Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Lesson 1 - If We Ran the Zoo: How Do Animals Impact Our Environment?

Subject Area

English Language Arts




A brainstorming activity and class discussion will begin the lesson and provide the background knowledge students have regarding zoos and how the animals in zoos impact our environment. Students will select an animal for further research using an online survey created by the teacher to determine their research group. Afterward, students will view an informational video about the origin and purpose of zoos, and complete an exit slip stating new learning that has been added to their background knowledge.

This lesson was created as part of the ALEX Interdisciplinary Resource Development Summit.

    English Language Arts (2021) Grade(s): 2


    Utilize active listening skills during discussion and conversation in pairs, small groups, or whole-class settings, following agreed-upon rules for participation.

    Unpacked Content



    • Active Listening
    • Discussion
    • Conversation
    • Rules
    • Participation


    Students know:
    • Active listening skills.
    • Agreed-upon rules for participation for discussions and conversations in a variety of settings.


    Students are able to:
    • Demonstrate active listening skills during discussion and conversation in pairs, small groups, or whole-class settings.
    • Converse in pairs, small groups, and large groups.
    • Practice the agreed-upon rules for participation.


    Students understand that:
    • Conversations and discussions follow agreed-upon rules to help us actively listen and gain understanding.
    English Language Arts (2021) Grade(s): 2


    Expand background knowledge and build vocabulary through discussion, reading, and writing.

    Unpacked Content



    • Background knowledge
    • Vocabulary
    • Discussion


    Students know:
    • Relating experiences through discussions, writing, and reading will help build background knowledge and improve vocabulary.


    Students are able to:
    • Connect new concepts to prior experiences to increase background knowledge through discussions, reading, and writing.
    • Construct the meaning of words through discussions, reading, and writing.


    Students understand that:
    • Background knowledge can increase by relating experiences to new ideas, topics, and words while participating in discussions, reading, and writing.
    • Vocabulary will increase by constructing the meaning of words while participating in discussions, reading, and writing.
    English Language Arts (2021) Grade(s): 2


    Use content knowledge built during read-alouds and independent reading of informational and literary texts by participating in content-specific discussions with peers and/or through writing.

    Unpacked Content



    • Content knowledge
    • Read-alouds
    • Independent reading
    • Informational text
    • Literary Text
    • Content-specific discussions
    • Writing


    Students know:
    • Content knowledge is information learned about a specific subject.
    • Content knowledge can be learned by listening to read-alouds or independently reading.
    • Informational text is nonfiction text, and literary text is fictional.


    Students are able to:
    • Build content knowledge from listening to text read aloud and from independently reading.
    • Use content knowledge learned from read-alouds and independent reading in content-specific discussions with peers.
    • Use content knowledge learned from read-alouds and independent reading in writing.


    Students understand that:
    • Content-specific discussions with peers can demonstrate the content knowledge they learned through read-alouds or independent reading.
    • They can produce writings that demonstrate knowledge of content-specific information.
    English Language Arts (2021) Grade(s): 2


    Gather and use research to answer questions to complete a research product.

    Unpacked Content



    • Gather
    • Research
    • Questions


    Students know:
    • Information must be gathered from a variety of sources, and the information can be used to answer questions.


    Students are able to:
    • Gather and use the research to answer questions and create a research product.


    Students understand that:
    • A research product requires gathering information from a variety of sources and using the research to answer questions.
    Science (2015) Grade(s): 2


    Obtain information from literature and other media to illustrate that there are many different kinds of living things and that they exist in different places on land and in water (e.g., woodland, tundra, desert, rainforest, ocean, river).

    Unpacked Content



    • Literature
    • Media
    • Diversity
    • Habitats
    • Woodland
    • Tundra
    • Desert
    • Rainforest
    • Ocean
    • River


    Students know:
    • Plants and animals are diverse within different habitats.


