Who's in the Forest?

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Students will be able to retell a story using non-fiction information relating to the local area.

Big Idea

I tell what happened in a text to show I understand the story.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I ask the students if they have ever been for a walk in the woods.

“Raise your hand if you have ever been for a walk in the woods?”

“Louise I noticed you raised your hand. Can you tell us what you saw when you went for your walk in the woods?”

I will ask two or three of the other students who raised their hand to the original question.

“Well today we are going to read a book called In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? The story was written by Lindsay Barrett George. Looking at the cover can anyone predict what we think this book might be about?”

I use the fair sticks to select two or three students to respond to the question.

“Those were great predictions. I like how Rachel said the book is most likely going to be about a girl and a boy taking a walk in the woods and the things they might find there. When I asked her why she thought this way she told me she used the cover picture clue and the title was asking a question which made her think they were looking for animals.”

“We will go ahead and read the book and see if our friends’ predictions are correct.”


45 minutes

During reading I will go over some of the vocabulary words that we come across in the text. Words like, well-worn, juts, gnawed, etc. However, I will not do this too often in this book as I do not wish to interrupt the flow of questions asked by the book.

This book is very interactive as it has Cammy and William walking through the woods looking at evidence of animal wildlife. The clues are mentioned in the text and the audience has to try and guess which animal they think has been there.

This book is great for the Maryland area as it mentions some of our forest inhabitants. Animals such as; the Northern Oriole (better known to us as the Baltimore Oriole – our state bird), the Monarch butterfly, the Blue Jay, red foxes, etc. Other states may prefer to use a different book to match the local wildlife.  


Once the book is over I say, “Did you notice how Cammy and William used very good scientific skills by observing very closely the signs of wildlife? Good scientists observe closely so they learn information about their surroundings. During this unit we are going to learn lots of information about the Maryland forests that are part of the watershed for the Chesapeake Bay. Forest is another word for woods.”

While I am talking I open up a blank screen on the SMARTBoard.

“The forest is a special type of habitat. Who remembers what features a habitat needs to allow animals to live there?”

“Water is right Finnley.”

I write the response on the screen for the students to see.

“Air is another one, Rachel.”

“Food is a necessary one Ava.”

“Shelter for me to live in is a good one Owen.”

The last one is often a hard one for the students to remember. “If I am an animal I need to be able to move around to find my food, so I need /s/…” I make the long drawn out /s/ sound and that is usually enough of a prompt for my students to recall “space.”

“Great. To be a good habitat I need to have air, water, food, shelter and space.” I point to the words on the screen as I say them to enhance the focus on print for the students.


“Today you are going to use two halves of a paper plate to create a forest habitat for the animals from our story.”

“You will staple the two paper plates together to make a pocket to keep the animals in. You will need to decorate your pocket to make it look like a forest so the animals feel at home. You will need to draw water on it. You will use the brown and green construction paper to create trees for food and shelter. You can use leaf stickers for food and shelter for the smaller animals. Next you will cut out the pictures of the animals from the story and label them using the book as a resource.” Forest Animals Pictures

This is where I show the students the resource page at the back of the book for the students to use to get the animals names (once again enhancing the focus on print).

“One of the last things you will do is to glue the forest habitat features label onto your forest habitat.”


 “Now when you get to this station there is one very important job you have to remember to do. Does anyone know what it is?”

“Yes. Put your name on your forest habitat.”

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some forest building fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn't be here anymore.”

Woods Habitat Story Retell 1   Woods Habitat Story Retell 2   Woods Habitat Story Retell 3   Woods Habitat Story Retell 4   Woods Habitat Story Retell 5 

Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time. Woods Habitat Student Sample

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one animal that lives in the Maryland forest. “Today you will need to be able to tell me one that lives in the Maryland forest. Here is the deal though, once someone has used the animal it is off the menu for everyone else. You heard many of the animals mentioned in today’s story. Another resource you can use is the animals that you can see pictured and labeled in the classroom.” I point to one of the animals on the wall of the classroom and slide my finger under the label to draw the students’ attention to the print.

“I am going to give you thirty seconds to sit and think of two or three animals so that if someone else uses your animal you will have another one ready to go.” I look at my watch and start timing.  

“Okay the thirty seconds are done. I hope you all thought really hard and came up with more than one animal. I am going to use the fair sticks to help me pick the students. Here we go.”

Once a student has told me his/her Maryland forest animal they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work together on coming up with an animal. 


10 minutes

For this assignment as the students complete their work they come over to myself or my para-educator and present us with the work they have done. I have the student pull out two or three animals from the habitat retell pocket and tell me what they can recall from the book. I only have them recall two or three animals for the sake of time. I also have the students recall that features which make up a successful habitat. I use the Forest Retell Tool checklist to go over the student’s work.

Once I have completed the checklist, I attach it to the students work and they are allowed to take the work home to share the information with their families. Retelling books and recalling information


I have the students use the computers to listen and follow along on a Walk through the Woods. This web page is designed for higher grades 93-5) but I have found my students like to listen and it is a good “walk” for student who may never been on a walk through real woods. I also send the link home to parents so that they may go on the “walk” with their child.  


Later in the day we may watch this little video clip about animals which can be found in the forest.