If I had to choose a type of book that is my absolute favorite to read with a class, that would be a very difficult decision. I love picture books so much because of the huge variety of topics, themes, and teaching points. However, I see how intrigued and engaged my students are when I read a nonfiction book. There is something special about real photographs and learning about real people, animals, insects, and other things.
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Teaching all about animals can be a fun and engaging way to introduce primary students to the wonders of the natural world. Animals play an essential role in our environments and teaching kids about them not only helps foster appreciation for nature but also gives them an understanding of how their actions can have positive or negative effects on the environment. Your lessons can begin with a corresponding National Geographic for Kids book. Here are ideas to use when reading nonfiction read alouds.
Let Them Observe Animals in Action
One of the best ways to get kids excited about animals and insects is by letting them observe them un action! If you any nearby aquariums, beekeepers, or any other related animal place, this is a great opportunity to let your students observe these animals up close. Nothing beats getting outside and actually seeing different kinds of animals up close!
Field trips are a great way for kindergarteners to get excited about learning since they get out of the classroom environment and explore new places with their peers while learning more information than they would have otherwise known had they stayed inside four walls all day long! The zoo is always a popular destination but you could also go on nature hikes or visit farms that have all sorts of farm critters like chickens, cows, goats, pigs, etc… With field trips you can also incorporate activities such as counting how many birds you see in one hour or look for signs that certain animals leave behind like tracks or burrows.
You can also show videos of these animals. From bees collecting nectar to cows being milked, to sheep getting wool cut off of them – the ideas are endless. This will allow your students to see how important each animal is in their everyday lives. Visual aids such as posters and videos are great tools for introducing new concepts to young learners. Posters can be used to show pictures of different types of animals and explain how they look or behave differently from each other.
Create Nonfiction Animal Crafts
Crafting is an excellent way for young learners to express themselves creatively as well as remember what they’ve learned. Crafts like paper plate pigs or bee masks can be simple yet effective activities that help provide a hands-on experience with learning about these different animals. It’s also great practice for fine motor skills. I do a weekly craft with each of my nonfiction read alouds. This is the same even when I teach with a nonfiction book. Our crafts are all kindergarten friendly so my students can independently work to create whatever we learned about that week. From sharks to walruses to butterflies and beehives, we have done it all. These are all inside The Literacy Diner.
Allow students to respond to nonfiction texts
Every day after reading, I prompt my students with a question or task related to the text. I use these reading questions to help or the ones from the Literacy Diner lesson plans. Some days they may have to recall the life cycle of an animal. On other days, it may be recalling a unique fact about an animal such as a turkey. Depending on my students they may get more of an illustration-based response or some have to answer in sentences. This works best for students that are ready to write. The differentiation is extremely helpful.
These response sheets can also be added to something like Seesaw. I take a screenshot of the PDF, add the image to Seesaw and assign it. Instead of printing off sheets daily, I chose a day or two each week to make these paperless. It gives them a chance to practice logging into a device, working on that device, and maneuvering a platform. This is crucial for kindergarten students. This is also extremely helpful if you have assessments that are online. Students will be more comfortable with working on devices if you add digital to part of your weekly routine.
Create Anchor Charts
Another one of our routines for read alouds is anchor charts. Every week, we put tons of learning on chart paper. This could be a simple KWL or what do we know about this animal, misconceptions, new learning, life cycle, facts, or anything else that you can think of. Sometimes, I allow my students to draw out and make their own anchor charts in their reading notebooks. It helps them remember the information. They heard it. They saw it. They wrote (or drew) about it. As many ways as I can introduce the concepts, I will.
The anchor charts are the most prep I do in a week when it comes to any books I’m reading. Yet it is very low prep. Print and cut out a few rectangles. I go ahead and glue them onto the chart paper the Friday before when I’m cleaning and prepping for the next week. This makes it really easy to have everything ready when Monday comes.
Teaching kindergarteners about animals doesn’t have to be boring if you use creative methods such as interactive activities, reading books together, and even taking field trips! Using National Geographic for Kids books as your base for all of the information is an easy starting point. If done correctly these activities can help foster excitement among your students that will help strengthen their knowledge base and further encourage them to explore beyond what’s taught in school! With these tips in mind, it should be easy for teachers everywhere to make learning about animals fun for kindergarteners!