Adopt an Animal Project (Research, Writing, and Science)

I am always looking for a way to get the biggest BANG for my buck in the classroom!  Integrating the various subject areas whenever possible is a great way to do this!  The very first writing project I do with my class each year is our Adopt an Animal project with our local zoo.  Each year my local zoo offers something called a “Spotlight Adoption”.  This means that for a $65 fee you can adopt one of six animals and get a certificate, information sheet, and a stuffed animal to display in your classroom.  I start the project by introducing the class to these six animals.  Click here for the link to my local zoo’s page.


I then got a few informational books for each of these six animals.  Students begin the project by choosing their favorite animal from the six shown.  First students write nine facts about their animal.  They then must write six sentences using “Bold Beginnings” about the animal.  I use the Bold Beginnings chart from Really Good Stuff.  Once they have generated the nine facts and the six students, they will have a lot of the core writing for their persuasive essay done.  Students must use this pre-writing to then write a persuasive essay about which animal they think our class should adopt.  You can grab the packet I made for my own students from Dropbox here!

Once the essays are written, I have the students meet in their animal groups, so all of the giraffes are at one table, all of the rhinos are at another table, and so on.  In their animal groups students share their essays with one another and write one shared essay (usually grabbing parts from all of the essays) and an animal poster each.  The animal poster layout can be found here.


The groups then work to create a presentation for the class.  The goal of the presentation is to convince (or persuade) their classmates to vote for their animal.  Once all of the presentations are given, students vote by secret ballot.  Once an animal has been chosen, the students complete an informational report about the animal as well as a letter each to the zookeeper in order to ask questions, etc.

This one project combines research, science, and many different types of writing (persuasive, informative, and letter writing) and presentation skills as well as speaking & listening!  Talk about integration!  I can’t wait to see which animal we will adopt this year!

*As an added extension, students can be the ones who bring in money to pay for the animal’s adoption fee (tally, count, keep track, etc.).   I hope you try this project (or something like it) this year!


My Classroom Theme ~ Pac Man

What teacher doesn’t get both excited and nervous about the first day of school?  This year I will have a 4th/5th grade split class and I am teaching all subjects to both grades (just typing that stresses me out a little).  My room is pretty much ready.  I decided to go with a PacMan theme this year.   I like the color scheme and any video games are a hit with kids (even the old school ones).  I am not sure how I ended up with this as a theme, I ran across some items and thought, “Well, that will be different.  But, I like it!”  Hopefully my kids will like it, too!  As an intermediate teacher, most of my yearly themes are centered around a color scheme I like and I change it every year.

I started off with calendar days and month headers.

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I give each student a plastic school box to put their personal supplies in since we share table supplies.  So I made Pac Man name plates (with each of the 4 ghosts and Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man) to tape to the top of the plastic school boxes.

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I use a three drawer cart at each table for notebooks, folders, journals, etc.  I decided to redo my drawer labels since my old ones were looking pretty bad.  Each table has a color scheme (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple).  The label for the “Poetry Notebooks/Spelling Folders” is taped to a colored magazine file that contains these items.

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Next, I made table labels and table storage tub labels.  They are identical, with one being large and one being small.


I then made hall passes.  Of course, I laminated them, hole punched them and attached colored lanyards to them.

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I must admit, the more I made, the more I loved the Pac Man theme!  We do an ice cream social and I have little goodie bags laid out for each student at their seat.  I ordered felt ghosts from a fantastic shop on Etsy.  She can make just about ANYTHING in felt!  Click here for the link.  I also found Pac Man necklaces on Etsy.  Click here for the link.

pacmanfelt    pacmanfelt2   pacmannecklace

I found some great ghost stuff on Oriental Trading, too!  Even inflatable ghosts (click here)!  They will look great hanging out all over the room!  I ordered some Pac Man pins from Amazon, too.


All of this swag will go into bags with my welcome note attached to the outside and a supply list on the inside.

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I even made some ghost-inspired bulletin boards.   So much fun!

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I am still working on everything, thank goodness I have time (we don’t start school until late August)!

What is your classroom theme this year?