One HUGE 2nd grade standard is researching and learning about animals and their adaptations. Students LOVE this unit, but teachers can be intimidated by the overwhelming pressure involved in guiding student research at such a young age. I love doing this 2nd grade animal research project with my students every March! This project has been reworked for a digital platform as well.
I love to start by playing a Brain Pop Jr, Flocabulary or YouTube video for my kids on all of the different habitats that exist. Typically, we have previously researched habitats during our social studies unit before starting this writing project, so they already have the background knowledge.
Then, I let students pick the habitat they are most interested in studying. From there, they pick 3-4 animals that live in the habitat that they would like to research more about. We use National Geographic Kids, Epic! Books and library books [all free resources] to learn about our animals.
The next day, I model my own notes for students. Then, I give students lots of time to research their animals and take notes. It is really important that you are walking around the room and guiding students during this time.
If you have a struggling group of writers, I like to work with them at the back table during this time. We all research the same animals and take notes together. This helps them build confidence and feel sure about their writing in future days.
I break drafting days up into 2 days so that students can really focus on the craft of what they are writing. I also always model before releasing students to write on their own.
Depending on what we have covered so far in the year, I encourage students to be sure to add:
- embedded definitions
- transition words
- adjectives, adverbs and prepositions where appropriate
- 3-4 details per fact
On the last day for each animal (typically Friday), I give students time to publish. While they publish, I model then ask them to add a map and diagram to their writing. I also show them how to grade themselves on the rubric, so they can double check that they are not missing anything.
After they finish, I give them free time to explore other animals in their habitat while I grade their writing. I find grading at the end of each animal rather than at the end of the entire project saves me a TON of time.
We repeat steps 2-4 for either 3 or 4 animals. Some students may work faster, while some may take a bit more time on each step. I try to adjust the project to be appropriate for the majority of the class.
When the project is done, I try to find a special way for us to share our work. This can include sharing to younger buddies, parents or doing an author’s chair.
Since they work so hard on this project, we make a BIG DEAL out of the finished project, and I typically send it home with parents during conferences. It makes a great writing portfolio and talking piece with parents.
Teaching digitally or wanting to add a digital component to your writing block? This project can also be completed in a digital format. Students will go through the same process, completing all of their work on Google Slides rather than writing using paper and pencil.
Grab the resources pictured above here:
Do you teach about a 2nd grade animal research project each year? Drop your ideas in the comments below!
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