Mini-Unit Topic: Dinosaurs

Mini-Unit Topic: Dinosaurs

Wendy Guzak

EMail: w-guzak@uiuc.edu

Year Long Project

University of Illinios, Urbana-Champaign
Curriculum & Instruction 237
Fall 1994

Table of Contents


Overview

I chose to teach my mini-unit on dinosaurs in my Kindergarten - First Grade classroom for many reasons. First, as a child this topic fascinated me, and in talking with Marcy, I found out that it fascinated the children in her class as well. Next, I was learning all about dinosaurs in Science class. I thought the mini-unit would be the perfect opportunity to give my new knowledge a trial run. Finally, Marcy suggested that I do dinosaurs. What better reason than that?

The children have been looking at dinosaurs since the very beginning of my placement. One of the first things that we did was ask the children what questions they wanted answered about dinosaurs. They came up with forty nine questions, and right then and there, I knew I was going to be busy. I would have liked to include these questions, however they are currently hanging in the room, in a difficult place to get at. What I can tell you about these questions is that they were very egocentric. That is to be expected from children of that age. One in specific asks, "How do dinosaurs get married?". This type of response made my primary goal very clear to me. I needed to get the children to visualize what a dinosaur was in a "real" way. I needed to get them away from false preconceptions created from media such as The Flintstones, Power Rangers, and Jurassic Park.

Next, Marcy and I sat down and looked through a number of books about dinosaurs. We both went the school library and looked through her personal collection. She has well over one hundred dinosaur books of all genres; fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and instruction books. We chose a couple to read to the children periodically throughout the unit. We also chose some to leave out by the dinosaur center so the children could look at them. The dinosaur center is now filled with books, toy dinosaurs, fossils, and a six foot Tyrannosaurus Rex. The children love to go to the dinosaur center, and when they are there, they work busily on their dinosaur logs. These are personal observations that the children make. I was unable to include one of the logs in this because the children work on them every day.

The first day of dinosaur instruction was a visit to "The National Science Museum in Tokyo, Japan". The children are pretending to spend the entire school year in Japan so we had to create a place for the children to "visit". I pretended to be the museum curator taking the children on a tour. I have included some xeroxed copies of some of the book about the Museum in this unit.

The four lessons that I created include an L&L lesson, a Math lesson, a Science lesson, and a lesson on exploration. The L&L lesson was developed to let the children use their imagination. This was the first lesson that we did. I planned to clear up some of the misconceptions later. The second lesson that we did was the Math lesson. This really gave the students a good idea of the actual size that a dinosaur truly was. They were very surprised to find out exactly how big 47 feet really is.

The next two lessons have not been completed in the classroom yet. I plan to do them next week. The Science lesson is modeled after a constructivist approach. This will give the students a realistic view of how fossils and dinosaur bones are recovered. The exploration lesson of "reptile" eggs will also give the students a real example of what dinosaur eggs may have looked like. It will hopefully take away misconceptions that the media has created about eggs having a hard shell, like a chicken egg.