperm whale since they are part of the same mammal classification and same environment. They could choose viperfish and clown anemonefish, since one lives in the deep ocean and the other lives in the sunlit zone of the ocean.)
Did the children enjoy the activities? Did they stay engaged? Where were the problem areas? What do you need to review? Do students know where to look for the glossary, index, and table of contents?
Circulate and check that students have correctly found information. Ask students if they read anything about classification or ecosystem. Note the students who seem to be having difficulty. Have ready extra animal index cards to give to students who finish quickly. Have them fill out another bookmark form.