Kids love learning about animals.
Whenever I hit a spot of low energy in planning curriculum, I just throw the spotlight on some animal the children have shown an interest in. Of course, I try to find a good story to accompany our scientific exploration. This year, my students started talking about owls when we read The Mitten story by Jan Brett. (They like foxes and wolves too, but I’m going to save those for a while.) I brought in my ZooBooks edition about owls and we spent some time talking about the characteristics of birds in general and owls specifically. The kids love looking at pictures of owl skeletons and imagining them hunting small animals at night. I know they will get to dissect owl pellets in first grade.
I also read the story Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, one of my favorites.
The year that Owl Babies was published, my son was in first grade and his elementary school was participating in a survey to evaluate books that had been nominated for some award. Owl Babies was one of the books. I was volunteering in his classroom when his first grade teacher introduced the book. She read the book in her froggy voice, cracking every time she read owl baby Bill’s line, “I want my mommy!” I fell in love with the book.
It is a book with illustrations that match the text and are accessible to children regardless of language. Even my students with the least amount of English understand when I sob, “I want my mommy!” On one page, Waddell has illustrated those precious owls, wide-eyed in the night, and very tiny in a vast forest. When they close their eyes and wish for their mother, I take my hand and swoop and glide in front of the children to show them how she came, silently gliding through the trees. When I ask the children about their favorite part, they almost always mention the page that shows the owls dancing with delight in front of their mother upon her return.
Books like this motivate children to draw pictures. They drew some great pictures of owls.