Step 1: Divide and Conquer
We divided the farm animals up into two weeks: birds on the farm and animals on the farm. After we felt like we had a game plan, we started gathering materials for our students to use while they researched . We checked out tons of books from our school and local library, asked our coworkers to lend us books and complied an Internet resource- found here- for our students to use. (Before you start thinking this is too involved, hear me out and remember- most of our students are not fluent readers.)
Step 2: KWL Charts
Before we could go any further, we had to figure out what our students knew about farm animals and what they wanted to know. This would guide their individual research and our class/small group discussions. Most of them shared really great information and asked good questions (of course, I did have some super silly answers- gotta love Kindergartners).
Step 3: Individual Animal Selection
I let each of my students choose what bird/animal they were interested in learning more about for the week. After they chose their animals, I split them into small groups around the room and passed out the resources that matched their selection.
Step 4: Research
This was the scariest part and they far exceeded my expectations- I mean WOW! I started off by challenging my students to find at least three facts to share about their animal that others might not know. Some took the challenge and ran with it, while others were more comfortable with somewhat basic information. I provided them with several options for recording their facts, an all about book, a poster or a pre-made fact sheet to fill in. I had a pretty good variety of each chosen. This is where the facilitator part came in- I let them manage their own research... and it went really well- crazy, I know. They were able to learn a lot by "reading" the pictures, talking with others in their group who were more fluent readers and flagging (thanks to my obsession with post-its in all shapes and sizes) areas in the book where they wanted me to read aloud to the group. Again, for the most part, this was painless and managed itself. We spent two whole days researching in our classroom and an hour researching in the computer lab, using the web page link above. As they researched, they were doing their "Kindergarten Best" to record their findings (some were more legible than others) with words and pictures.
Step 4: Creating Our Animals
I am a huge fan of fun crafts, just in case you couldn't tell by my earlier posts :) I feel like you have to let them be little and that means allowing time for them to be creative- I mean, they are only 5 years old and they have the rest of their lives to be grown up. All that being said, I allowed a day for them to bring the farm bird/animal they studied to life. I did not want them all to look the same, so I showed them some examples I found online and old ones from years past, got out all the good stuff (feathers, pipe cleaners, google eyes, etc.) and let them have at it. We put the finished product on our big red barn in our classroom. They turned out so much cuter than I imagined; here are some examples:
Step 5: Presenting Our Learning
The thought of 16 individual presentations in one day was too painful to ask any of my sweet friends to sit through, but I wanted everyone to have an opportunity to share. I came up with two different solutions and I'm not sure which way I liked best, so I will share them both. During bird week, I had them share their learning in small groups. I assigned everyone a number 1-4 and put them in groups of 4 to start off. After they shared, they formed new groups with one of each number in every group. (I tried to make all the chickens as 1's, ducks as 2's and so on to ensure that their was a good variety of birds in each group.) During animal week, I assigned half of the group to sit around the room while the other half moved from person to person at the sound of my chime. To settle any arguments, I had the person who moved share first. This way everyone got to share and they all heard a good variety of information. I polled my kids to see which way they liked best and found that it was about equal :)
* At the end of the day, I feel like everyone learned a lot and had a really good time doing it. I got lots of positive feedback from parents saying how their children came home telling them about farm animals. Any time they go home excited about something they learned at school, I count it as a success !
We also took some time for more typical Kindergarten farm activities. We had daily read alouds
In math, we made barn number sentences to practices combinations up to 10.