Animal RAFT-Research to Presentation happened, as so many of my units do, out of a genuine need to have students show understanding and have fun learning. In this particular instance, animal studies and their environments were part of our sixth grade Outdoor Lab School curriculum preparation.
I wanted them to realize research is for a purpose. It's not the end product, rather, a small step in that direction. Using a guided research method, we took the opportunity to work on note taking/ paraphrasing skills. No more regurgitation of meaningless words copied from a book. They were going to own their information.
The research. I allowed three days of class time for them to take all the notes they needed. Day one, take notes. At the beginning of days two and three, they had to start by buddying up with a partner and, using only their notes, give a quick share (no more than 2 minutes each) about their animal. The other person had a minute to ask clarifying questions, and if the author couldn’t answer from his/her notes, there was a hole that needed to be filled. (There were times I had to prompt them with guiding questions to get them past, "I really like your report" responses.) And here was the kicker... Once we were finished finding all the information needed, the resources disappeared and they had to rely solely on their notes! Horrors! But it worked.
The Animal RAFT. OK, so now that they knew everything they could ever want to know about their animal (or bird or raptor), they were the experts. As experts, it was their job to choose one of the roles suggested on the Animal RAFT and present their information in the format requested. The roles they could choose from (graphic designer, story teller, lawyer, magazine reporter/publisher, museum diorama designer) were differentiated to allow for different learning styles and ability levels. There's even a choose-your-own-adventure opportunity for those outside-the-box thinkers.
Our culminating event was a Museum Walk. They were their animals on this walk, so they had to be quiet, as most of them were considered prey to the big boys on the food chain. (Watching 6th graders move around the room quietly for 30 minutes was probably one of my favorite parts!)
Animal RAFT- Research to Presentation takes about two weeks and is appropriate for 4-8th grade. It utilizes a number of CCSS Language Arts Standards. To download a preview, follow one of the links in this post and let me know what you think.
By the way, the pictures on the cover and throughout the unit were taken by my husband on our trips to Alaska. No, the whales weren't chasing the caribou- just entertaining editing on my part. :) The mountain goats were in Colorado on the way to the top of Mt. Evans.
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." Joseph Chilton Pearce