Teaching nonfiction at the early elementary level is as easy as lions, tigers, and bears, oh yes! There’s nothing that intrigues young children like some amazing animal books. With an animal unit you will be able to incorporate a multitude of subjects such as science, geography, and writing while meeting the nonfiction requirements of common core. It’s a win for everyone.
Two great books to use for starting an animal unit are Abayomi by Darcy Pattison and Elizabeth Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox. Both books address animals who are living in a populated area and how people interact with the wild animals.
Elizabeth Queen of the Seas – Lynne Cox
Elizabeth is an elephant seal who loved sunning herself on the warm banks of the Avon River in Christ Church, New Zealand. Unfortunately Elizabeth’s favorite spot was right in the middle of a busy street in town. The good people of Christ’s Church tried to help Elizabeth by hauling her out to sea where they felt she would be safer, but Elizabeth had other ideas and just kept coming back. After three unsuccessful attempts to move Elizabeth the townspeople decided to make her welcome by putting up road signs and protecting their special visitor. Elizabeth enjoyed a peaceful life with the help of her human protectors.
Abayomi – by Darcy Pattison
Abayomi’s mother is a Brazilian puma who has lost her habitat and now lives very close to a town. She survives by finding whatever food she can, including local chickens. When she is caught and killed Abayomi has to try to fend for himself. He struggles but is saved by local scientists. This book tells a different story about what sometimes happens to animals who live too close to people.
After reading the books to your class try these classroom activities:
1. Search for facts – Lead a class discussion to list the facts of each story. Remind students of the definition of a fact: Something known to exist or to have happened. List the facts on a board or paper where the class can read them.
2. Compare and Contrast – Have students work as a group to list ways the books are alike and how they are different.
3. Extended learning – lead students in researching websites that tell about elephant seals and Brazilian Pumas.