Tasmania Information

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SWBAT write to inform using a topic sentence, details, and closure.

Big Idea

I engage students in a lesson learning about something they like and allow them to write an informational piece.


5 minutes


Well I do a close read every and today the passage just happened to be about the Tasmanina devil. Now most of my lessons are inspired by my students' interests, this one included, so after we read this passage several times they started asking me tons of questions about this little critter. I was like, "I don't know much about these things so I will do a search and we can look at some pictures."  As we were looking and laughing, one students said, "Don't you have video of the Tasmanian devil?" I clearly use so many videos they think I have one about every thing I guess, but I did find a video about the unique animals in Tasmania.  So, this inspired our informative writing today.  

Lesson Overview

First, I read short passage from Read Naturally, a reading intervention program, three times to my class. Then we write an informative paragraph about the Tasmanian devil, which is a quiet and interesting little animal.  Then we watch the Jeff Corwin video, "Animals of Tasmania," on Discovery Education for about twenty minutes since our school has a license. As the students watch the video I ask them to take notes and write as many facts as they can to use for their informative piece. I really cannot believe how engaged the class was. I would have never guessed that this would interest first graders so much.

After the video, I go over the criteria for the paragraph; then students write; next they evaluate their peers and make changes; and last we close and reflect back in the lounge. I have a video on Transitions and Peanut Butter Jelly Partners in the resources section.


The introductory activity is basically me scrolling through the National Geographic set of pictures I found when I did a google search for the Tasmanian devil.  Technology and pictures seem to excite my class. Then, I explain the plan for the day. I find that sharing the plan with the class helps them understand what is expected of them during the lesson.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Being proactive about behavior has always worked for me, so as we move from the lounge to the desks students chant, "I can write to inform."  This keeps the class focused on the lesson goal and eliminates little conversations starting that are off topic.  

I read a short passage about the Tasmania devil to the class three times to expose them to the information. Each child has a copy to use for tracking. This builds knowledge and fluency, but they really need the text to reference for writing the paragraph in this section.

Then, I share the criteria for an informative paragraph.  Next students discuss with their peanut butter jelly partner possible topic sentences. I let the class talk for about one minute, and then I ask for a volunteer to tell us what the topic sentence should be.  As a class we agree or disagree, and I write the topic sentence on the board.

The next part is where we begin writing a detail sentence. After that sentence we try to add to or expand on the previous sentence.  Sometimes we can define a word in the detail sentence.  This is something I have to explain to the class and model some to help them understand. I try to give them examples. I say, "A detail sentence might say birds can live in the tall trees in Africa.  Then the expanded sentence would say Africa is a continent that has lots of desert." Students work to develop a detail sentence about the Tasmanian devil. After they share their detail sentence they discuss the expanded sentence.  One person shares, others agree using thumbs up or down and I add the sentences to the paragraph on the board.

We continue this process: discuss, share, agree or disagree, and then I add the decision to the board (Guided Practice Work on Board). The goal is to have: 

  • Topic sentence
  • Detail 1
    • Describe or define detail 1
  • Detail 2
    • Describe or define detail 2
  • Detail 3
    • Describe or define detail 3
  • Closing

I have a picture of the anchor chart that I reference throughout the lesson in the resources.

Student Video Viewing

10 minutes

I simply ask the students to write down anything that they think is an interesting fact for their notes. I give them a blank sheet of lined paper. I say "use bullets, paragraph form, or just write down words." After the video the students use their notes to write an informative paragraph about anything in the video. 

Now, you need a subscription to view the video about the Tasmania devil that we watched, but, if you don't have a subscription, you can really use any interesting videos about an animal your class would be "in" to. Also, if you choose to watch the whole video, you will see that it includes information about lots of animals in Tasmania. Our class watched the whole thing, so many students choose to write about animals other than the Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania. What they write is up to them as long as it was presented in the video.

Partner Work

20 minutes

This is the time the students get to create their own informational paragraph. I walk around to make sure students are getting started. If they are having trouble, I ask, "What was the video about." Then I say this is your topic sentence. Some students need help getting started.

After about fifteen minutes the students read their work to their partner. They take turns.  After they get comments from their partner they make changes or add to their work (Student Work) for about 5 minutes.  They may ask their partner to make their sentences longer, rephrase the topic sentence, or even change the sentences.  It is basically an evaluation of peer work with time to make changes. This opportunity also gives students exposure to ideas from their peers.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

This is the time when the students read their work to the class. I select two or three students and they practice their speaking skills while others work on their listening skills, which are emphasized in Common Core.

After each presentation the students are asked to give their peers academic feedback. Evaluation is a challenging task, but with modeling and practice students are able to give specific academic feedback to their peers.


5 minutes

This is when I like to use some quick type of formative assessment to see what my students learned and find out what I need to work on with them. I ask them to talk to their partner about what the parts to an informational paragraph are.  Then I listen and hope they look at the anchor chart and remind each other. I find that repetition is very important to primary students.

Last, we chant the lesson goal, because it focuses the class on the learning goal.