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Daily Do

How Are They Similar and Different?

Crosscutting Concepts Is Lesson Plan Life Science Literacy NGSS Science and Engineering Practices Elementary Informal Education Grade 1

Sensemaking Checklist

Welcome to NSTA's Daily Do

Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.

Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.

What Is Sensemaking?

Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates that students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.


Even if plants and animals are the same kind, can they still be distinguished from one another? Today's task is inspired by the NSTA e-Book Are They the Same? The story follows the journey of Speck, a red-spotted newt, who encounters many different kinds of plants and animals during his search for a new pond to become his winter home. Why didn't he notice before how different individual plants and animals can be even when they're the same kind of plant and animal?!

In this task, How are they similar and different?, students and their families read the NSTA e-Book Are They the Same? and engage in analyzing and interpreting data (science and engineering practice), and use the thinking tool of patterns (crosscutting concept) to make sense of a big idea in science— individuals of the same kind of plant or animal are recognizable as similar, but can also vary in many ways.


Before you invite your students to read aloud or read along with you, take a few minutes to become familiar with the Are They the Same? e-Book and suggested supporting resource(s).


Watch the video (above) for guidance on how to best use the interactive features of the Are They the Same? e-Book with your students (This e-Book is filled with a wide variety of interactive features!)


Open the Are They the Same? e-Book. You may want to pause here and read the e-Book to identify pages with (a) big ideas you want to emphasize through questioning and/or discussion and (b) embedded tasks that will require students to develop new knowledge and skills to complete.


Gather paper and pencils for your students so they can record observations (words and pictures) and questions they may have while reading the e-Book together.

Now you're ready to begin today's Daily Do!

Engaging Students With the e-Book

Before beginning the e-Book, try out this activity! Show your children two photographs of people (people in your family, for example). Ask, "How are the people in the photographs similar?" Allow students time to think independently before responding. Students might record the similarities they find on paper, or have a family member assist them.

Next, ask, "How are the people in the photographs different?" Again, allow students to think and record their noticings independently (or with assistance from a family member).

After students have shared these similarities and differences with classmates or family members, ask, "Are both of these people the same kind of animal?" (Note: Some students may not have thought people are animals!) Make sure all students agree that although people have many differences, their similarities tell us that they are all the same type of animal. Tell students they might think of other ways people are similar and different as they read the story, and they can add them to their lists.

Then ask, "Do you think other kinds of animals, like dogs or lizards (insert animals most familiar to your students), have things that make them the same kind of animal, but also things that make them different from one another? Do you think plants, like daisies or maple trees (again, insert plants most familiar to your students), have similarities and differences?" Accept all responses.

As you and your students follow Speck, the red-spotted newt, on his journey to find a new pond for the winter, you will encounter many opportunities to look for animals and plants on the page that are similar (the same kind of animal and/or plant) but with noticeable differences.

Throughout the story, you might choose to ask, "Are the animals/plants on this page the same kind of animals/plants? (claim) Why do you say so?" (evidence)

Are They the Same? Cover

Investigating Plants and Animals in Your Local Green Space

Now that students and their families (and Speck!) have had the opportunity to build the science idea that the same kind of plants and animals have many similarities, but individuals of the same kind of plant or animal may have many differences, you might encourage your students and their families to head outdoors and find examples in their neighborhoods (lots of dog walking may be happening!) and local green spaces.

Another activity your students and familes might do together is to draw a group of the same kind of plant or animal with individuals that are different from one another. Students may choose to draw an actual plant or animal or may choose to use their imagination to create them.

You might ask students to create 10 of one type of organism and consider the ways that they might be different. Are some larger than others? Do they have different numbers of leaves, eyes, or other structures?

Alternatively, you might have students create pairs (or triplets) of the same kind of plants or animals—each individual plant or animal different from one another—on construction paper or index cards and use them to play a matching game on rainy days!

Go on a Safari Without Leaving Town!

Join Mark Eastburn, author of the NSTA e-Book Are They the Same?, on an amphibian safari, during which he encounters salamanders and frogs in their natural habitats. He shares ideas and tips (and safety considerations) for making your own safari in a local green space and how to share your observations with other amphibian enthusiasts and scientists. Here's your family's chance to become citizen scientists!

NSTA Collection of Resources for Today's Daily Do

NSTA has created a How are they similar and different? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking Add to My Library, located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).

Check Out Previous Daily Dos From NSTA

The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.

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