Predator Showdown

Yes, of course we know that predators have few reasons to fight each other. They are too busy hunting for prey to ensure their survival. But if they did battle each other . . . Well, wouldn’t we all just love to know what would happen? Lucky for us, Scholastic has published this very cool book about exactly that: Predator Showdown (30 Unbelievably Awesome Predator vs. Predator Face-offs!)

We are currently exploring this book with our Reading Group. It allows us to interact with non-fiction text features such as bar graphs to compare stats about speed, strength, defence, brains, etc or charts that tell us about predator style, range and sample prey. Students are asked to decide between two predators – First Instinct: Who would win? Justify. Some students are very familiar with the predators and find this easy, others are guessing just by looking at the pictures. Either way, it’s okay. There will be an opportunity to read more and make a more informed decision.

Today Catriona was thinking about a battle between a lion and a spotted hyena. Her first instinct? Who would win? She wrote:  “A hyena because male lions are lazy. Female lions do all of the work. And this is a picture of a male lion.”  She shared this thinking with me and then went on to explain, “I happen to know this. I’m taking my background knowledge and putting it into the paper.” (How much do I love when students are able to articulate exactly what they are thinking like this?)

We have been looking at three Predator Showdowns in more detail.

  • The Lion vs. Spotted Hyena
  • The Raccoon vs. North American River Otter
  • Tasmanian Devil vs. Dingo

After students have a chance to read the information page, they answer specific questions. Some questions have answers easily found on the page like: Look at the Stats section. Where is the raccoon superior? Other questions ask the students to include their own thinking. Can you think of a real life situation where these two animals might actually battle each other? Explain why you think this might happen?

We are also asking students to read a section and identify what was important to them about what they just read. For example, What is something you found particularly interesting about otters? Student answers varied. Some were intrigued that otters can stay underwater for up to 8 minutes. Others thought it was interesting that otters could dive up to 60 feet in search of prey.

After reading, students are asked to again think about who would win in a showdown. Many students changed their initial answers and provided lots of evidence from the text to support their thinking.

An inside page from Predator Showdown

Such a great book to engage children in learning and discussions. Answering questions allowed the students to build their confidence about forming an opinion based on evidence. Everyone wants to read this book when I put it out on the new non-fiction shelf! It will be a battle – a Student vs Student Showdown. Who will win and get to read it first?

Rainbow Bird

Sometimes, in a busy week, students will do some writing about a book we’ve read or an activity we’ve done and I don’t get a chance to read it that same day. When I open up the Response and Ideas books a few days later, I sometimes find absolute undiscovered treasures. The same feeling like when I find money in my pocket. It was there all along; I just hadn’t uncovered it. And when I do, wow! This writing has been hidden away in notebooks for a week and now must be shared!

Today, I began reading student responses to Rainbow Bird – An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia by Eric Maddern and vibrantly illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway. Thank you to our Teacher Librarian, Ms. Sheperd-Dynes for recommending this title.

Rainbow Bird is a “pourquoi” tale explaining how humans acquired fire.

Long ago, Crocodile Man had fire and refused to share it with any of the other creatures. Bird Woman was able to trick Crocodile Man and steal fire from him. Proudly, she asserts, “Now I shall give Fire to the people.” She flew around the country putting fire into the heart of every tree. From this day onward, people could make fire using dry sticks and logs from a tree.

Students in our reading group loved this dramatic story and were eager to write and draw about it.

A few samples:

Gary is in Grade 2. His writing shows that he has learned to summarize stories using specific and descriptive language.

“Crocodile Man could blow fire. He said he is the boss of fire. The animals begged for fire but he won’t give them fire. Bird Woman asked Crocodile Man for fire but he still won’t give her fire. Then crocodile man went to sleep. Bird Woman took the fire and shared it. She put fire on herself and became Rainbow Bird. Now Crocodile Man is stuck in the swamp forever.”

Truman is a Grade 1 student who has delighted in learning idioms. These idioms snake their way into his writing and show that he understands their meaning very clearly. I laughed out loud reading this!

“Crocodile Man says he is the boss of fire. It was the time of dreams. Bird Woman is cold at night because she doesn’t have fire. One day, Crocodile Man was dog tired. Then Crocodile Man was green with envy because Bird Woman took his fire stick. Now Bird Woman is happy as a clam. She put fire in the heart of trees. Now Crocodile Man lives in the swamp forever. Bird Woman said, “If you come up here, you will die!”

Catriona is a confident thinker and writer in Grade 1. I love how she shares her predictions and questions in her response. It is evident that Catriona utilizes all of the reading powers when she reads or listens to a story.

“I predicted that Rainbow Bird would steal Crocodile Man’s fire and I was right. But Rainbow Bird wasn’t always Rainbow Bird. She used to be Bird Woman. I am still wondering if that story could be true if they took all the fiction out and replaced it with real life stuff. Then, where would Rainbow Bird put the fire?”

All such different responses to the same story shared together. I am delighted by them all!

A little taste of Africa

Bill, our BLG reader this week, brought us two very different picture books that allowed us to step into the African savannah for a small part of our day. First he read Help Me written and illustrated (beautifully!) by Paul Geraghty.

