Compare and Contrast Polar Bears and Penguins

Penguins and Polar Bears: Compare and Contrast

Although I am never a huge fan of the cold weather and winter snow, January is definitely one of my favorite times of the year to teach.  As a first grade teacher, this is when they begin to take off in all areas and you feel some sense of relief in the classroom, having maybe one or two minutes to breathe here or there.  I have always taught about both penguins and polar bears but this year I decided to extend both units into a compare and contrast unit.  We had so much fun and the children really enjoyed all of the group work activities!  They are my favorite too!
Compare and Contrast Polar Bears and Penguins - First Grade Roars!
We began with our unit on penguins.  We used our schema, new learning and misconceptions chart.  I used sticky notes so we could easily move any schema to the correct places.  They did think penguins had fur and were cold-blooded.   We read two of our favorite stories, Penguin by Gibbons and Tacky the Penguin by Lester.  

Our writing has grown so tremendously this year.  Teaching writing was always a hard thing for me but the more I teach, the easier it comes.  We began with opinion writing, the easiest for my students.  They use a prewriting sheet.  I love how they check things off on their prewriting as they add them to their writing.  This is one of my favorites because of her third reason, clos (clothes).  This was written by one of my stylish firsties and she LOVES clothes.  She did not want to be a penguin because they don’t wear clothes and she likes clothes!  Too funny. You can also see our checklist.  The children use this after they write to check their work.  I call it, “a promise”.  They are promising me that they are re-reading their writing and checking for the important parts.

In the picture above I wanted to share a few things that I make my heart smile.  On the top left, one of my emerging readers and writers wrote the cutest introduction.  Sometimes I encourage them to ask a question to draw in the reader.  His introduction was, “Have you learned about an animal that lives in the South Pole? It is called a penguin.”  On the right I had my struggling writers use this can, have, and are chart to write 3 sentences.  We are working on those skills rather than worrying about an introduction and conclusion too.  Some other modifications I have made are shown below.  The children have to trace over the words and then choose the correct word to complete the sentence.  They are choosing between two words.

Then we went onto our polar bear unit. Since we had so many snow days, this unit was squished into a few days!  This time we did a can, have, and are chart to collect our facts. We again read a Gail Gibbons story, “Polar Bears”.  She writes the best non-fiction! 

Below you will see the other books we read.  The book, “Knut” was definitely a favorite.  I was able to find a YouTube video of Knut with Thomas his caretaker.  The kids loved watching the baby polar bear learn how to eat, play and survive.  They also really enjoyed “The Three Snow Bears” activities where they compare and contrast that story to “The Three Bears”.  It was a fun group work activity included in my packet.  

Here is a sneak peak at the color posters and word walls that are included in my packet.

Within each of my non-fiction units, I include the informational text standards with activities to go along with a mini book that I create.  For this mini book we focused on clarifying meaning and fact and details.  I usually pick two.  They did a great job with both of these activities.

Then we moved onto informational text writing. We used a web to as our prewriting for polar bears.  I asked that the children choose 3 facts to include.  Usually our prewriting has an introduction and a conclusion part but a web does not.  They did have their checklist as a reminder.  I was so pleased with how well they did remembering both in their writing. Don’t you just love the check marks as they add their details.  

We also wrote about How Thomas took care of Knut in the zoo.  This was one of the first narrative retells we had done and I was shocked at how nicely they did.  I chose to share this one because this child add (or more) to the 3 details on the checklist.  

Penguins and Polar Bears Compare and Contrast

Finally it was time to move onto the Compare and Contrast Unit.
I created this unit as a purchase independently but if you purchase my Penguin & Polar Bear Bundle, this unit is free. Here is a sneak peek of a compare and contrast book I made to help teach the unit.
After reading the book, I put the children into groups.  They had cards from the packet to use and large paper to create their own posters. Here is an example of the children working on the chart. It was messy but they were very engaged.

After their charts were complete, I took their pictures with them and hung them in the hallway.   Next we learned how to write a compare and contrast piece.  We wrote the similarities and differences between polar bears and penguins.  On their prewriting, after the introduction, I modeled what to do on lines 1, 2, & 3.  I told them to use l to write about penguins, 2 to write about polar bears, and 3 to write about both.  We write “snip its” or words and phrases, not sentences.  They use their “snip its” to create sentences in their writing.  Here is an example of one child’s writing. You can see in her prewriting she wrote 1. waddle, feathers 2. cubs, walk, paws 3. swim, cold.  I loved her introduction too!

Here are some modifications I made.  On the top, I eliminated the introduction and conclusion and we focused on three clean sentences.  On the bottom the children chose a picture, traced the words and colored the picture.

As a group, we finished the day with a whole group Venn diagram activity.  The children helped sort the cards.

Of course we had to finish our unit with two cute crafts.  These are NOT included in my packet but are here for you to snatch up a little freebie!  Enjoy these fun and easy crafts ready to print on construction paper!

All of these activities are also available in a bundle.  If you buy the bundle you get the compare and contrast unit for free!

I hope you enjoyed a sneak peak at our winter fun!!!



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I’m Megan, a first grade teacher and a mother to 7 amazing children. I love to create and collaborate with teachers. When I’m not teaching, I love spending time with my family, baking and playing tennis.

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