Crocodile Safari

We have begun to explore the fact – question – inference continuum using non-fiction books and information storybooks. This process is inspired by Adrienne Gear’s Non-Fiction Reading Power book. When we learn a new fact, what question does it prompt and using our background knowledge (schema), what can we infer? We practiced this today using Jim Arnosky’s Crocodile Safari. This is a detailed account of American crocodiles. Crocodiles were photographed and sketched while Jim Arnosky and his wife Deanna were on their crocodile safari through the Florida Everglades. This book is illustrated with the detailed paintings inspired by the images collected on safari. Stunning!

Today we read about a third of the book learning about the crocodile population in the U.S.A., the differences between crocodiles and alligators (finally, a book that makes this totally clear through text and drawings!), crocodile habits and hunting strategies (a page called Ambushed from Below was quite thrilling!).

Fact/Question/Infer: (some examples)

1. We read that in the late twentieth century there were just 300 crocodiles left in the U.S.A. Now there are approximately 2,000. This led us to question: How were they counted? As we tried to answer this question, more questions arose. What if the same crocodile was counted more than once? Maybe they tagged them. But if they tagged them, how would they get close enough to tag them? We were all fairly worried about those sharp teeth! Perhaps they shot tranquilizer darts at them to put them out long enough to attach a tag. Obviously, some of our background knowledge was helping us think this through. We read on and found out that they were counted when someone flew over their habitat in a helicopter.

2. One page in the book is titled One Famous Croc and it talks about a crocodile famous for migrating hundreds of miles from the Everglades to Sanibel Island. When it was captured and returned to the Everglades, it migrated for a second time to Sanibel Island, where it now lives. Our question was an obvious one: What made it return to Sanibel Island? As we talked this question through, students shared different ideas based on their thinking and background knowledge. Someone knew that birds migrate to warmer places. Why else do birds migrate? Someone shared it was so they could find food more easily. Did this crocodile migrate because of food? Someone pointed out that there was a picture of this crocodile hunting a bird so this seemed logical. Our consensus was that the crocodile migrated to Sanibel Island because it was a great source of water birds (great hunting grounds). A very sensible inference we thought and since we can’t ask this particular crocodile, it’s the answer we are going with! ūüôā

Students shared new learning, unanswered questions and some of their own inferences in their writing.

Jenny: I learned today that the difference of a crocodile and an alligator is that the crocodile has teeth sticking out of its mouth when it’s closed and an alligator doesn’t. A crocodile’s mouth is longer and an alligator’s mouth is wider.

Eddy: At night crocodiles hunt. In the day, they like to suntan. They mostly eat fish but they also eat birds and snakes.

Lisa: I have a question about how they communicate with other crocodiles. Maybe they move their tail back and forth in the water.

Jena: Crocodiles eat anything they find. They ambush their prey. They go underwater at night (mostly) to hunt. They rise up to the prey and pull it down and eat it. For example, if you saw a duck and then it just disappears. That’s what just happened to it!

Gary: There are questions I still have. How heavy are crocodiles? How big are alligators? Are alligators stronger than crocodiles?

Salmon Creek

Salmon Creek, written by Annette LeBox and illustrated by Karen Reczuch mesmerized us this week.

Nothing is quite as amazing as the life cycle of the Pacific salmon. I still remember the sounds of rushing water, the visuals of a stream bed of red and the smell of cool, damp earth as I stood watching the salmon spawn in my own childhood. We aren’t studying salmon right now but we have been reading from a large variety of information picture books with themes of Canadian animals and endangered species to practice questioning and inferring and this book seemed an ideal pick. I couldn’t have predicted its powerful effect in the classroom. The poetic text and gorgeous illustrations lured us quick and fast into the amazing journey of Sumi from the beginning stirrings in her egg to her life as a fry, then a smolt and eventually to her own return journey to the spawning grounds of her birth creek as an adult female.

