Learning Plans & Activities
And the Ground Began to Shake: A New Twist to Animal Research

Classroom teachers love animal research—and for good reason. There are always plenty of resources, the topic fits well into a variety of curriculum areas, and, best of all, students get it. They like animals, they understand the purpose of their research, and it's all pretty well laid out. This lesson continues to use animals and their habitats for the premise of research, but requires students to ask more questions, analyze information, and creatively hypothesize in an imaginative writing activity.

Grade Levels: 3-6

Information Literacy/Inquiry Objectives:

Connecting to AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner:

  • Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge (1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, 1.1.6, 1.1.7, 1.1.8, 1.1.9, 1.1.4, 1.2.1, 1.27, 1.4.3).
  • Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge (2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 2.1.4, 2.1.5, 2.1.6, 2.4.1, 2.2.2).
  • Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society (3.1.1, 3.1.3).

Curriculum (subject area) Objectives:

Students will use various reference and nonfiction sources in print and electronic media to locate and retrieve information, take notes, and synthesize their research into a detailed and creative report.

Students will learn about the habitats of animals and how animals adapt.

Students will write a paragraph that imcorporates what they have learned about a specific animal and its habitat.


A variety of animal and habitat reference materials, including nonfiction print, online and print encyclopedias, Web sites, videos, etc.

Instructional Roles:

The classroom teacher and school librarian work collaboratively to assist students in finding important facts about an animal and its habitat. The school librarian demonstrates the necessary research skills and gives examples of the final project. The classroom teacher focuses on the skills associated with reading for detail and expressing ideas clearly in writing.

Procedures for Completion:

Day 1:

Students choose their topic and are guided through the process of identifying research questions. Most likely they will generate questions about general appearance, habitat, food, defenses, and babies. For the purpose of this project, special focus should be placed on habitat.

Students begin exploring their resources and taking notes. Emphasize the importance of details, which will greatly enhance the overall quality of their final project. Students should be expected to use at least three different resources.

Days 2 and 3:

Continue note taking until all guiding questions have been thoroughly researched. Once finished, students can print a picture of their animal and decide on a name to be used for their animal in their writing. Students will then write a detailed description of their animal from a narrator's point of view (see Writing Example).

Days 4 and 5:

Upon completing the first part of their writing, students will be given the following story transition:

Suddenly, the ground began to shake!

The wind began to blow, and the whole world seemed to twist and spin! When everything became still, (Name of your animal) found himself in a place he didn't recognize.

At this point, assign students a new habitat, one completely different from the original. Once they have researched all aspects of the new habitat, including physical description, climate, and wildlife, students continue the story, this time comparing and contrasting the two habitats and presenting how their animal reacts and adapts to this new environment. To help students, brainstorm story starters as a class, such as:

When he opened his eyes, he couldn't believe what he saw!

Unlike his home, this new place…

When he began to hunt for his dinner, he found…

Make sure to discuss possible endings and story conclusions.


Students will demonstrate proficiency by independently locating relevant information using various resources, recording detailed notes in a succinct and organized manner, and integrating their information into an organized, detailed piece of writing.


The same premise can be applied to many different research opportunities, for example:

  • A figure in history is transported to another place in time.
  • A child from one place finds himself in a different country.
  • A soldier in one army or war finds himself in another.

Chris Haeffner

MLA Citation Haeffner, Chris. "And the Ground Began to Shake: A New Twist to Animal Research." School Library Monthly, 26, no. 4, December 2009. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2017438?topicCenterId=2158551.

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Entry ID: 2017438

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