Squee! I love being a teacher at Christmas! Although Christmas is in full swing in my classroom, I had to pull out the brakes for this week’s blog post. Sorry, folks, I just HAVE to talk about my most favourite unit of the year -
I love teaching about owls, mostly because we have access to a speaker from a wildlife shelter who comes into classes to talk about them and… brings real breathing owls who hoot and fly and poop! This year, though, I had to be in the office for two weeks to take over the big principal job while my principal was away, so I didn’t get to really teach the unit. I did get to introduce it and see some of the presentation, though. As well, I made sure I took some pics of the wonderful work that my firsties did with the teachers on call.
I always begin my unit with a KW lesson (Know, Wonder). Here is what my class knew about owls and what my class wondered about owls.
Next we pull up our sleeves and do research. Yes, research in grade one! Using our wonder questions as a guide, we work in small groups and look through nonfiction owl books for answers and other interesting facts about owls. Warning, this gets VERY noisy, but the kids get so excited and want to share everything. I make it a rule that they can share with their group mates and put their hands up for me to come to them, but their bums are to be glued to their chairs!
We then gather at the carpet to discuss what we learned. I hand out recording sheets, and the students are to draw and write four fact about owls that they discovered while they were researching.
The next day we cut out our facts and sort them into groups. Every year the exact categories can change, depending on the types of facts that the students decided to record, but usually I have space for facts about habitat, food, habits, characteristics, and misc.. I get the students to come up and glue their facts in the appropriate categories.
Hmmm… Now isn’t this how we organize research for writing an essay?! If your class can handle it, this may be a good time to write one together. Amaze all your parents and colleagues, “My student are doing research AND I just taught them how to write an essay!”
Through the unit I also cover owl body parts, the needs of owls, types of owls, and owl habits. Here are some examples and printables of all my templates:
With the help of a wonderful SEA at my school we put together this cute owl display in the hall. We painted owlets using cosmetic pads and white paint, some of the fibres from the pads rubbed off on the paper and made the owlets look fuzzy (you could probably use cotton balls instead). For the mama owls (yes, these mama owls were the same size as the owlets, if not smaller… oops) we did a directed draw on cardstock, painted the whole thing dark brown, cut it out, used a paint brush with a lighter brown paint to paint feathers, and then cut out and glued eyes, beaks and talons out of construction paper. I think I’m going to save these for this year’s art show, the kids did such a good job!
Aren’t they so darn cute?!!!
As the grand finale, we call in our amazing speaker and get to meet Barney the Barn Owl! I’m sure the kids will be talking about her visit the whole year, especially since we were lucky enough to see Barney poop right in the middle of our classroom floor!
If you have never taught owls before, you absolutely have to!
Here are some additional resources that can help you put together your unit. You’ll have a hoot!