K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • relate characteristics and behavior of animals to their environment.
  • determine the behavior and body structure that have specific growth and survival functions of animals.
  • evaluate living and nonliving things that affect animals in their environment.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3 days


  • Pre-activity: Pictures of animals and their environments. (For images that can be used for free in educational use, try Classroom Clipart and explore the geography and animals sections.)
  • Adaptation Experiment: chart table, pliers, tweezers, chopsticks, spoons, clothespins, cooked rice, cooked spaghetti, bird seed, peanuts, paper plates, paper towels.
  • Copy and transparency of chart for the experiment.
  • Animal Research: 5″x 7″ index cards for each student, reference books from media center, access to computer lab. Copy of the Rubric to assess index cards.
  • Stone Fox Activity: Copy of Stone Fox for each student

Technology resources

For the Animal Research section, the students will need access to a computer and the internet.


  • Prior to this lesson the students will need to know about basic needs of living things.
  • To stimulate student’s prior knowledge of living and nonliving things that affect animal life, the student will participate in a class activity where the teacher will pass out pictures of animals and their environment. The students will be instructed to match the animal with the environment in which that animal lives.


  1. The teacher will guide a Bird Adaptation experiment, setting the purpose that animals body structures help them adapt to their environment. This experiment will be taught by using cooperative groups in a heterogeneous setting. Before beginning the experiment, the teacher will brainstorm with the class different shapes of birds’ beaks, drawing these on the overhead or board. The teacher will then pose the question, “Why are there different shapes of beaks?” She will then instruct the students to copy the table for the experiment that will be on the overhead. The teacher will clarify any questions about the table at this time. The teacher will give each group the supplies listed in the Bird Adaptation Materials List. She will then instruct the students to use each tool to gather the various foods and record their observations on their table. Once the groups have been given ample time to complete their table, the teacher will discuss their findings as a whole class. She will then ask the students to independently answer the open-ended questions listed at the bottom of the table.
  2. The teacher will introduce the vocabulary words as a whole group using the overhead. Students will copy these terms and their definitions into their Science Journals so that they may refer back to the definitions throughout the lessons. Students will complete independently the vocabulary puzzle using their journal if needed.
  3. The teacher will assign each cooperative group a particular animal to research, finding structural characteristics as well as behavioral characteristics in that animal’s habitat. Each student will receive an index card to record their findings. The student may use resources from the media center as well as resources from the Internet (make sure all students have signed forms from their parents allowing the use of the Internet).
  4. Using the chapter book, Stone Fox, the teacher will make a connection between the animals previously discussed and the Samoyed dogs that appear in the story. The teacher will ask students to list and describe at least three animal adaptations of the dogs using the text as a source to find information.


  • The teacher will use the open-ended questions completed by the students to check for understanding of animal adaptations.
  • The teacher will use the rubric to assess the research of structural and behavioralcharacteristics.
  • The teacher will verify student understanding, using the Stone Fox activity, where the student identifies animal adaptations cited in the text.
  • The teacher will assess students’ knowledge of the vocabulary words by checking their completed vocabulary puzzle for 100% accuracy.

Supplemental information

For additional activities or resources for teachers to use, you may wish to visit Mrs. Dingman’s Internet Scavenger Hunts (scroll down to Ecosystems and their Interactions).

The teacher may also want to incorporate different animal adaptations videos from the Reading Rainbow Series.


During the activity with the Stone Fox story, the teacher will need to pair up an English Language Learner with a non-English Language Learner in order to complete the assignment.

Alternative assessments

The assessments provided in this lesson are appropriate for advanced English Language Learners. No alternative assessment is needed.

Critical vocabulary

  • environment
  • adaptations
  • survival
  • habitat
  • behavior
  • body structure


This lesson plan was developed during the English Language Development Standard Course of Study lesson planning institutes hosted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and LEARN NC, June and July, 2004. It includes specific strategies, instructional modifications, and alternative assessments which make this lesson accessible to limited English proficient students. Please note that this lesson has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the N.C. English Language Development standards.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 4

        • 4.L.1 Understand the effects of environmental changes, adaptations and behaviors that enable animals (including humans) to survive in changing habitats. 4.L.1.1 Give examples of changes in an organism’s environment that are beneficial to it and some that...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Development (2005)

  • Objective 0.01: Read many irregularly spelled words accurately in grade-level text with occasional instructional support.
  • Objective 0.01: Participate effectively in social and academic conversations with few errors.
  • Objective 0.02: Understand and follow two-step and three-step directions on a variety of topics when spoken at a normal speed with occasional difficulty.
  • Objective 0.02: Recognize most high frequency words at grade-level with occasional instructional support.
  • Objective 0.03: Spell correctly previously studied words and use reference materials to identify and correct grade-level spelling words in own writing.
  • Objective 0.04: Demonstrate comprehension of oral presentations on a variety of topics using a variety of strategies with little assistance (e.g., sequencing, pictograph, story mapping).
  • Objective 0.05: Interact with grade-level text with occasional instructional support before, during and after reading, listening and viewing.
  • Objective 0.08: Use a variety of grade-level text and reference materials for a variety of purposes with occasional instructional support (e.g., literary, expository, informational, real life applications).
  • Science (2005)

    Grade 4

    • Goal 1: The learner will make observations and conduct investigations to build an understanding of animal behavior and adaptation.
      • Objective 1.01: Observe and describe how all living and nonliving things affect the life of a particular animal including:
        • Other animals.
        • Plants.
        • Weather.
        • Climate.
      • Objective 1.02: Observe and record how animals of the same kind differ in some of their characteristics and discuss possible advantages and disadvantages of this variation.
      • Objective 1.03: Observe and discuss how behaviors and body structures help animals survive in a particular habitat.