How Do Herds Help Animals?

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SWBAT use digital media to observe animal herds, take notes only about what they observe, and write an expository paragraph.

Big Idea

Scientific observation means writing down what you observe, not guessing or inferring.


5 minutes

I put together this Animoto to show students pictures of about 1/3 of the ungulates in the world. I do this to pique their interest and to raise awareness of animal diversity.

Here is a link to an adult explanation of the term ungulate.

After they watch the Animoto, I ask students to do one of the following:

  • Write down the names of all the herbivorous (plant-eating) animals you can think of that live in herds or groups.
  • Write down possible benefits and drawbacks of living in a herd

They share with a partner after they have had a few minutes to write.

 My goal in this lesson is to have students add to their knowledge base about how animals behave in groups while observing animals about which they have fewer preconceived notions.  I think that this frees them up to observe more objectively.  Herbivores are lesser known in general and I chose a variety of species, endangered, North American, and worldwide to continue to build their sense of the vast diversity and complexity of the animal world.  Within that complexity, they are looking for patterns that exist within groups, specifically, herbivorous animal groups.  How do they help each other?  Are there ways in which being in a herd is detrimental to individuals?  What specific individual and group behaviors do you observe?  What behaviors are hard to classify?


45 minutes

I tell the students that they are going to watch several video clips and that I want them to jot down a few notes about what they notice about individual and group behavior for each video. It is not necessary to show all the videos.  I go through the note taking process with them and provide this Herds of Herbivores - Student Note-taking Page to help them stay organized. I have provided you with a  Teacher Key so that your focus can be on student engagement rather than deciphering the video.  I remind students that after we view the videos we will be writing an informative paragraph in which we will explain to others how we think herds might be helpful to animals.  I explain the writing assignment after we take notes so that I don't overload them with too many directives, but you may wish to explain the end-task to them prior to note-taking.  It all depends upon the writing level of your students. This is a PowerPoint Explanation of the Writing Assignment.

Marmots in Olympic National Park


Massive Deer Herd Jumping Over Fence


A Deer Migration You Have to See to Believe


Massive Herd of Elk in Montana (don't worry, the little one at the end makes it over)

Pronghorn Antelope Cerillos, NM or Pronghorn Antelope, Wyoming

Sprinbok Antelope flee a cheetah.  They are successful!

Elephant herd in South Africa at a game reserve.  



Cape Buffalo.  Don't let students search on their own, there is a lot of graphic violence.  

Here is an article with a photo about how caribou huddle together to avoid insects.

Writing About Animal Groups - Overview

10 minutes

I go over the Explanation of Writing Assignment and students write their rough draft.  My target length is about 5-8 sentences, which I mention only because I want it to be clear that this can be done within two lesson periods.  It's not a major report, it is an expository paragraph based on one session of making observations.  The students are not experts, they are learners.

I provide the students with a Writing Checklist  and look over their video notes pages to make certain that they have an adequate amount of information to complete the writing assignment in the next session.