Standard Lesson

Animal Study: From Fiction to Facts

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 50-minute sessions
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This lesson describes how to use selected fiction and nonfiction literature and careful questioning techniques to help students identify factual information about animals. Children first identify possible factual information from works of fiction which are read aloud, then they listen to read-alouds of nonfiction texts to identify and confirm factual information. This information is then recorded on charts and graphic organizers. Finally, students use the Internet to gather additional information about the animal and then share their findings with the class. The lesson can be used as presented to find information about ants or can be easily adapted to focus on any animal of interest to students. Resources are included for ants, black bears, fish, frogs and toads, penguins, and polar bears.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

In Literacy at the Crossroads, Regie Routman reminds us of the importance of "a greater use of multiple texts in reading instruction," to include not only narrative texts, but informational texts as well. In "Nonfiction Inquiry: Using Real Reading and Writing to Explore the World," Stephanie Harvey stresses the importance of nonfiction: "Nonfiction enhances our understanding. It allows us to investigate the real world and inspires us to dig deeper to inquire and better understand" (13).

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction can be unclear, especially with the wide use of animal characters in works of fiction. Comparing nonfiction and fiction texts containing similar subject matter can help students develop critical thinking skills as they learn to bring their own prior knowledge as well as additional factual information to works of fiction that they read.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Materials and Technology

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Parent or other adult helpers

  • A set of books including both fiction and nonfiction texts featuring the same animal. The specific animal and books chosen will depend on availability and should reflect student interests. Examples of text sets are available. As presented, the lesson uses the following three books:

    • Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg (fiction)

    • One Hundred Hungry Ants by Bonnie MacKain (fiction)

    • Armies of Ants by Walter Retan (nonfiction)

    • Alternatively, students can create the text sets by doing a book sorting activity and one animal can be chosen for whole class study.




  • Gather the fiction and nonfiction books for the project. See the booklist for suggested titles.

  • Prepare two charts, one headed with "What We Think about Ants" and the other "What We Know about Ants" (or customized for the animal that you've chosen).

  • Test the Animal Inquiry interactive graphic organizer on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

  • Arrange for adult helpers (or older students) to help your students explore the Internet sites from the Internet Quest: Ants! webpage (or one of the other Internet Quests focused on another animal).

Student Objectives

Students will

  • compare and cross-reference information from fiction and nonfiction texts about animals.

  • create "facts charts" in whole group formats.

  • record factual information.

Session One: Fiction Read-Aloud

(May be divided into two sessions, if desired)

  1. Post the "What We Think about Ants" chart where students can see it.

  2. Gather students together for a story. Explain that you are going to read a story about ants that is fiction (define the word if necessary) but that together you are going to see if you can learn anything about ants by reading the story.

  3. Read Two Bad Ants aloud. Take time to discuss the actions of the ants as you read.

  4. When the story is over, ask some key questions about ants that will lead to factual information. Some examples of questions might be:

    • What did these ants want to eat?

    • How hard did the ants have to work to get what they wanted?

    • Can you tell anything about where the ants live from this story?

    • What do ants look like?
  5. As a follow-up question, ask, "From listening to this story, what do you think might be true about ants?"

  6. Chart students' responses. Because the goal is to have students building information from fiction to fact, it's important that all responses be traced back to the story in some way. If a student suggests information that is not related in any way to the events of the story, it can be acknowledged another way, perhaps by jotting it down on a sticky note for later reference or by starting another chart with additional questions.

  7. Tell students they will be adding more information to the chart after listening to another story about ants.

  8. Read One Hundred Hungry Ants aloud. Take time to point out any relevant information about the ants that might be related to factual information.

  9. When the story is finished, ask some key questions to elicit possible factual information. Some examples of questions might include the following:

    • Did this book give you any additional information about ants?

    • What can you tell me about how these ants traveled?

    • What did these ants want to eat?

    • What else do you think might be true about ants that is in this story?
  10. Chart additional information as students make guesses about real behavior of ants. Keep the chart posted for reference in Session Two.

Session Two: Nonfiction Read-Aloud

  1. Post the "What We Know about Ants" chart next to the chart from the previous session.

  2. Gather students together. Review the chart from the previous session.

  3. Explain that you are going to read a nonfiction book about ants (define the word if necessary), and that they will be able to find out whether the things they thought about ants are really true. Let them know that you will make a new list of things that they learn about ants from this book.

  4. Read Armies of Ants aloud. Stop whenever appropriate to point out factual information that matches any guessed information listed on the first chart. Note that information from the first chart with a star so that it will be easy to locate later on.

  5. When you have finished the book, ask students to tell you what they know about ants from this story. Write responses on the chart.

  6. If a student suggests information that is inaccurate, reread short sections of the book for reference, clarification, and to help the student adjust his or her response.

Session Three: Gather Information From the Internet

  1. Direct students toward the Internet Quest: Ants! webpage and read through the directions with students.  Make sure students have notebooks or a word processing file open for notetaking.

  2. Monitor students as they browse the websites, answering any questions. Remind students to save and/or print their answers.

  3. Once students have explored the sites, invite them to share their findings, adding new information to the chart headed "What We Know about Ants."

  4. When Internet exploration is complete, review information on both charts, making comparisons as appropriate. Write "Yes" or "No" next to each guess on the first chart. Add correct information, elicited from student responses, to any items marked with "No."

    Session Four: Record Findings

    1. Start with an opening question: "What are some things that you learned about ants?"

    2. After students have responded, explain to students that they are going to record what they know.

    3. Have students work in groups with parent helpers to record their information on the Animal Study interactive graphic organizer.

    4. Print out the information for students. Alternately, have students record their information on the Animal Study Recording Sheet.

    Session Five: Group Discussion

    1. Gather students together for a discussion.

    2. Have students share what they've learned, not only about animals, but about the information-gathering process itself. Keep this conversation informal, but be sure to address what worked well and what was easiest about the process, and what didn't work or what might have worked better.

    3. Chart any information that might be useful for another time.


    Student Assessment / Reflections

    Teacher observation of the following:

    • Participation in discussion

    • Detailed journal entries

    • Engagement in the research process (searching for and recording facts about the animal)

    • Facts and observations included on the Animal Study Recording Sheets

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