The Great Apes

Apes. Orangutan, Chimp, Bonobo, Gorilla – these great apes are fascinating. They are so like us!  At this time in the world we need to protect them to ensure they have places free from being hunted and free to live in peace. What did we learn about these great apes today? What are we still wondering? What do we want to research?


Ape is a visually stunning book! A book to pore over again and again marvelling at the details – both visual and written. Vicky White’s close up portraits and lifelike illustrations fascinated us while Martin Jenkins’ text provided so much new information it was difficult to turn a page without endless questions being tossed around the room.

This was the perfect text to practice questioning with non-fiction text in small groups. First we listened to the story and listed key questions on our individual notepads. Some very fascinating facts that sparked a lot of discussion:

  • Chimpanzees poke a hole into a termite mound with a long blade of grass and then lick off the termites! Some people thought they were using the grass kind of like a straw. Other people wondered if they shared. Many people thought it would be pretty gross to have bugs crawling around in your mouth!
  • Orangutans love to eat the smelly durian fruit!
  • Chimps travel in gangs and hunt down monkeys. “Gangs!?” This seemed very dramatic. “Do they just chase the monkeys or do they actually eat them?” one little horrified voice asked.

We then took our questions to share in a group of four. Each student took turns sharing a question and the group helped decide where to include it on our questioning sheet. Was it a question we found the answer to? Was it a question where we thought we could infer using the schema we already have about animals and the world? Or was it a question where we felt that more research was needed?

Which questions made the lists? A sample below . . .

Questions we had but then found out the answer as we read on:

  • How long do gorillas live? At least 40 or 50 years.
  • Where do the apes sleep? In nests on the ground or in trees
  • What do apes eat? Some eat fruit, some eat termites.
  • Are any of these apes extinct? No!
  • How many species of apes are there? Five species in the world – including us!

Questions that we didn’t find the answers to but we can try to infer:

  • What are the predators of apes? We think humans who hunt them and big cats because they run fast and can catch them.
  • When the chimps fight with other chimps, do they die? We think they might if they get really hurt. Maybe they could get an infection from a bite or bad scratch.
  • What kinds of parasites do they have? Maybe fleas because they have fur.

Questions which need more research:

  • Which of the apes is most aggressive?
  • How are Apes related to people?
  • Can a chimp sense its predators?
  • Can apes swim?
  • What are the differences between males and females?

It was fantastic to see students so engaged with their questions and talking together to make inferences and discuss new learning.

Thank you to BLG who sent in this book to another primary class a few weeks ago. This book will be a very popular book in our library!

7 thoughts on “The Great Apes

  1. Oh my! I am so glad to have been able to share this book with more children! And just look at the amazing work that came out of that one experience with fabulous literature. VERY impressive Ms Gelson!

  2. Pingback: Nonfiction 10 for 10 List for 2013! | There's a Book for That

  3. Pingback: Non fiction Picture Book Wednesday: Gorillas, the Largest of the Apes | There's a Book for That

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