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!