The primary intention of this curriculum unit is to bring more science instruction into the elementary classroom. As a teacher of English Language Learners, I have found firsthand that young students need to connect with real content material to grasp academic language fully and incorporate it into their own vocabularies. However, with curriculum heavily focused on literacy and math instruction, but lacking overarching themes, it is difficult to create an instructional environment with an emphasis on language that is purposeful and authentic.
I have also noticed, and believe it is a well–known fact, that young children love to learn about animals. They love to read about animals, play with animals, and observe them in their natural environments. Some of the best stories my students have written in our writer's workshop have been about trips to the zoo, aquarium, or pet store. Some of my students' favorite books, and the ones that engage them the most, teach them about the diverse world of animal species. For this reason, I am developing this curriculum unit around the anatomy of animals, comparing and contrasting form and function of skeletal structures. I believe students will be engaged in learning about animal skeletons (including humans') and why they are built the way they are. Through this engagement students will develop critical thinking and questioning skills that will transfer across subject areas to help them in their literacy and mathematics learning as well.
This unit is intended for lower elementary students, and places a special emphasis on developing academic vocabulary. It can easily be incorporated into literacy units on informational text and vocabulary development but also employs a hands–on and visual component to promote the scientific concepts of the skeletal system and evolution. The unit also taps into a number of higher–order thinking skills and tasks, and will evaluate students' learning through performance–based assessments.