K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Rethinking Reports
Creative research-based assignments provide alternatives to the President Report, Animal Report, and Famous Person Report that ask students to think about old topics in new ways, work collaboratively, and develop products that support a variety of learning styles.
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By researching animals, students learn about the adaptations and characteristics specific to their animals as well as the role their animals play in their natural environments. Creating a narrative allows students to present the information they learn through their research while learning valuable writing skills, studying traditional forms of literature — and even having fun!


Physical or behavioral adaptations as well as interactions (or the lack thereof!) can be the centerpiece of a story that explains why. Pourquoi tales, such as Kipling’s famous Just So Stories, explain how something came to be. Like a myth, the Pourquoi tale provides a supernatural explanation of the creation or alteration of a natural phenomenon or animal. For more information, see “Teaching with Pourquoi Tales” from Instructor.

Talk with the animals

Personification of animals appeals to students of all ages. From crafty Anansi the Spider’s trickster tales to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or Watership Down, animal protagonists exhibit complex character traits and human behaviors.

Students can share what they learn about their animals by storytelling, drawing comics, or writing a complete story. Based upon their research, what human character trait might best be represented by this animal? Write a story in which this animal is protagonist or antagonist, taking care to keep the environment accurate and the actions in character with the animal’s real-life environment.

Might this animal be portrayed as a superhero, accomplishing Herculean tasks and making its world a better place? Even if the role the animal plays is predator, this animal character can be portrayed as the hero, helping to maintain the balance of its ecosystem. Who would be the villain in this tale? The “bad guy” could be Man, upsetting the balance and contributing to habitat loss — or perhaps an invasive species determined to wheedle its way into the ecosystem and threaten the balance of nature.