Writing Reports on Mammals and Reptiles

We watched this video and sang along to the song when we were doing our Lion art. I typed up the words for the kids to attach to the back of their lions as a shared reading/singing. It was fun. There is also a utube of cartoon characters dancing along with this rendition of the Lion Sleeps Tonight.

The past week we have been doing research reports on animals.  We started with mammals and then moved on to reptiles.  This is the way I start the unit. 

Owimoway…The Lion Sleeps Tonight…
These Lions are only about 5 pieces. We traced and cut out the yellow pieces, paws, body, round face, 2 oval ears. and then backed them with orange mane. I used orange and brown crimped wrapping paper stuff that I bought at Michaels for the hair and a brown pom pom for a nose. Some kids added stripes on their lions. We added wiggly eyes and then brown chenille stems wrapped around a pencil and taped them on the back for a curly tail. This one must have lost his tail….OH NO!

We read several fun books on freaky looking animals and all about their habitats and features, whether they are born by an egg or alive, what they like to eat and where they are found.  We talk about what makes a good non-fiction book.  We decide which books are more interesting than others.  The kids make all the decisions.  Then we go to the library and pick out our own non-fiction book on any mammal or reptile of their choice.

I read a non fiction book or parts of one each day and we added facts to a little mini book. Then we usually did our report writing and some shared reading with art.  Then we finished our illustrations and added to our individual tables of contents.  The kids learned a lot of new vocabulary going through these books. They all know what an adaptation is, what talons, gills, habitats, scales,  illustrators, author, dedication, glossary, camouflage, and of course the 5 animal species we are studying.  I’ll post pictures of our finished reports in a few days. 

Lucky for us our library has a great selection of animal books and Zoobooks and magazines on animal life. 
Then we come back and we try to look through our glossary or index to find pages where the animal habitat, eating habits or size and weight are found.  I ask them to find a good fact in their book and share it out. There will inevitably be the one who talks about “this picture shows a mom giving milk to her young” or something like that.  I ask them, “Would this be good to put in your research report? Why or Why not?”

Some are always right on top of it and explain it to the class for me.  So we give examples of good facts to find and write.  I tell them DO NOT write down anything you don’t understand.  I tell them that most of the sizing will show inches or feet as well as meters or centimeters, and to choose the non-metric system of measurement because it is more common.  They all know inches and feet, not so much on the meters.

Each week we studied a new type of animal and checked our new books from the library.

Then we pass out sloppy copy lined paper and go at it, finding facts.  The next step is I put them into groups after about 7 or 8 minutes.  The kids with similar mammals are grouped together.  Some that have the same can share facts with each other.  Otherwise they just share the file folder I give them that has an internet clipping, a card with facts or a magazine or book on their animal. My favorite website for internet clippings is Enchanted Learning.  I tell them, “All good researchers get their facts from lots of sources, and not just one, that isn’t the best way to do research.” So they get more facts from other sources.

 Many of the kids go home that night and get an internet printout of their animal with the help of mom or dad. The get a gummy bear or a sticker the next day for doing it, and I get to add to my internet clipping collection for next year’s class.

We painted these turtles (after stuffing a round stapled circle pocket with tissue paper to represent the turtle body) and used dot painters and bingo markers from Walmart for the colorful turtle shells.  So cute!
We sang songs and did shared reading of these turtle poems when we were done with our turtles. I usually mix art with a reading activity OR a writing activity. I never do art in isolation. Mix it with a Language Arts activity ALWAYS!  It’s an engaging way to get kids to read and write more….

Then we write 3 more facts or so.  Altogether these are short reports only about 8 sentences, just a page and a half.  But they ARE in first grade.  Then we find a picture we want to trace, draw and color.  I pass out white art paper and have tons of books on how to draw animals.  Most of the kids do an extremely good job on their art projects.  Nobody was done so I’ll have to post later the resulting  reports and art they came up with.