We learned about how Sumi laid thousands of eggs and the male salmon fertilized them. “Sumi flicked her tail, and the gravel drifted into the nest, covering her eggs like secrets.”

Sumi circled the creek, guarding her eggs. She bared her curved teeth, slapped her tail, scared off pairs of spawners from her redd.”

And later, as she drifted gently downstream, Sumi sang to her eggs . . .

Home is the scent of cedar and creek. Home is the journey’s end.

We manage the sadness when Sumi dies as LeBox does such a wonderful job of explaining the full circle of life and with our new understanding of the amazing salmon life cycle, we feel peaceful and wise. This book includes a glossary in the back to help with new vocabulary, more information about threats to Pacific salmon and suggestions for further reading and viewing.

Some of our unanswered questions from our very long lists!

  • How fast does a salmon travel? Especially when they are travelling against the current?
  • Are salmon fry see through?
  • Do salmon ever interact with their siblings?
  • How many eggs survive when the mother lays them?
  • If salmon are now endangered, how many are left?
  • What is in the yolk sac?
  • How could they survive if the water freezes?
  • Do they eat different things at different ages?
  • When salmon are injured in the rapids, how do they heal?

This book is one of my new favourites in the information story book category.

The Great Apes

Apes. Orangutan, Chimp, Bonobo, Gorilla Рthese 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!

The Last Polar Bear

the last polar bear

Tigluk looks out his window and sees a polar bear in the distance. It is Nanuk. She looks straight at him and seems to speak to him “Follow me.” Tigluk and¬†his grandmother paddle out in the ocean searching the ice floes for the bear. They discover, not Nanuk but her cub and Tigluk names him Pilluk (meaning to suvive). “With the melting of the ice, he is the last polar bear,” says Tigluk and cradles the bear in his arms.

This sad story by Jean Craighead George forces us to confront the serious issue of how climate change is affecting the polar bear habitat.

We used this powerful book to practice asking questions as we read and then looked at our questions critically – Did we find an answer in the text? By inferring, can we answer the question? Do we need to do more research? After discussing things, are we left with more questions?

Some of the questions we examined further:

How many bears are in the Arctic? Someone answered this quickly: “It was in the story: Just one left.” Then we talked further and realized we would have to do more research to find out the actual population. Questions were asked about whether polar bears are considered endangered?

If nobody found the polar bear, would he survive? Most people thought that we needed to do more research to answer questions like: How long do they nurse? What exactly do they need to survive? before we could infer because we don’t have enough background knowledge.

Why would the cub be all alone? To answer this question, we needed to use our own thinking and our background knowledge. Some students reminded us about what we had learned about polar bears in the book Winston of Churchill which was that polar bears could drown if the ice floes were too far apart. So we decided that maybe the mother had drowned while hunting for food because the ice was melting and she had too far to swim back to the ice floe where her cub was waiting.

Why did Nanuk choose a boy to look after her cub? For this question, we decided that we should infer. A suggestion was made that maybe Nanuk chose Tigluk because he was young and would have many years to care for the bear and maybe even help change things. Everyone thought that this made a lot of sense

Our questions and thoughts after discussing the book:

If there is only one bear, how will it mate? How will any more polar bears be born?

Is the world really getting too hot?

If the polar bear became used to humans and human food, could it ever go into the wild again?

How will the people in the village survive without polar bears? If other animals in the Arctic are also becoming endangered won’t this be hard on the people in the North who hunt them and use their furs and skins?

So much to wonder and think about from one very special book.

What did we learn about baby sea otters?

Our information story book this week was Baby Sea Otter by Betty Tatham.  We continued to practice asking questions as we worked our way through the story.  What was exciting was how students are beginning to connect their learning from different books to their wondering about new topics. From the questions below you can tell we have been learning about symbiotic relationships, the characteristics of mammals, etc


Betty Tatham’s story delighted and thrilled the students as they learned about how mother otters serve meals on their belly and how they have to protect their pups from diving eagles.

