Science and Literacy Lessons to Develop a Polar Sense of Place

The lessons highlighted in this article integrate science knowledge with geography and literacy skills. Students view images and webcams, read stories and articles, and use web sites to gain content knowledge about the polar regions. They demonstrate their knowledge through pictures, stories, paragraphs, and essays. You can further integrate literacy skills into these lessons by adding activities that ask students to compare and to use Venn diagrams and charts. For older students, introduce the compare and contrast structure of expository text and model how to write a compare and contrast essay.It can be difficult to find suitable expository text for your students to use. In addition to the web sites and children’s literature listed in our virtual bookshelf, we’ve included a feature story called The Top (and Bottom) of the World and informational articles (separate versions for grades 1-2 and 3-5) comparing the polar regions. You can use these resources and associated activities to help your students gain content knowledge and strengthen their comprehension skills.

For each science lesson, we’ve included the appropriate National Science Education Standards. You can read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6.


A Vacation to the Polar Regions (Grades K-2)
Students will learn about the characteristics of the Arctic and Antarctic by looking at a globe and at pictures of the polar landscape and animals. They will plan a vacation to one of these regions and draw pictures or write stories depicting themselves on the trip. Students could also begin to compare the regions by drawing pictures of both the Arctic and Antarctica and talking about the similarities and differences. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has an online Arctic photo gallery. For pictures of Antarctica, try the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Photo Library. This lesson meets the National Geography Standards: Four and Five and the National Science Education Standards: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standard for grades K-4.

To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following:
Draw a Story: Stepping from Pictures to Writing
In this activity, students draw a series of pictures that tell a simple, sequential story. They “read” their story to others, transcribe their oral story into writing, and create an accordion book with drawings on the front side and writing on the back. This activity is useful in helping students work with sequential content that includes character action, a problem and a solution. It introduces them to the writing process in a way that is personal and creative, and which supports the transition from oral to written storytelling. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 12.

From Fact to Fiction: Drawing and Writing Stories
Getting children to use their imaginations when writing a story can sometimes be difficult. Drawing, however, can create a bridge between the ideas in a child’s head and the blank piece of paper on the desk. In this lesson, students use factual information gathered from the Internet as the basis for creating a nonfiction story. Story elements, including setting, characters, problem, solution, and endings, are then used as a structure for assembling students’ ideas into a story. While the lesson uses frogs and toads as the factual content, it can easily be modified to include the Arctic and Antarctica. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12.

Expedition to the Poles (Grades 3-5)
Students will pretend they have just returned from a year in the Arctic or Antarctic. They will look at web sites about these regions and expeditions to them, and they will create posters illustrating their experiences. Students will conclude by writing paragraphs explaining what it would be like to visit the polar region that they did not focus on in this lesson. Use the feature story, virtual bookshelf, and downloadable informational articles for student reading and research. Students can use a graphic organizer, such as this table, to record information. This lesson meets the National Geography Standards: Four and Five and the National Science Education Standards: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standard for grades K-4 and 5-8.

To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following:
Exploring Compare and Contrast Structure in Expository Texts
This lesson focuses on identifying and analyzing the compare and contrast text structure within expository texts. First, students are introduced to the terms compare and contrast and asked to find similarities and differences between two common items. Next, students work in small groups to identify texts that are comparing and contrasting information. Students are then introduced to the Venn diagram as a tool that demonstrates similarities and differences and aids in learning new material. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 6, 12.

What Do People Know About the Arctic and Antarctic? (designed for grades 6-8, use with modifications)
It’s common to confuse characteristics of the Arctic and Antarctic, and many people have never learned the differences between these two regions. In this lesson, students will research the landscapes, climates, and animal life of the polar regions. They will then interview people to find out what they think and know about the regions. They will conclude by writing paragraphs explaining why it’s important to know about the polar regions and detailing the differences between the two regions. Use the feature story, virtual bookshelf, and downloadable informational articles for student reading and research. A graphic organizer, such as this table, helps students organize information. This lesson meets the National Geography Standards: Four and Five and the National Science Education Standards: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standard for grades K-4 and 5-8.

To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following:
Exploring Compare and Contrast Structure in Expository Texts
This lesson focuses on identifying and analyzing the compare and contrast text structure within expository texts. First, students are introduced to the terms compare and contrast and asked to find similarities and differences between two common items. Next, students work in small groups to identify texts that are comparing and contrasting information. Students are then introduced to the Venn diagram as a tool that demonstrates similarities and differences and aids in learning new material. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 6, 12.

Teaching the Compare and Contrast Essay Through Modeling
Together, students and teacher create the first half of a draft of a comparison and contrast essay. During the modeling, students observe what writers do when revising a draft as they reread and write. They will begin to explore the techniques that writers use, such as rearranging or clarifying words or sentences. Students then apply the techniques by continuing the draft independently. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 4, 5, 6.

The Arctic and Antarctic Circles (Grades K-5)
Explore the ends of the Earth – the Poles – to compare and contrast each region. This activity can be used in conjunction with other Xpeditions lessons, or as an at-home activity. This lesson meets the National Geography Standards: Four and Five and the National Science Education Standards: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives content standard for grades K-4 and 5-8.

To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following:
Polar Geography: Comparing the Arctic, Antarctica, and My Hometown
Creating a graphic organizer, such as a chart, is a way to support students in identifying similarities and differences. Students can use a chart like this to record information from text, web sites, and webcams. This lesson meets NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 7, 12.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright March 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

 

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