History of the Earth: Dinosaurs

Students learn about the history of earth by learning about how fossils are formed and what makes dinosaurs unique, and write daily responses to the informational texts that they read.

Unit Summary

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In this science/history-based unit, students learn about the history of the earth by studying fossils and dinosaurs. In the first part of the unit, students learn about how fossils are formed and how paleontologists study fossils in order to learn about ancient history. In the second part of the unit, students study what makes dinosaurs unique and fascinating creatures by learning about various species of dinosaurs and how they adapted in order to meet their basic needs for survival. Students will also be challenged to think about what earth was like at the time of the dinosaurs and how learning about dinosaurs helps them better understand the earth’s history. In the last part of the unit, students read a collection of fiction texts, each with a unique perspective on what happened to the dinosaurs and if dinosaurs really are extinct. In this part of the unit, students should be pushed to use what they have learned from the informational texts in order to confirm or deny the statements the author makes in the fiction texts. 

In reading, this unit exposes students to both informational and fiction texts. When reading informational texts, students will focus on explaining the connection between two or more pieces of information in a text, particularly in regard to retelling how fossils are formed or how scientists uncover fossils. Students will also be pushed to describe the relationship between the illustrations and the text in which they appear, specifically describing what new or additional information they learn from reading the illustrations. Additionally, students will continue to practice determining the main topic of a text and asking and answering questions about unknown words. When reading fiction texts, students will focus on retelling the story and making connections between the story and the facts they’ve learned from the informational texts. 

In writing, students will continue to write daily in response to the text. Written responses should focus on including an inference or critical thinking that shows understanding of the text and/or question and on using more words than pictures to communicate the answer to a question. This unit also includes two longer writing assignments: one research writing assignment and one narrative writing assignment. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

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Building Background Knowledge:

  • Research and learn about fossils. Be prepared to explain how fossils are formed. 
  • Research and learn about dinosaurs. Be prepared to explain the different types of dinosaurs and how they adapted in order to meet their needs for survival. 

Internalizing Unit Content and Standards: 

  • Read all unit texts with unit essential questions and key standards in mind. 
  • Take end-of-unit assessment. What skills and strategies do students need in order to be successful on the assessment? 
  • Write exemplar responses for lessons 16 and 25. 
  • Plan hands-on activities and learning labs that allow students to engage with the content and vocabulary. Order all necessary materials prior to starting the unit. 
  • Determine habits of discussion focus using targeted speaking and listening standards as a guide. Create a plan for how to introduce and reinforce the targets during daily lesson. 
  • Plan book introductions that highlight and reinforce key strategies and standards, particularly RIK.5, RIK.6, and RLK.5
  • Think of a way to keep track of the different dinosaurs students learn about so they can compare and contrast the different characteristics. 
    • Specifically track student understandings of the way that various dinosaurs use their body parts and senses in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water, and air. 
  • Plan a field trip the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see the fossils and the dinosaurs. 
  • Order additional dinosaur books for the classroom library. 

Essential Questions

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  • What can we learn about the history of the earth from studying dinosaurs? 
  • What makes dinosaurs unique and fascinating creatures? 
  • How did dinosaurs adapt to survive in different habitats? 
  • What was earth like at the time of the dinosaurs? 

Writing Focus Areas

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  • In unit 6, students focused on answering a question and including an inference or critical thinking that showed understanding of the text and including details that directly connected to the question. In this unit, similar to unit 6, students will continue to focus on including details that show a deeper understanding of the text, but students should be using more words than pictures to do so. Many students will not be ready to answer the question using solely words, but they should begin to include more critical thinking or details in the sentences they write, rather than in the illustrations. Any students who are still unable to write comprehensible sentences in response to the text should get intensive small-group support over the course of the unit. 
  • By this point in the year, students should have received mini-lessons on all of the structure/language focus correction areas. Therefore, pick targeted focus correction areas based on student and class-wide trends. By the end of the unit, all students should be at a 3 or 4 on the language row of the rubric. 

Language Focus Areas

Pick two or three language focus correction areas based on student needs.

Writing-About-Reading Focus Areas

  • Uses a combination of drawings and words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show basic understanding of question or text 
  • Uses words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show deep understanding of the question 
  • Includes details from the text, in both drawing and writing, that connect directly to the question 
  • Uses vocabulary from the text or unit 
  • Student answer is comprehensible; no dictation is needed 

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

nonfiction, fiction

Text-based

fossil, preserve, rot, dirt, stone, mud, harden, extinct, patient, scientist, expert, skeleton, paleontologist, carnivore, herbivore, characteristics, survival, defend, survive, predator, prey, deceptive, fierce, weak, grumpy, spiky, enormous, gigantic, disguise, shrink, convincing, protesting, persuasive, history, unique, fascinating

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Name several dinosaurs and their physical descriptions. 
  • Explain that dinosaurs lived long ago (65 million years) and that they existed for a very long time. 
  • Explain that dinosaurs were various sizes and have various physical features. 
  • Explain that dinosaurs were plant eaters and meat eaters. 
  • Explain that what dinosaurs ate influenced where they lived (land or water) and explain why they have different physical features (long necks, teeth, and tails). 
  • Explain that there were no humans living during the time of the dinosaurs. The only creatures that shared the earth and that live today were crocodiles, fish, and turtles. 
  • Explain that we learned about dinosaurs from paleontologists. 
  • Describe that paleontologists discovered fossils and assembled dinosaur skeletons as a way to learn more about them. 
  • Explain that dinosaurs are not extinct and we can only guess as to why. 
  • Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. 

