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Ecology: Who Calls the Grasslands Home? - A Look at Grasslands and Savannas

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Objectives:

  • The students will be able to explain the characteristics of the grassland biome and savanna biome.

  • The students will be able to describe the plants and animals of the grasslands biome and the savanna biome.

  • The students will be able to describe how savannas are formed.

  • The students will be able to locate grasslands and savannas on a map.

Questions that encompasses the objective:

  • Think about Africa. 

  • What type of biomes do you think you would find in Africa?

Prepare the Learner: Activating Prior Knowledge. 

How will students prior knowledge be activated?

Warm up by asking students:

  • What do you know about grasslands and savannas?

Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.4

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4

Materials and Free Resources to Download for this Lesson: 

Input:
What is the most important content in this lesson?
To reach this lesson’s objective, students need to understand:

  • The characteristics of grasslands and savannas.

  • The plants and animals that live in grasslands and savannas.

  • How savannas are formed.

  • Where grasslands and savannas can be found (location in the world).

How will the learning of this content be facilitated?

  • The teacher will begin the class by reviewing the Earth’s biomes. The teacher should tell the students that today they are going to learn about the grassland and savanna biomes.

  • Next, the teacher should introduce the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” activity. The teacher will read 10 savanna/grassland facts—5 of which are true and 5 of which are false. After reading each statement, the teacher should ask the students if it deserves a “thumbs up” (meaning what was read is true) or if it deserves a “thumbs down” (meaning what was read is false).

    • The savanna biome is mainly grass and a few trees. (TRUE)

    • Grasslands are found on every continent. (FALSE)

    • The largest part of the savanna biome is located in Africa. (TRUE)

    • Grasslands cannot be used for farming. (FALSE)

    • Savannas experience a wet season when it rains a lot. (TRUE)

    • There are two types of grasslands: tropical and temperate. (TRUE)

    • Many of the animals that live in the savanna can survive without water. (FALSE)

    • The soil in the savanna biome is good for farming. (FALSE)

    • Half of Africa is a savanna. (TRUE)

    • Grasslands are not good for farming. (FALSE)

  • Next, the teacher will hand out the “Grassland and Savanna Biomes” worksheet packet. If it is possible, project each page of the worksheet packet onto the board using a projector or put into a PowerPoint document and project. As the teacher explains, the students will fill in the blanks on their worksheets. The teacher should begin with the “Life in the Grassland” worksheet.

**The student worksheet does not contain all of this information. Use this as a guide to help explain the grassland biome more in depth to the students**

  • Grasslands are divided into two regions: tropical and temperate.

  • Tropical grasslands, also called savannas, are found in the Southern Hemisphere. Temperate grasslands are found in the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Grasslands receive enough water so that grass can grow, but not enough so that large trees can.

  • Temperate grasslands are found in the Northern Hemisphere, while tropical grasslands are found in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Grasslands are large areas of land with grass, wildflowers, and low-lying trees.

  • In the temperate grassland, there is a summer and a winter.

  • Grasslands are located between deserts and forests.

  • Temperate grasslands are located in: Central North America, the United States, Uruguay, Argentina, southern portion of Asia near Russia and Mongolia.

  • Temperate Grasslands Types:

    • Prairie: found in North America and parts of Canada and Mexico; cover 1.4 million square miles.

    • Steppes: found in Southern Russia, Ukraine, and Mongolia; cover 4,000 miles.

    • Pampas: found in South America between the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean; cover 300,000 square miles.

  • Rainfall in the grasslands ranges from 20-35 inches per year.

Information Source:

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/grassland.html

http://www.ducksters.com/science/ecosystems/grasslands_biome.php

  • Next, the teacher should review the “Life in the Savanna” worksheet.

**The student worksheet does not contain all of this information. Use this as a guide to help explain the savanna biome more in depth to the students**

  • Savannas are tropical grasslands.

  • Savannas usually have:

    • Grasses and trees

    • Two seasons: rainy and dry

    • Herds of animals

    • Warm and humid climate

  • Savannas are located near the equator.

  • Half of Africa is a savanna. Savannas are also found in India, South America, and northern Australia.

  • The largest part of the savanna biome is located in Africa.

  • Savannas are created when humans burn grasslands and cut down trees in order to plant crops.

  • Elephants can create savannas by knocking down trees, stripping bark, and stomping on seeds.

  • Savannas receive 10-30 inches of rain per year.

  • Average temperature in the savannas ranged from 68°F- 86 F°

  • Summer season is wet and lasts 6-8 months. Winter season is dry and lasts 4-6 months.

  • Savannas are not suitable for farming.

