Learning Plans & Activities
Repackaged Animal Report: Put Me in the Zoo!

This "repackaged" learning plan reflects an exchange that the author, Paige Jaeger, had with a school librarian to upgrade a research project. Read through their dialogue and then find more details about the learning plan below.

"R" Words

There are many "R" words in the Common Core that we can focus on to keep us on track with Common Core alignment. When I give professional development, we spotlight five words as a great basis for examination:

  • Rigor
  • Relevance
  • Real World
  • Resources
  • Reporting Knowledge

The Need to Repackage

School librarian Lauren Abad emailed me knowing that her old "animal report was not up-to-par" with the expectations of Inquiry Based Learning and higher level thought. Through the process of reviewing the "R" words (above), she realized that her current project needed overhaul.

Old-fashioned research reports too often merely "transfer" the facts to paper, PowerPoint, or another technology tool. It is essential to move beyond transfer of information to transforming the information into new knowledge. Students need to see the information as "evidence" to support a real-world, rigorous claim. They need to be required to draw conclusions and synthesize. When this synthesis of the facts is required, students are pushed higher up on the Bloom's Taxonomy barometer and, as a result, build better brains. This is how to raise rigor. When pronouns are embedded, ownership of the assignment is transferred to the student giving it relevance to their life. This is frequently accomplished when a teacher can embed a pronoun and choice.

To capture the thought process of repackaging research and transformation, here is an example of a recently transformed "animal project." This is in dialog format mirroring exchanged emails.

Hi Paige,

I am trying to "retool" my 3rd Grade animal research project. I am looking for some advice before we move on to the Investigation stage. My students have developed some awesome questions, but now I am struggling as to what type of organizer they should be using to take their notes. I considered index cards but felt that might be too much to keep organized with 3rd grade. What is the most "inquiry-like" way to have them take notes? I have attached an example of what I was thinking of using, but I am not sure if it is too much like the old packet research. I am really trying to dive into inquiry this year, but I feel like I'm still a newbie at it! I appreciate any advice or feedback you can share.



You are correct that your note tool was still a bit like the packet-repackaged. When students group notes themselves, they are actually making sense of the data. When you give them the "packets," they have no opportunity to make sense (synthesize) of the notes for themselves, so they end up with fill-in-the-blanks with someone else's pre-digestion. The difference between the old index card and the new card model is how they are used. They will need to scrutinize their facts and see which would support their answer the best, the least, are unnecessary, etc. All that "info" or evidence" would need to be synthesized rather than merely reported. In order to synthesize, you can have them examine all the "facts" for certain "types" of info:

First group them by similarities—Groupings - Commonalities – habitat, looks, abilities, family, predators, etc.

Then within each group determine

  • Most important → least important
  • Credible?
  • Trivial?
  • Outliers
  • Point of view?
  • Does this support the thesis?
  • Cause → effect
  • Concerns
  • Data

It sounds like you are on the right journey, but just need an Essential Question (EQ) to "focus" their investigation. If you proceed all this with an EQ, students will actually read a little closer because they are looking for evidence to support the question. With an EQ over-arching question, they can take notes either on cards, or a simple form—to build an Evidence-Based Claim. Please note how this embraces the pedagogy verbs of the Common Core: argue, support, make a cclaim, persuade.

  • "What does your animal have to say to the zookeeper?" If you are asking them to talk to you in the first person and speak to you about their family, friends, enemies, etc., then you are also getting toward the top of Bloom's as they are creating a dialog or script.
  • "Tell me about your animal's home, family, and friends. Then consider: What message would your animal have for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)? In the first person voice of the animal, your animal will need to voice its concern." The differentiated learning part of it could go to the next step to "solve a real-world problem" as the Common Core asks them to do. If they are choosing animals from all over, they are likely to come across poaching ills, importing pet worries, and more. There are so many warnings about pet importation of birds, snakes, exotic cats, etc.
  • Ensure that you are focusing on the vocabulary of the discipline (power words) that you expect them to know and use in their knowledge product (i.e., Body, Habitat, Environment, Diet, Life Cycle, Adaptations, Instincts, Enemies, Predators, Threats, Endangered Status). This used to be what "Packets" defined.


