To help students understand that organisms, like chickens, have basic needs that must be met in order for them to survive and also begin to form an understanding of where food comes from.
This lesson uses the book A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page, a humorous journey into raising and caring for chickens. The book is one of the winners of the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
After the teacher reads the book aloud to the class or the students read the book themselves, they will answer questions asked in the book and then draw a picture to assess their understanding of the material.
In the book, a chicken follows an unnamed narrator home, leaving the narrator to pose questions about chickens: What do chickens eat? Will my chicken fly away? How do I keep my chicken safe? What if I want a baby chicken? The story covers the life cycle of chickens and how to care for them.
As stated in the National Science Education Standards, "the idea that organisms depend on their environment is not well developed in young children." (National Science Edudcation Standards, p. 128.) This lesson will help lower elementary students understand the food link between chickens and insects, for example, and that chickens have basic needs. For example, they need food, water, and a safe place to roost at night.
According to the Benchmarks, most people never see food before it's in retail stores, and primary-school children may have only vague ideas about where their foods come from. The book and accompanying lesson will help young children discover that the eggs they eat come from chickens. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 183.)
Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in these Common Core State Standards:
With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).
Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.
Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text. Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.
If possible, you should get one or more classroom copies of A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers about a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page.
Before reading the book with your students, ask them what they would do if a chicken followed them home. Would they keep it? You should point out that the right thing to do is to find the animal's owner. But in this pretend case, if they kept the chicken, how would they care for it?
Ask the students:
- Do you ever eat eggs? Where do the eggs come from?
- What is a chicken? What does it look and sound like? Does it have fur or feathers? How many legs does it have? Do they look like other animals?
- How would you take care of a chicken? (Students may relate that a chicken needs the same things they do—food, water, and a place to live.)
- What kind of food does a chicken eat? (If they don't know what a chicken eats, maybe they've seen other birds eating insects, seeds, or grain.)
- Where does a chicken live?
- What kinds of animals might want to eat a chicken? How would you protect the chicken from those animals?
Read the book to the students.
After the class discussion about eggs and chickens, read the book aloud to the students. They can follow along if each student or small group of students has a copy. Since the reading level may be too advanced for the youngest students, let them talk about the illustrations as you go along. Connect the information in the book with the answers students gave in the earlier discussion.
Some of the book's pages include circled insets that identify various types of food, predators, and coops. Using the Chicken Facts student sheet, have the students answer the questions verbally as you read the book or on paper after the reading.
The book answers the questions on the student sheet, and you can also use the Chicken Facts teacher sheet to find answers to the questions about chickens.
After going over the answers to the student sheet, assess students' understanding of the needs of their chicken by giving them the My Chicken Needs student sheet. Students can draw a scene that shows what they would do to take care of their chicken. Some things that could be pictured are feeding, watering, and providing a coop, roost, or nesting box.
You can extend the ideas in this lesson by leading your students through these Science NetLinks lessons:
Once the students see that eggs come from chickens, have them watch The Journey of an Egg from Farm to Table video to see how a factory works to prepare eggs for the supermarket. After watching the video, they would have enough information to complete the Farm-to-Table Challenge.
For a child's perspective on raising chickens, show a video report by a nine-year-old girl titled A Child's Guide to Keeping Chickens. She discusses the different uses of chickens, from laying eggs to using for meat to raising as pets.
For smaller children, they can display their knowledge of the life cycle of a chicken through art using Life Cycle of a Chicken.
Hatching Good Lessons, from United Poultry Concerns, discusses the drawbacks associated with classroom hatching activities and provides K-6 activities on the development and life cycles of chickens and other birds. Since seeing a chicken hatch is exciting and informative to students, first direct them to the last page of A Chicken Follow Me Home!, which includes a section on the development of a fertilized egg. Have students study the illustrations and talk about what happens during the 21 days before the chicken emerges from the egg. Follow this up with an animation of Chicken Embryo Development and then finally with the Baby Chicks Hatching video.