Information Source:

http://www.ducksters.com/science/ecosystems/savanna_biome.php

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/savanna.html

http://www.softschools.com/facts/biomes/savanna_biome_facts/163/

  • Next, the teacher should review the “Who Lives in Grasslands and Savannas?” worksheet.

**The student worksheet does not contain all of this information. Use this as a guide to help explain the animals and plants of the grassland and savanna biomes more in depth to the students**

  • Grasslands lack shelter for the animals that live there.

  • The animals that live in grasslands are herbivores.

  • Ungulates: mammals with hoofs, such as horses and deer. They have long legs so they can run fast.

  • There is not a lot of animal diversity in the temperate grasslands. These animals include: bison, antelopes, birds, gophers, prairie dogs, coyotes, lynx, fox, falcons, and insects.

  • Grasses are common in the temperate grasslands; it is rare to find trees and shrubs.

  • Common grasses include: purple needlegrass, wild oats, foxtails, ryegrass, and buffalo grass.

  • Wildflowers and other flowers such as, sunflowers and wild indigos are common in the grassland.

  • Wildfires are common in the grassland. A theory that scientist have is that the fires clear out the old grass to allow new grass to grow.

  • In the savanna, lemon grass, star grass, and Bermuda grass are common grasses. Common trees include acacia tree, jackalberry tree, and baobab tree.

  • Trees store water in their roots; this helps them survive during the dry seasons.

  • Fires are common in the savanna during dry season. The fires eliminate all of the dead grass. Some animals run from the fires, others bury themselves deep in the ground. Insects usually die and are eaten by larger animals.

  • Animals common to the savanna include: zebras, horses, giraffes, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and black mambas.

Information Sources:

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/grassland.html

http://kids.nceas.ucsb.edu/biomes/savanna.html

http://www.ducksters.com/science/ecosystems/grasslands_biome.php

http://www.ducksters.com/science/ecosystems/savanna_biome.php

http://www.softschools.com/facts/biomes/savanna_biome_facts/163/

http://www.softschools.com/facts/biomes/grassland_biome_facts/165/

  • The last worksheet that should be reviewed is the “Our World’s Grasslands and Savannas” worksheet.

**Refer to the teacher copy of the worksheet**

  • After the worksheets have been reviewed, the students will participate in an activity called “Where Do I Belong?” Each student will be given a “Grasslands | Savanna” worksheet and sheets with animals. The students will cut out each animal, decide where it belongs (grassland or savanna) and then glue it into the correct spot. Allow the students to work for about 10-15 minutes. Reconvene and discuss when the students are finished.

**Review the pictures with the students before they begin the activity**

  • The final assessment will be for the students to answer the question:

Think about what you learned in class today. Which characteristics do grasslands and savannas have in common and how do the two differ? What are some animals that live in these biomes and what are some of their adaptations that enable them to better survive there?

Time/Application
3-5 minutes
Guided Introduction

Review the class/ agenda with the students:

  • Introductory Activity: Review & “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

  • “The Grasslands and Savanna Biomes” worksheet packet

  • Activity: “Where Do I Belong?”

  • Discussion of Activity

  • Independent Assessment

10 minutes

Introductory Activity:

  • The teacher will begin class by reviewing the biomes.

  • “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” activity—read the facts to the students. If the students think the fact is true, they must give a “thumbs up”; false, a “thumbs down”.

15 Minutes

“The Grasslands and Savanna Biomes” Worksheet Packet

  • Give each student a “The Grasslands and Savannas Biomes” worksheet packet

  • Project each page of the worksheet onto the board either through a projector or PowerPoint presentation.

  • Review the worksheets in this order: “Life in the Grassland” worksheet; “Life in the Savanna” worksheet; “Who Lives in Grasslands and Savannas?” worksheet; “Our World’s Grasslands & Savannas” worksheet

15 Minutes

Activity: “Where Do I Belong?”

  • Give each student a “Grasslands | Savanna” worksheet and “Animals” sheet.

  • The students will cut out each animal, decide where it belongs (grassland or savanna) and then glue it into the correct spot.

  • At the end of 15 minutes, have the students return to their desks and discuss the activity.

Closure/Assessment
15 minutes

  • As an independent assessment, the students will answer the question:  

Think about what you learned in class today. Which characteristics do grasslands and savannas have in common and how do the two differ? What are some animals that live in these biomes and what are some of their adaptations that enable them to better survive there?

  • Appropriate answers will vary:

If there is additional time, discuss any questions the students may have.


Individualized Instruction/Scaffolding

English Language Learners will be supported in this lesson through data-based heterogeneous grouping, verbal and written repetition of new vocabulary words, and multiple representation of vocabulary words through printed images and video.

Ecosystems, Biomes, and Habitats PowerPoint and Activities
Classifying Animals PowerPoint & Activities