Greetings from the Biomes of the World
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In this lesson, students research biomes and then utilize iPads to create postcards with the free app PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson. Combining their research notes with corresponding images, students write about their biome in postcards as they “visit” the biome.
PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson: Students will use this free app to create postcards.
Postcard Creator: This student interactive is used to familiarize students with the parts of a postcard.
From Theory to Practice
In 2009, the International Reading Association issued a position statement arguing that “to become fully literate in today's world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies.” Therefore, literacy teachers began to investigate methods to integrate technology skills into their already packed traditional curriculum of literacy skills. This lesson allows teachers to focus on traditional skills of research and writing while adding a technology component.
Additionally Cronin suggests that interdisciplinary assignments encourage students to make links between the different school subjects. In this lesson students will connect their researching and letter writing skills that are typically part of the language arts classroom curriculum to the study of biomes, a topic discussed in the science classroom.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- One computer with LCD projector, Internet access, and adapter to connect an iPad to this computer
- Internet connected computers for student research or use of iPads for research
- Paper to print postcards (optional)
- Printer (optional)
This website has great images of the biomes and is easy to read. It includes plants, animals, locations, and descriptions.
This website is especially good for finding information about the effects humans have on each biome.
This website explains how plants adapt to survive in the major biomes.
Featuring an interactive map, this website also includes animal videos and an informative temperature vs. precipitation chart.
This website’s pages listed on the right describe the plants, temperature, precipitation, location, and physical characteristic for several biomes.
This easy-to-read site is includes many of the animals found in the each biome.
This website is good for a basic introduction to identifying special features of the major biomes.
Although not graphically as interesting as the other sites, this website provides descriptions and well as links to other resources.
This YouTube video may be used on the first day of the lesson to introduce students to biomes.
This site offers videos introducing several different biomes.
- Download the PhotoCard by Bill Atkinson on the tablets the students will be using. Set up an account for the app so that students will be able to e-mail the completed postcards. Become familiar with the app so you will be able to assist students.
- Check that the Postcard Creator will work on the computer connected to the LCD projector. Technical support can be found at the Technical Help page. Become familiar with this student interactive.
- Check that the YouTube video Introduction to Biomes is not blocked on the computer connected to the LCD projector. If it is blocked, see if your school will unblock it or just begin the lesson with the biome map located at Biomes of the World.
- Bookmark the websites on the printout Useful Websites on the computers or iPads or post them to a class wiki or website. If these are not options, make one copy for every student of the printout.
- Arrange for print materials on the biomes to be available. Use the Suggested Print Materials printout for gathering materials as well as consult with your school librarian for other print materials and databases.
- Make one copy for every student of the following printouts: Postcard Rubric, Biomes Notetaking Sheet, Learning about Biomes, and Biome Choices.
- Make one copy per iPad of the PhotoCard App Instructions.
- identify the characteristics of biomes.
- choose appropriate images to represent the biomes.
- compose postcards with the typical parts.
- create sentences that are free of grammar and spelling errors.
- Show the short YouTube video Introduction to Biomes. Then lead the following discussion.
- Ask students what different environments were included in the video.
- As students respond, list their answers on the board. Replay the video if students are having trouble recalling.
- Ask what word was used instead of environments to describe these areas of the world: biomes.
- Ask students to recall how biomes differ from each other:
- Fresh water
- Salt water
- Project the biome map located at Biomes of the World and scroll over the different colors, stopping on each color. Ask students what they know already about the characteristics of these biomes, such as what plants grow in the desert and what type of animals live in the rainforest. Discuss why animals and plants in one biome may not be able to survive in a different biome.
- Ask students which biome they would like to visit and why. Then explain to students they are going to have the opportunity to “travel” to a biome through research. Using their research notes, they will write postcards to the people back home, telling them about the biome.
- Hand out the Postcard Rubric. Project the Sample PhotoCard and have students evaluate the sample using the rubric.
- Hand out the printout Biome Choices. Allow students to look through the Suggested Print Materials and websites before they choose which biomes they will research.
- After students have chosen their topics, hand out the printout Biome Notetaking Sheet and go through the categories together. If time permits, have students begin researching using books from the Suggested Print Materials and websites. If the websites could not be posted, hand out the printout Useful Websites.
- Check that all students have completed their notetaking sheet. Explain to students now they will use their notes to write postcards to friends back home, writing what they are seeing in their biomes.
- Project the Postcard Creator and cover the typical parts of a postcard and the audience for postcards. Give the students time to write the body of the postcards.
- Once the students have finished writing, connect an iPad to the LCD projector. Model for the students how to use the PhotoCard app using the PhotoCard App Instructions.
- Allow students time to create their postcards. While students work, circulate through the classroom. Ask them how their photos represent their biomes. Help students who are having difficulty with the app. Check that completed postcards are being sent to the e-mail address provided. Observe student behavior and time on task as that is part of the rubric.
- Before the next decision either download the postcards to the computer with the LCD projector or print them for students to use them to share with their classmates.
- Hand out the printout Learning about Biomes. Explain to the students that as their classmates share their postcards, they are to write for each postcard which biome is being described and one fact about that biome.
- Have each student share his/her postcard. Allow for students to ask questions after each presentation.
- After all have presented, ask students to complete the reflective statements in the assessment section.
- Share the cards with other classes in the school or display the printed cards in the classroom.
- Post the postcards to a class wiki or website for all to view.
- Display a world map in the class and have students pin and label locations of their postcards.
- Have the students use their notes about biomes to write haikus, which are traditionally nature themed. To add a technology component to this type of poetry writing, use the lesson Animate That Haiku which uses the app Animoto or the Animoto website. Alternately, use the ReadWriteThink Haiku Interactive or Haiku App.
- This lesson could be done in pairs or small groups if only a small number of iPads are available. It could also be done with just computers using the student interactive Postcard Creator. Students would print their postcards and then illustrate their postcards by drawing or printing online images.
- After completing their research and sharing the postcards, have students try to complete the two missions at the website Mission: Biomes.
- Assign students to further research the effects humans have on the biomes and write persuasive letters to those who are negatively influencing the biomes in order to persuade them to stop their destructive actions. Use the Letter Generator for this activity.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Possible student assessment include
- Use the Postcard Rubric to assess students’ finished books.
- Read through the students’ completed printouts Biomes Notetaking Sheet and Learning about Biomes.
- Ask students to complete the following statements:
From this project I learned ___________________________.
This project could have been improved by ___________________.