What Animal Will You Research?

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SWBAT: Identify and research the traits of an animal and its habitat using informational text.

Big Idea

The coyote lives in the desert. The toucan can be found in the rainforest. The angelfish and the blue whale swim together. What animal will each of my students choose?


5 minutes

Summary and Context

After starting the unit by reading the story Nutik, the Wolf Pup, I now engage my students in researching different animals and their habitats. Today, the students will choose an animal to research. I will model the manner I would like them to use to gather the information. A new shift with the CCSS is about engaging students with informational text. Today, I will have my students read informational text to research their animal, and create a tree map.

Students will be given the opportunity to share their findings with the whole group.

Opening Activity

After sharing the objective with students on the rug, I ask my students to pair-share about what they know about habitats. First, I ask, "What are habitats?" Then we create a list of habitats on a chart.

I constantly ask my students to pair-share, because I like to give my students plenty of opportunities to practice academic language in a low-risk environment.

Modeling the Research Process with a Tree Map

15 minutes

To model the research process, I guide my students on creating a tree map. 

I use an informational text titled Wolves, which is found in their anthology. Here is the first page and the second page of Wolves to give you an idea of the informational sheet my students read, but you can replace this informational sheet to meet the needs of your students.

On one side of the tree map, I ask students to write the name of the animal, and on the other side, the name of its habitat. To get them started, I ask them to read the first paragraph. I ask them to share with the whole class as soon as they come upon a trait.

I ask them to read on, and I continue to prompt, "What else have you found out about wolves?" 

I take their responses and add them to the chart. I continue until we finish reading the article.

Students Choose Their Animals

10 minutes

I bring the students to the rug and ask them to sit in a circle. I let them know what animals I have for them to choose for their research. My student have plenty of choices: I have collected about 6 animals per habitat. The sheets I use all came from the website Enchanted Learning. This is a fantastic website, and it only costs $20 a year. It's definitely worth every single dollar. Here is an example of an animal-trait printout and its habitat printout:

Coyote Printout

Desert Animal Printouts

I let students know that I will be choosing the students who have behaved to go first when they choose their research focus. In choosing, I make sure to alternate between girls and boys. It is how I keep it fair.

To help students stay focused on one thing at a time, I have them first research the traits of their animal, and then come to the round table to pick up a habitat packet. In this way, I don't overwhelm with the informational sheets.


Students Create a Tree Map of an Animal & Its Habitat

25 minutes

Now students work independently to research their animals and create their tree maps on the animal, whether that be a toucan or a desert tortoise. Students will get the opportunity to sit around the room to do their research. I ask them to read the article first before they start highlighting.

As students work, I walk around and give them support with drawing the tree map by reminding them to use their highlighter appropriately and to stay on task.

I like to walk around and check on how their tree maps are coming along. I give them feedback if needed.

I noticed that my students were on task and enjoying themselves quite a bit. One of the things my students love to do is to share their knowledge as they learn it. I love listening to as many as I can. This is great feedback for me, because I love seeing my students happy and engaged. Students do love animals. I feel that is why they did such a great job.

Sharing with the Whole Group

7 minutes

Now that students are done creating their tree maps, I give them the opportunity to share with the whole class. My students enjoy listening to one another very much. I work on giving different students the opportunity to share.

I ask the audience to give the speakers feedback about the evidence they provided about the traits of their animals.

This is the system I use:

• Two Stars: Two different students share what they specifically like about the content of the writing.

• A Wish: Another student shares specifically how he or she thinks the writing can be improved.