Some interesting questions as we read:

*Do they have any parasites? (Hajhare)

*Do they have gills to breathe underwater? (Kevin)

*Do they migrate? (Ricky)

*What happens if there are no more sea urchins where they live? (Lisa)

*Do otters have symbiotic relationships with other animals? (Jena)

*How do they clean themselves? (Annie)

*How do you know if they are male or female? (Jenny)

What did we learn?

Annie tells us: Sea otters dive underwater to protect their babies from eagles

Jena writes: The Mom ties the pup to a kelp bed when she goes to get food. She uses her chest as a table to feed the baby.

Kevin explains about what they eat: I discovered that they eat crabs, clams, sea urchins and they use stones to crack open the shells.

Ricky tells us: Sea otters are waterproof. They stay waterproof by blowing their fur with warm air.

Old Mother Bear inspires lots of questions

Division 5 has been practicing asking questions as we listen to a story.  Armed with our pencils and mini notebooks, we gather at the carpet to listen to great information story books like Old Mother Bear by Victoria Miles and illustrated by Molly Bang.

So far we have read about how the mother Grizzly tunnelled a den out of the mountainside to sleep through the winter and birth her cubs.  The cubs are born and nurse and snuggle with their mother until they all emerge from the den in the spring and begin searching for food.

A sample of the great questions we had (and who asked them) as we read the first half of the book:

How do bears dig the den? (Manny)

Does it hurt when the mother feeds? (Miami)

How do the mother bears make milk? (Hajhare)

How do they feed from their mother if they can’t see? (Josiah)

How many babies do they have at one time? (Lisa)

Where is the Dad? (Hailey)

When do they leave their Mom? (Jeremiah)

How do the cubs know not to hurt each other when they play fight? (Edwin)

How long can a bear survive without food? (Ricky)

We look forward to finishing the story this week!

Picture Books we read this week

While searching through the library for interesting picture books, I came across¬†Oma’s Quilt. I pulled it off the shelf because it is illustrated by Stephane Jorisch (who also illustrated¬†Suki’s Kimono – one of my favourite books). Then I noticed it was written by Canadian author, Paulette Bourgeois (author of the Franklin books and Big Sarah’s Little Boots) This book was bound to be a good one! ¬†I tried it out with our reading group. ¬†The story: ¬†Emily’s Oma (grandmother) has to move to a retirement home and she is very reluctant to do so. ¬†What about her precious things? Her neighbours? Cooking apple strudel? Even the bowling alley at the home doesn’t change her mind (smelly shoes!) While Emily and her mother are sorting through Oma’s possessions, Emily has a wonderful idea. Why not make a memory quilt for Oma!? Some students made text to text connections to Eve Bunting‘s The Memory String. ¬†This book received a big round of applause. ¬†Look for it in the library!

We have been reading a lot of Howard B Wigglebottom books to help us learn about ourselves and our relationships. Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns about Bullies teaches us about the importance of asking for help when bullying doesn’t stop. Howard¬†has a little voice inside his head that tells him Be brave, Be bold, A teacher must be told. But it isn’t always easy to trust our intuition and Howard suffers many unpleasant interactions with the Snorton twins before he finally decides to report their behaviour. Finally, he can sleep easily, knowing that he was brave, he was bold when his teacher was finally told. “I am okay. I am safe.” he assures himself at the end. ¬†Such an important book!

This book tells us about Winston, the bear from Churchill, Manitoba who decides to mobolize a group of polar bears to teach the tourists who come to see the polar bears about the effects of global warming on the melting ice in the Arctic. ¬†“Ice is nice!” the bears chant during their protest march. We learn that we must all do our part to protect the Earth. “Recycle!” ¬†“Walk, Bike, Ride!” “Solar Power!” ¬†“Turn down the furnace!” Winston of Churchill by Jean Davies Okimoto was the winner of the Green Earth Book Award. This book is also in Seymour’s library.

Happy Reading!