Reading Selection: "Crickwing" by Janelle Cannon
Focus: Predacious Insects
This literary work, which can additionally serve as a social-development resource to address bullying, will be used as a writing springboard, beginning with a collaborative team expository writing project, followed by the creation of individual narratives written from the prey or predacious insect's point of view.
Background Info. Crickwing is a fantasy-and-fact tale about an artistic cockroach that sculpts his masterpieces using fruits and veggies. Often bullied by predatory animals, one day, he barely escapes the clutches of a hungry toad, leaving him with a damaged wing. Soon thereafter, Crickwing has had enough of being bullied. Frustrated, the blattodea begins to lash out by playing pranks on a more vulnerable insect species—herbivorous leafcutter ants. These tiny creatures soon have enough of Crickwing's tomfoolery. They collectively decide to retaliate and eventually serve their captor up as a peace offering to their predators, a colony of voracious army ants. They come to his rescue; during the liberation mission, Crickwing's wing is "miraculousy repaired." To reciprocate the two helpful ants' act of kindness, Crickwing ingeniously sculpts a life-like anteater that drastically frightens and wards off the colony of army ants. Deemed a hero, Crickwing is permitted to reside with the leafcutter ants, serving as their permanent chef specializing in herbaceous cuisine.
Film Viewings: National Geographic's Cockroach Infestation
Ants: Natures Secret Power http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-gIx7LXcQM
Excursions: Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History
Insect Hunt at the East Rock or Edgework Park Nature Center
The above-noted activities serve as engaging vehicles to draw students into the learning experience. Equally effective is coordinating school visits with adept park rangers. (As we near the autumn months, arrange a classroom visit with Wray Williams, an extremely knowledgeable park ranger in charge of the East Rock Nature Center. Ranger Wray visits the classroom equipped with living and mounted specimens, among them cicada wasp killers, Madagascan hissing cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, and more. Because we will be zeroing in on predatory insects, he touches base on the topic. The excursions, coupled with ongoing independent reading on behalf of students, familiarize them with predacious insect selection possibilities.
Ready!... Set!... Go!
Students are subsequently equipped to knowledgably select from 10 insects. Our predacious insect choices include dragonflies, damselflies, praying mantids, ladybird beetles (ladybugs), locusts, stinkbugs, lacewings, mosquitoes, fireflies, and a cicada killer wasp. Students are informed that individual teams will not be permitted to study the same insect. Upon teacher-approval, teams may select to research predator-prey specimens not included in the original listing.
Parent Buy-In/Student Follow Through
. For the non-fiction, collaborative team research project effort, students will work both within and outside of the classroom setting. In this regards, I provide parents with advanced notification, indicating that phone numbers and E-mail addresses will be exchanged among students who constitute a team. I request that they make themselves available to coordinate weekend team library visits and at-home study sessions. I provide opportunities for students to conduct research within our classroom and school Library Media Center during classroom center time. I too set aside two evenings a week, remaining after school to make myself available to students in need of additional support. That way, children who do not have technological and/or literary resources or parent support at their fingertips are accommodated. Through this interaction, students embrace being committed to the task at hand. I expect them to be experts in their field of study; they once again buy in.
After each team has identified and confirmed two specimen selections, introduce another overarching, essential springboard question: "Is your predatory insect beneficial or harmful, and why is it deemed to be predacious? Elaborate." As held true for their independent I-Search Project creation, the team should establish 8 to 12 key questions that correlate with the essential question. Students too must create one of three engaging, visual presentation options to accompany the written work: a 3-D insect diorama; a poster-sized diagram; or power-point presentation regarding their insect choice.
Upon completing their project, team members will present their reports and showcase their artistic creations before classmates. Team members will collaborate with one another to determine who will lead key portions of their presentation. Students will be graded on informational content and accurate background knowledge (in both oral and written form); collective and individual research effort; oral expression, and overall presentation.