Lesson Map

1

  • Fossils Tell... — Entire Book

    RI.K.1

    RI.K.3

Explain why fossils are important by describing the connection between events and ideas in a text. 

2

  • Fossils Tell... pp. 4 – 14

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe how fossils are formed, by using illustrations and details to describe the connection between events and ideas in a text. 

3

  • Digging Up... pp. 1 – 13

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what the diagram on p. 13 teaches and how the steps are similar to or different from the steps in Fossils Tell of Long Ago by using illustrations and details to describe the connection between events and ideas in a text.

4

  • Digging Up... — 14-end

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Defend if being a fossil hunter is a difficult or easy job by using illustrations and words to describe the connection between events and ideas in a text. 

5

  • Dinosaur Bones

    RI.K.9

Describe how the information in Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones was similar to and different from Digging Up Dinosaurs by identifying basic similarities between two texts on the same topic. 

6

Writing

  • All unit texts

    W.K.2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.5

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Explain how people learned about dinosaurs, by using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose an informative text that supplies information about a topic. 

7

Project

    SL.K.2

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Participate in a teacher-created activity to deepen understanding of scientific concepts and ideas. 

8

  • My Visit...

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.7

Explain if all dinosaurs were the same or different by retelling key details about the main topic of a text.

9

  • My Visit... — 11-20 and 24-30

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe what makes each dinosaur special and why by retelling key details about the main topic of a text.

10

  • Dinosaurs! pp. 10 – 25

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain why different dinosaurs needed different characteristics for survival and what would have happened if they all had the same characteristics by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details.

11

  • Tyrannosaurus rex

    1-LS1-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Defend if the T. rex should be called “one of the scariest meat-eating dinosaurs ever” by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details.

12

  • Apatosaurus

    1-LS1-1

    1-LS3-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what made apatosauruses different from most dinosaurs by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details.

13

  • Pterodactyls

    1-LS1-1

    1-LS3-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what made pterodactyls different from most dinosaurs and how those differences helped them by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details.

14

  • Triceratops

    1-LS1-1

    1-LS3-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what made triceratops different from other dinosaurs and how their body parts helped them by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details.

15

  • Velociraptor

    1-LS1-1

    1-LS3-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what made velociraptors different from other dinosaurs and how their different body parts helped them by using words and illustrations to make inferences about key details. 

16

Writing

  • All unit texts

    W.K.2

    W.K.7

    W.K.8

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Write a book that teaches about an additional dinosaur by participating in either a shared or an individual research and writing project in which they name a topic and supply information about the topic. 

17

  • Dinosaur Roar

    RI.K.1

    RI.K.4

Use descriptive words to describe a dinosaur by asking and answering questions about key details and words in a text. 

18

Writing

  • All unit texts

    W.K.2

    W.K.8

    SL.K.5

    L.K.6

Describe dinosaurs by using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose an informative text that supplies information about the topic. 

19

  • How Big...

    RI.K.3

Describe how big a dinosaur was and how the author helped us understand how big it was, by retelling key details to explain the connection between two ideas in a text. 

20

  • Whatever Happened...

    RI.K.8

Describe what the author thinks happened to the dinosaurs by identifying reasons an author gives to support points in a text. 

21

  • If the Dinos...

    RI.K.8

Describe what the author thinks will happen if the dinosaurs come back, by identifying reasons an author gives to support points in a text. 

22

Discussion

  • Whatever Happened...

  • If the Dinos...

  • How Big...

    RL.K.5

    RL.K.9

    RI.K.9

Compare and contrast the Bernard Most books with other books from the unit by identifying basic differences between two or more texts on the same topic. 

23

  • Edwina

    RL.K.3

Explain how Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie changed, by asking and answering questions about characters and key events in the story. 

24

Writing

    W.K.3

    SL.K.6

Write a story about what would happen if a dinosaur came to school with you by using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event. 

25

Assessment

Common Core Standards

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • 1-LS1-1 — Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs. Clarification Statement: Examples of human problems that can be solved by mimicking plant or animal solutions could include designing clothing or equipment to protect bicyclists by mimicking turtle shells, acorn shells, and animal scales; stabilizing structures by mimicking animal tails and roots on plants; keeping out intruders by mimicking thorns on branches and animal quills; and, detecting intruders by mimicking eyes and ears.

Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
  • 1-LS3-1 — Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include features plants or animals share. Examples of observations could include leaves from the same kind of plant are the same shape but can differ in size; and, a particular breed of dog looks like its parents but is not exactly the same. Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include inheritance or animals that undergo metamorphosis or hybrids.

Language Standards
  • L.K.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.K.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.K.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.

  • L.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.K.6 — Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.K.1 — With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

  • RI.K.2 — With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

  • RI.K.3 — With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

  • RI.K.4 — With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

  • RI.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).

  • RI.K.8 — With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.

  • RI.K.9 — With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

  • RI.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.K.2 — With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

  • RL.K.3 — With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

  • RL.K.4 — Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

  • RL.K.5 — Recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).

  • RL.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

  • RL.K.9 — With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

  • RL.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.K.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.K.2 — Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

  • SL.K.3 — Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

  • SL.K.5 — Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

  • SL.K.6 — Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Writing Standards
  • W.K.2 — Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

  • W.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.

  • W.K.7 — Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

  • W.K.8 — With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.