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Lesson: Animal Diaries


Subjects

  • Language Arts
  • Literature
  • Animals

Grades

  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Get kids excited about research by creating diaries of animals or insects. The children's story Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin, is a terrific tool for launching this lesson. Don't be fooled -- older students will enjoy listening to this fun children's book too!

Objectives

Students

  • learn about an insect or animal and record simple notes as they read.
  • summarize key ideas.
  • incorporate research into original writing.
  • create original stories that demonstrate an understanding of personification.
  • apply rules of grammar, mechanics, and usage to their original writing.
  • apply steps of the writing process
  • cite sources by creating a simple bibliography (if grade-appropriate).
  • use technology to locate facts (optional).

Keywords

diary, diaries, research, sequencing, sequence, note-taking, summarizing, creative, insect, animal, personification, writing process bibliography, citation, citing sources

Materials Needed

  • Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. This book, published by Scholastic, is widely available in libraries. If your school or local library does not have the book, you might ask your librarian to check with your state library system. Additional sources highlighted below.

The Lesson

Begin this lesson by asking students if they have ever kept a diary.

  • What did you include in your diary?
  • What might the diary tell someone who read it? Students might offer that they/others often write in a diary about the events in their lives, their feelings about what is happening, what they plan to do tomorrow, and their dreams for the future.

Read aloud to students from one of Diane Cronin's fun, factual books:

For these books, you might also find these resources useful:

After reading, discuss what is unusual about this diary. What did you learn about worms based on reading the diary?

Next, it's time to introduce today's writing lesson. Challenge students to choose an insect or another animal that they don't know much about. (If each student chooses a different animal or insect, sharing the diaries will be more fun.) Students will use the information they learn to write a Diary of a(n) _____.

Give students time to do some research to learn more about the animal they chose. They might use encyclopedias, nature books, other library books, or the Internet as their source(s). As they read, they should record interesting facts about the animal. Young students will need at least a few facts; older students might gather about ten facts to work into their Diary of a(n) ____.

You might have students copy facts about their animal onto note cards -- one fact per card. The cards will be easy to manipulate when it is time for them to organize their thoughts and writing.

Once students have organized their facts, they can begin creating a diary "written by" their animal. Younger students might write one or two diary entries; older students might write several entries or more.

When students have completed an edited "sloppy copy" of their diary entries, they can transfer those entries into a "diary" book (folded paper). They can illustrate each entry.

Older students might include a bibliography page on the back cover as a way to cite their research source(s).

End the assignment by allowing students to take a "gallery walk" of their classmates' animal diaries. As they walk around the room they can look through each other's books.

Extend the Lesson

  • Have students share their diaries with students in another class. Older students would enjoy reading their diaries to younger children.
  • Display diaries in the library along with Diary of a Worm so the whole school can enjoy the stories.

Assessment

Evaluate students' note cards and final diaries. Observe students as they read their own diary and as they listen to others. Assess the quality of students' grammar, punctuation, and word use. If you teach older students, you might also assess the diary contents.

Submitted By

Mary Pat Mahoney, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine, Texas

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Last updated 12/5/2011