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Ideas for Using Animals A to Z in the Classroom

Among the proven techniques for improving test scores is regular exposure to skills that will be required for those tests. Everyday exposure to language skills -- including skills of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and grammar -- will build students' skills and increase test scores.

That's why Education World has introduced Animals A to Z, a feature that provides practice in a wide variety of basic language skills. Each week, a new printable work sheet offers five sentences about a unique animal. The five sentences have ten built-in errors of basic spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. Send students on a hunting expedition, then review the work with them. This weekly exposure is sure to cement some very important skills as it lays a foundation for improving students' test scores.


Following are a handful of ideas for using Education World's Animals A to Z editing activities:

  • Animals A to Z makes a great "bell-ringer" activity. Print out the activity page and set it in a special spot in your classroom. Students can pick up a copy as soon as they walk into class in the morning or immediately after recess or lunch break and settle right down to work on the activity as you spend a few minutes taking attendance or doing last-minute lesson preparations.
  • When you photocopy the activities, print an extra copy of each activity on a transparency. As students are finishing up the activity, project your transparency onto a whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper. Invite students to take turns marking the errors in the paragraph. Keep track of how many students are called on in order to correctly mark all ten errors. The number of students required to find all ten errors should decrease over time. That'll be additional proof that students' language skills are growing.
  • How about having students complete the activity in pairs or small groups? (This is an especially effective strategy if the activity seems to be difficult for your students; it's also an effective strategy because students love to socialize.) The student pairs or teams can talk through -- and debate -- their corrections as they make them. See how many pairs/teams can correctly identify all ten errors. You might even keep score and award a prize each quarter to members of the team with the most perfect scores. Change the makeup of the teams at the start of each new quarter.
  • Give students instant feedback. As students complete papers, you might correct them immediately. You can correct quickly by simply circling any incorrect edits that students make and handing papers back to them. No need to say a word; just hand back the papers. Then students have a second chance to correctly mark the errors. If they identify all ten errors the second time around, give them a score of 10 points. If students correctly identify all ten errors on the first attempt, award them a bonus point -- give them 11 points instead of 10! Keep track of scores over a 10-week period to create a 100-point test grade. (A student who gets all ten Animal A to Z activities right the first time around will have a test grade of 110.)
  • Use Animals A to Z as an all-class activity. Divide the class into two teams. Present the week's Animals A to Z sentences to the class. Have a student on one team share one correction that needs to be made. If the student makes a correct correction, his or her team earns a point. Then it's the other team's turn to point out another correction that needs to be made. Alternate between teams until all ten corrections have been identified. How many points did each team earn? Which team was the winning team? To add some suspense and competition to the activity, tally the teams' points over the period of a month. The team with the highest score at the end of the month will earn a special reward such as a homework-free-night coupon, an ice pop, or an extra recess
  • Students' editing skills will improve dramatically with regular use of Animals A to Z. Once students are doing well, start supplying actual sentences and paragraphs from their writing. Write or photocopy the text onto transparencies and let students edit their classmates' work. They will see that they and their peers make some of the same kinds of mistakes found on the Animals A to Z activities. That will drive home the practicality of -- and the need for -- the regular/weekly daily practice.

  • Just for fun: Once each month, throw a pop comprehension quiz. Create a 10-question matching activity to test how much factual information students retained from the month's Animals A to Z activities. In the left column, include names of animals that were the subjects of Animals A to Z activities; in the right column include brief statements about the animals. Besides improving students' language skills, Animals A to Z builds knowledge and it makes students more aware of their world and the importance of protecting it.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World

At Which Grades Is Animals A to Z Appropriate?

These activities are intended for use in grades 2-4. If you teach older students, be sure to check out our daily editing activity, Every-Day Edits.

Appropriate grade levels for Animals A to Z can vary depending on how the activity is used. It could be used in early second grade if students and teacher read through the text together so students don't stumble on the vocabulary.

For the most part, the typical second and third grader is developing the skills required to do these activities independently. As with anything else you do with students of this age, you might complete the activity as a class two or three times before expecting most students to be able to do it independently. After a few weeks of whole-class practice, students should be able to do the activity with no more than two, occasionally three, errors.

The key to success with Animals A to Z is to stick with it. Don't expect instant mastery; and don't give up if students seem frustrated with it at first. After a few weeks of doing the activity as a class, you might pair up students to complete it together for a week or two. Each week, take time to go over the activity as a group. But, whatever you do, don't give up. Have high expectations -- expect students to improve and, in time, they will. In this case, practice will make perfect!