Tadpole to Frog
Did you know it takes about 6-9 weeks for a tadpole to turn into a frog?
When I found out I was deviating from the standard curriculum and was being asked to teach an Engage NY unit on Frogs, I was overwhelmingly excited. If you have used Engage NY before, their units are designed to focus on student conversation, and vocabulary acquisition. They are exquisite units, and thoughtfully designed.
Our unit started on March 25, and was to take me through our State Testing season. As I have a minimum of 6 people pushing into my classroom on a daily basis (two ELL specialists, an academic aide, Literacy Coach, Math Coach, Principal, Special Education teacher...) I wanted to make sure everyone knew what our goals were every single day. During testing season, tensions in a school are a little higher than usual. Everyone wants to ensure that students are prepared, all standards have been addressed, and everyone is supported in their learning. Welcome to my Google Docs Calendar, where I created a calendar through the end of the year mapping out every single lesson, PowerPoint Presentation, and teaching point. Sending this out to everyone accessing my classroom ensured that everyone was on the same page. This is something I am going to do moving forward - it saves so much time and allows everyone to be clued into the plan.
Anyway, frogs. Something I have never taught before. So here I am on March 24, calling every Petsmart and Petco in the Northern Virginia area, asking if they have any tadpoles. In my mind, I thought every single student was going to have a personal tadpole that they would observe and watch develop over the course of our unit. My plans were effectively crushed after calling multiple pet stores and no one having tadpoles. On my 10th call, I had someone tell me that a tadpole was delivered to their store on accident and they have no idea what to do with it.
How is one tadpole delivered anywhere? On accident?
I rushed over there to get that baby, and low and behold they gave him to me for free. They had him in a fish tank by himself, and no one knew what to do with him! So off we went.
When he got to school the next day, he was an automatic hit. Everyone was staring at him, watching him swim, and admiring his long tail. He was the talk of the room, and rightfully so - he was massive. He was named Brutus, and became an integral part of our classroom environment.
While we studied frogs, Brutus was there changing and growing. Once he started growing his little legs, he would try to jump in his small cage, splash around during math lessons, and distract anyone near to him. He was a joy to watch, and was the first class pet my students had ever had.
By the time testing season was upon us, Brutus' tail was gone. He was a full frog, and ready to move out of his small cage. During testing, the kids say he hopped and splashed and they interpreted it as him cheering them on.
If you have ever been through State Testing, you know the entire schedule is compromised. Students start testing and work for an hour - two hours straight without a sound. When students are finished, you do not want to start any new content as they are exhausted. Some students test all day long when they have an extended time accommodation. It is brutal. Like Brutus, we needed some space to hop, stretch, and explore.
As we decided, sadly, as a class to let Brutus go to the fifth grade classroom to live in the giant habitats they created, we also decided we needed to take our frog learning and do something... more.
The curriculum has students ending the unit with making Freaky Frog trading cards. When making these, the students have to research different types of frogs, and take notes on the habitat, eating habits, adaptations, predators and prey, as well as any other notable features. Then the students create a trading card that compiles that information.
Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, right?
We made a full board game during our off time of State Testing week. These games were a great use of our trading cards, which became the quiz questions.
Directions for Frog Play
Every player must contribute their frog trading cards to the pile, face down, before the game begins.
1 player = Questioner
All Other Players = Frog Play
Players roll the dice to see who begins – highest roller starts the game.
Frogs all start behind the start line. When a player rolls, they move the amount of spaces indicated by the die. Whatever color the player lands on, the questioner draws a trading card from the pile and asks a question based on the color. Questioner should refer to the Color Key on the board for support.
Questioner should prompt player to answer how the specific frog acts.
Example: if a player lands on red, the questioner would ask about the physical characteristics. The questioner would state the type of frog on the trading card, and ask what the physical characteristics are of that frog.
If the answer is answered correctly, the player stays on their new place on the game board. If the answer is incorrect, the player must go back to where their turn began.
Continue playing until the first frog crosses the finish line!
BE CAREFUL: If you land on the fly, you go back to START!
This game might be one of my favorite things we did this year, because it was a way to make the culminating project real and meaningful. The students made the game board, the questions, and the tokens. This game is theirs.
Like Brutus, they excelled when they had space to explore.
Don't we all need that space?