Before Bill began the story he read the students an important line from the summary on the back of the book: This extraordinary picture book is based on real, documented animal behaviour. Students were advised to listen carefully with this in mind. Help Me takes place in and around a waterhole in Africa. As a herd of elephants lumbers by in the moonlight, an old thirsty tortoise heads down to the waterhole for a drink. She trips on the steep bank and flips onto her back. When she feels the ground shudder with the movements of the elephants, she hides inside her shell. Yikes! The picture shows our tiny tortoise inside her shell and gigantic elephant feet all around her, one poised to come down right on top of her. “Oh no!” everyone shrieks. The text reads Then a great foot rose up and came down on top of her. . .

Nobody breathes. Bill flips the page and reads  . . . and carefully rolled her over onto her feet “Whoa!” “No way.”  Phew. Relief.

So starts a series of surprising animal interactions. A huge crocodile encloses a little hatchling turtle in its jaws. Amidst the gasps and sighs and covered eyes were mutterings from our new experts on crocodiles (“Are those really crocodiles?” “Check the teeth” “Yep”) The crocodile sets the baby free in the water. “What?” “That’s weird.”

An impala is chased by a pack of wild dogs and stumbles exhausted into the waterhole. The dogs started splashing toward him when a huge hippopotamus steps between them and bellows at the dogs. He comes in closer, jaws over the impala. Why? To help it get warm and strong again.

Someone called out “Why do they all help each other?” Everyone is quiet, thinking.

“Symbiosis!” Miami exclaims knowingly. Heads start to nod as we wonder if what we just experienced in this book is connected to the learning we have been doing as we’ve read Steve Jenkins and Robin Page’s book How to Clean A Hippopotamus. These are the moments we live for as teachers – where you can almost see inside heads and watch the thinking happening!

Next Bill read The Sticky Doll Trap by Jessica Souhami. This is a story based on the West African stories of the trickster hare and a sticky doll. The best known version of this tale is the Uncle Remus Story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby told by Joel Chandler Harris. However Harris’ version is based on the stories that came over with the African slaves and it is this African “version” that Souhami honours with her retelling.

This is such a fun story and Souhami’s colours are bright and beautiful. Students were totally engaged from page one. This is the tale of the rascal Hare who is too lazy to help the thirsty animals dig a waterhole to quench their thirst in the midst of a drought. When the animals find the precious water they decide to protect it from thieving animals that did not help dig for it. Every day a different animal will stand guard. Hare hops up with his empty calabash and is told there is no water for him. But utilizing his trickster ways, he manages to fill his calabash and sneak away while the animal, eyes closed, awaits the treat Hare has promised.

What is the Sticky doll trap? The result of the annoyed animals creative thinking – a trap to trick the trickster! The perfect revenge. And how well it works! Yet, in the end that rascal Hare proves himself to be the ultimate trickster! The animals throw him into the spiny thorny bushes as he begs them not to, convinced that they are inflicting the ultimate punishment. Moments later, Hare is taunting them from up on the hill. Off he hopped to continue his tricks!

At the end of the story Ricky clarifies, “Hares can’t be hurt by the thorns?” Bill reiterates that no, the hares are used to the thorns. “Okay,” says Ricky, “So this is kinda nonfiction?”

I love how we are trying to bring meaning to how these stories are created and understanding that facts are interweaved throughout fictional tales. Ah, the wonder of books! Thanks Bill for choosing such great titles this week!

Our student reviewers report:

Jena: I liked the book Help Me because first one of of the animals are in danger by another animal and then a totally different animals comes and saves the animal that was in trouble. It was like they had a symbiotic relationship.

Annie: I like the part in The Sticky Doll Trap where he got stuck when he touched the doll but got away because he was tricky.

Exploring unique animal relationships

We have been reading this fantastic book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page called How to Clean a Hippopotamus and are learning all about symbiotic relationships – today we read about the oxpecker, also known as a tickbird and how it hangs out with some pretty large animals doing a very important job.

We drew some pictures of what we learned today and tried to explain how all the animals in a symbiotic relationship benefit.

Gary explains: The giraffe lets the oxpecker on its back because the oxpecker eats the parasite  and the oxpecker warns the giraffe when the giraffe predator is near! The oxpecker likes to go on to the giraffe’s back because it eats the parasites.

Ricky writes: The oxpecker is a really nice bird.  It eats ticks from the giraffe.  Ticks are small small parasites that use your body as a home.  But ticks don’t go only on giraffes! They go on rhinos, buffalos, zebras, giraffes and deers.  So the oxpecker can have lots of food.  These animals can’t get the ticks out of their body because they’re not like us.  So the oxpecker can help by eating. These are African animals.

Scott explains: The oxpecker helps the giraffe by eating the parasites.  Also they scream and flap their wings to warn the giraffe so the giraffe could run away or kick predators with their legs.  Because the oxpecker loves eating parasites, it spends time on large animals.   Scott also provided some definitions: A parasite lives on a host.  They are annoying.  A tick is a parasite.  A predator means that they hunt animals.  They hunt them so they could eat them.

We can’t wait to read about more unique animal relationships in this book!