The next day was “Snake Day”. So after reading snake books, we made these cool snakes. I cut long strips of butcher paper, about 3 feet by 5 inch lengths. Then I told the kids to fold a square on one end and glue a tongue (red 1/2 inch strip) to it and cut a fork in the tongue and I gave them 2 small black circle stickers to put on for eyes. You can see some did “girl snakes” with eyelashes. 🙂 . Then I told them to accordion fold the square back and forth leaving the tongue on the end.
Then we cut a little triangle out of each of the 4 corners of the folded accordion square, which cut all along the snake (kind of like you do with snowflakes).  Then we opened them up, used dot stickers from Walmart and colored masking tape and designed our own snake.  On the back we glued a poem called BLACK SNAKE. And we ended by reading our snake poems and chanting them to a snapping rap beat! You could use multiple colors of butcher paper for yours. Maybe next year I’ll use black to go with our “Black Snake” poem….

Lastly I do editing on their sloppy copies with a purple marker.  Then after they go do their art they rewrite their reports nice and neatly on final copy paper they have chosen.  There are 6 kinds of stationery to choose from, and all of them are cool looking with pictures to match the animal. 
This is one of the most motivating things for kids is to rewrite their edited reports on THEIR CHOICE of cool stationery. Here is a picture and the LINK I’ve bought 3 different stationery books from Scholastic. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as a teacher!

The third day we did alligators. I LOVE this poem by Dennis Lee.   NOT Jack Prelutsky. I get them mixed up. Anyway we did an “Innovation” on his poem and made up our own verses to Alligator Pie. They are hilarious.  The kids did sloppy copies from a sentence frame. Then I typed up their final copies and we made alligators to go with them. 
______ pie, ______pie, If I don’t get some I think I’m gonna die!
Take away my _____, give away my ______, but don’t take away
my ________ pie!   This is a sentence frame.

We keep adding to our animal matrix the features on each species of animal; mammals, reptiles, birds, ocean animals, and amphibians.  It is a wonderful and fun way for kids to start learning researching skills.
I LOVE the finished products. Each child has a book of 5 reports and illustrations, a table of contents and a glossary of vocabulary words we have studied in the unit and been tested on…4 words each week along with their spelling tests.  And a mini book of all the animals we did as a whole class. Fun!

Animal Matrix…older classes could fill in their own individual matrix.  
Our finished “snapping” turtles. Those dot painters last for years! I love them!

Next week we will start and finish our ocean animals unit and reports. We will make some seahorse and starfish puppets and of course read Rainbow Fish and Commotion in the Ocean, 2 of my favorite books.  I found this fun video to show the kids in real time.  It is from the SEA WORLD website.  How many kids don’t love SHAMU? The Link for watching SHAMU the whale is HERE

The funny thing I learned about teaching kids about animals.  The 5 weeks we do the animal species reports,  they have to check out library books according to our animal species of the week.  The 6th week I tell them, “Guess What? You can choose any book from the library this week, we are done with reports!”  And the eye opener was when 85% of the class still go check out a book on another type of animal.  Kids do love science. They need to be fed lots of it too. It’s inherently interesting to them and a good way to get them hungry for knowledge enough to go out and learn more on their own.  And to me, that’s one of the most important reasons that I teach. 

My principal just gave each teacher $100 to spend on classroom books. Guess which kind I’m buying? Mmmhmmm…

Along the way I give art projects and poems and songs as daily work for kids to do to learn about animals of the week so they can get an idea of which animal they are most interested in doing a report on.  We studied snakes, monkeys, alligators, lions, turtles, frogs, parrots and the sloth and did an activity with them.  I’ll post next our bird unit and ocean animal unit projects. Last is amphibians, but everybody does a frog report for that. 🙂

Rainsticks are another fun art that goes well with rain forest animals.  Children paint or use markers or oil pastels on paper towel rolls or pringles cans. Fill with folded twice rectangles of cardstock and rice or beans. Cover each end with wax paper or pringles lids and tape up real good with masking tape. I’ve covered mine with african designs xeroxed strips from an African Hat book. The kids color in the designs.  We won’t have time this week to make them. Maybe the last week of school we will!  

This book is on my list.  Kids love to trace, but some like freehand illustrating too. I had some great artists this year!

I think our finished book of 5 reports with illustrations, glossary and table of contents is going to be a cool project for the parents to see at parent conference time!  And it makes a really neato rainforest bulletin board too!

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