Hi Paige,

If you get a chance, could you take a look at the attachment and let me know what you think? I liked your idea of using the "power words" because I think that will make the teachers feel better. The final project would be to use Blabberize to have their animal speak to the zookeeper. In the past they have created PowerPoints as their final product, but I want to move beyond that. Any additional thoughts?

Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy day to help me out!



Very nice—You have gotten the final project way up on Bloom's. You are requiring them to find "evidence" but you are encouraging deeper thought with it!

  • It's time to create the Greenfield Zoo! In the first person voice of your animal, you need to tell the zookeeper what your animal will need to survive in captivity. Tell us about your animal's looks, abilities, habitat, diet, family, and enemies. Ponder how the zoo will help or hinder you and your family. Then consider: What does your animal have to say to the zookeeper?

I liked your three interesting facts and the creation of the sign—physically for display. The three facts could be the concerns about helping or hindering, i.e., poaching protection, etc.

I hope your teachers see the difference!


Paige –

I decided to go ahead with index cards in two of my classes (where I felt the students were most capable). So far so good! I can already see the students approaching this project with greater thought when given the task of giving their animals a voice. One student who is researching Peregrine Falcons said to me, "Mrs. Abad, if I was a peregrine falcon I wouldn't sleep very much."

I thought this was kind of an odd statement so I asked him to explain. He said, "I wouldn't sleep because owls and eagles would be trying to eat me at night." I think this is a great example of how that essential question is getting them to engage in that higher level thinking. Instead of just copying down the animal's enemies, he was actually thinking about the impact it would have on his animal.

This redesign has taken the project to a whole new level this year! I actually used a free app called Chatter Pix to record their messages. Parents and families will be coming in next week to see our zoo. I am so excited!


Put Me in the Zoo

School Librarian: Lauren Abad


It's time to create the Greenfield Zoo! In the first person voice of your animal, you need to tell the zookeeper what your animal will need to survive in captivity. Tell us about your animal's looks, abilities, habitat, diet, family, and enemies. Ponder how the zoo will help or hinder you and your family. Then consider: What does your animal have to say to the zookeeper?

Here's what you need to do:

Collect general information about your animal and take notes on your index cards. You must use at least 5 power words from this list in your final project:

  • Body
  • Habitat
  • Environment
  • Diet
  • Life Cycle
  • Adaptations
  • Instincts
  • Enemies/Predators
  • Threats/Endangered Status

Find at least 3 interesting and unusual facts to be written on a Visitor's sign that will be placed outside your animal's cage in the zoo.

Use the Task Sheet to understand what you are to do and record what you accomplish.

Task Sheet

Task Accomplished: Task:
I have chosen an animal for the zoo.
I can identify keywords for investigating my animal.
I can find credible information on my animal--1 fact per index card.
I can determine what a real animal problem may be. I can identify real-world problems for my animal and explain why we consider these important.
I can brainstorm a message for the zookeeper.
I have embedded at least 5 power words into my claim from this list: Environment, Body, Habitat, Diet, Life Cycle, Adaptations, Instincts, Enemies, Predator, Threats, Endangered Status.
I am ready to discuss my animal and problem with the class and have used evidence to support my claim.
I am ready to argue why this problem needs to be addressed by people in power and am ready to suggest solutions and make a Public Service Announcement--Animoto, Photostory, Smore, etc.

About the Author

Paige Jaeger, MLIS, is a prolific author and prominent educational consultant, delivering professional development at the local, state, and national levels on inquiry-based learning, the CCSS, and the C3 framework. Previously, she was a library administrator serving 84 school libraries in New York. Email: pjaeger@schoollibraryconnection.com. Twitter: @INFOlit4U.

MLA Citation Jaeger, Paige. "Repackaged Animal Report: Put Me in the Zoo!" School Library Monthly, 31, no. 1, September 2014. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/1967193?topicCenterId=2158551.

View all citation styles

Entry ID: 1967193

Back to Top