We are researchers. If you assign non-fiction animal reports to your students, this lesson provides you with a unique structure and an interesting lesson about verbs and nouns. Inspired by Molly Grooms' We Are Bears, students will organize their reports based on interesting animal-specific nouns they discover while researching.
The Northern Nevada Writing Project
The National Writing Project
The focus trait in this writing assignment is word choice; students will learn about the power of precise nouns as they make choices for their report, and they will learn how to turn verbs into interesting nouns. The support trait in this assignment is organization; the graphic organizer will help students think about their reports' parts or paragraphs, and students should talk about pacing and sequencing as they prepare to write rough drafts.
Picture Book Overview
Throughout Molly Grooms' story We Are Bears, the author uses precise and interesting nouns to describe bears. The author has chosen these nouns in order to teach younger students all about bears, their habitats and their habits. Children will be captivated by the beautiful illustrations of a mother black bear and her two cubs and the smooth gentle pace of the story. Teachers should stress, as they read We Are Bears, what the author has done particularly well in writing this story: in this case, Molly Grooms has chosen precise and interesting nouns to describe her beloved bears. We discover that bears are climbers, searchers, swimmers, diggers, and sleepers.
Grooms has also jammed her book full of factual information regarding the bears' habitat and habits, food sources and behaviors. (To further stress Grooms' use of precise nouns, you may also want to read We Are Wolves.)
Two or three 45-minute class periods (depending on the amount of time students need to research their animals)
We Are Bears Pre-Writing Sheet.docNoun-Inspired Animal Reports Graphic Organizer.pdf
- Picture book We Are Bears by Molly Groom
- Copies of the We Are Bears Pre-Writing Sheet
- Copies of Noun-Inspired Animal Reports Graphic Organizer
- Books for animal research or arranged time in library or computer lab
Anticipatory Set: Ask students to list interesting animal related words, such as: scratch, burrow, cat-nap, hibernate, climb, run, etc.
- Conduct a mini- lesson on how to turn verbs into nouns. You can use the list generated in the anticipatory set. Help students turn the interesting animal-related words into nouns (burrower, cat-napper, climber, protector, consumer, hibernator).
- Introduce the picture book We Are Bears. Tell students that the author, Molly Grooms, has chosen precise and interesting nouns to describe her beloved bears. While listening to the story, they will learn all about bears, their habitat, and habits.
- Read the book aloud to the class. Ask students to note the precise nouns that the author uses to describe the bears. After reading, ask students to identify one or two things they learned about bears.
- Introduce the writing activity. Tell students that they will be researching an animal (other than a bear) and using interesting and precise nouns that could be used to describe their animal. They will organize a report that uses these precise nouns as introductions or conclusions to each of their report's parts.
- Distribute the We Are Bears Pre-Writing Sheet and the Noun-Inspired Animal Reports Graphic Organizer.
- First, students will need to choose an animal that interests them enough to do some research on. If your class is studying a certain habitat, then you can assign them animals, or you can let students freely choose using the Pre-Writing Sheet.
- Review the example found on the second page of the graphic organizer.
- Allow time for students to research their animals. This could be done in class with books, or at a computer lab. As students research, they are to gather a certain assigned number of interesting and precise nouns about their animals. These nouns need to be animal-specific (as opposed to habitat-specific). For very young students, you can assign students to discover two or three nouns. Older student can probably handle five or six, like Grooms' book on bears' features. Some nouns might jump out from the research ( carnivore , for example), but others may have to be created from verbs the students discover about their animals. When the nouns are created from verbs, they are more likely to be animal-specific.
- Remind students once more that an animal's unique verbs can be turned into nouns (usually with just an - er suffix), and then let them gather their nouns. It might be a good idea to require them to gather extra nouns so that they can choose their best nouns to put on the graphic organizer. You might let them gather their nouns just on a blank piece of paper, then let them select their best nouns to put on the graphic organizer.
- The graphic organizer allows for students to think about three nouns. If you are requiring students to use more nouns than that, just give them multiple copies of this worksheet. As students fill out their researched facts in the box provided, encourage them to put facts into their own words. Be sure to tell your students up front how many columns they will need to fill out in order to have "enough" research for their reports. Again, younger students might be fine with just two columns filled out, while older students might need two (or more) copies of the graphic organizer.
- With the organizer's columns filled out, students are ready to begin planning their reports' paragraphs or parts. Each paragraph or part needs to be about one of their columns of facts. Each paragraph or part should either begin or end with "We are [researched noun]" or "[Animal Name] are [researched noun.]" So if it was a report on bears, each section of the report will either begin or end with "We are gainers" or "Black bears are gainers."
- Once students have each of their report's parts rough-drafted, two great conversations about the trait of organization can happen. First, talk about pacing; ask students to double-check to be sure that each part of their rough drafts has an equal amount of facts and a fairly equal amount of words. A student with one fact in one part and nine facts in another part will not have a report that has been well-paced. Second, require students to think about sequencing by asking them to spread out the parts of their reports and talking about which order it would make the most sense to present their reports' parts.
Homework: Have students assemble their reports' parts into one rough draft.
Extension of Lesson
To promote response and revision to rough draft writing, attach Revision & Response Post-Its to your students' drafts. Make sure the students rank their use of the trait-specific skills on the Post-Its, which means they'll only have one "1" and one "5." Have them commit to ideas for revision based on their Post-It rankings. For more ideas on WritingFix's Revision & Response Post-Its, click here.
After students apply their revision ideas to their drafts and re-write neatly, require them to find an editor. If you've established a "Community of Editors" among your students, have each student exchange his/her paper with multiple peers. With yellow high-lighters in hand, each peer reads for and highlights suspected errors for just one item from the Editing Post Its.
When they are finished revising and have second drafts, invite your students to come back to this piece once more during an upcoming writer's workshop block. Their stories might become a longer story, a more detailed piece, or the beginning of a series of pieces about the story they started here. Students will probably enjoy creating an illustration for this story as they get ready to publish it for their portfolios.
The Northern Nevada Writing Project: ScienceFix