    Students are able to:
    • Obtain information from literature and other media.
    • Illustrate the different kinds of living things and the different habitats in which they can be found.


    Students understand that:
    • There are many different kinds of living things in any area, and they exist in different places on land and in water.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

    Crosscutting Concepts


    Primary Learning Objectives

    • Students will participate in a collaborative group discussion to compare background knowledge about a given topic.
    • Students will use content knowledge built during read-alouds and independent reading of informational text to participate in collaborative discussions and develop a writing product.
    • Students will use content knowledge built during discussions and reading to create a topic of interest for a research project.

    Additional Learning Objective(s)

    • I can write a list of any pieces of information that I can remember from class discussions and digital media.
    • I can design a questionnaire to gather information about zoo animals.
    • I can identify and explain common text features in a nonfiction selection.


    Before Strategy/Engage: 30 minutes

    1. The teacher will introduce the topic of zoos and zoo animals with a read-aloud such as Zoos by Gail Gibbons or The View at the Zoo by Elizabeth Bostrom.
    2. The teacher will distribute notebook paper to the class. Each student will receive a piece of paper with a colored dot in the upper right corner of the paper.
    3. The teacher will instruct students to find their partner for a "Think-Pair-Share" activity by finding a classmate with the same colored dot on their notebook paper. When they find their partner they should turn their chairs facing back to back with a writing surface such as a desk or table beside them. Allow approximately 2 minutes for this, then use the class attention grabber to settle the students before giving the next direction.
    4. For the next 10 minutes, students should use a "graffiti" technique of writing all over their notebook paper in all directions and all types of lettering to record any information they already know about zoos and the classification of animals within zoos. The information can be recorded in words, phrases, or sentences. The teacher should emphasize that their information is more important than correct spelling for this activity.
    5. During this independent brainstorming activity, students should be called to an internet-capable device to complete the online survey to prioritize the animals available for research.
    6. The teacher will use the class attention grabber once again and instruct partners to turn their chairs around in order to sit knee to knee. They will spend the next 5 minutes sharing their brainstorming with each other and adding new thoughts to their papers.
    7. Using the class attention grabber the teacher will indicate that time is up and the students should gather in their usual class meeting spot such as a special carpet or area of the room. Students should bring their brainstorming paper with them so the teacher can collect one piece of information from each student to record on the class chart for background knowledge about zoos.
    8. Students will place their "graffiti" paper in their zoo booklet or folder.

    During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 60 minutes

    1. The teacher will show the two videos listed in the "Teacher Materials" section. The videos explain the origin of zoos and the purpose of today's zoos.
    2. A class discussion of the videos should follow. The teacher should be certain to encourage questions as well as personal connections. In order to maintain the attention of all students, review the class signals used for listening. Holding up the pinky and thumb of one hand and moving it back and forth from the student to the speaker indicates "Me too", meaning the student agrees with the speaker or had the same idea. Snapping together (like an alligator mouth) the index and middle fingers with the thumb indicates "No", meaning the student disagrees with the speaker. Tilting the hand side to side indicates "What?", meaning the student doesn't quite understand what the speaker is saying. The universal "Ok" signal means the student is listening to the speaker and can tell what the speaker said.
    3. Students will have time to explore the provided animal books while the teacher reviews the online survey results in order to create groups of 4-5 students who chose the same animal for further research. Students are expected to look at a book independently or with a partner and scan the text features of the book for interesting information. Students may choose to begin reading a book about their animal as well.
    4. The teacher will place students in their research groups. Each group will be given a piece of chart paper titled "How the ____________ impacts our environment". The group will fill in the name of their research animal and each member will write their current thought in response to the question. Each response should have the student's initials and the date recorded beside it

    After/Explain, Elaborate Check: 10 minutes  

    1. Students will put away their zoo booklets in a spot designated by the teacher, and then return to their seats.
    2. As a summative assessment, students will complete an exit ticket. The teacher will distribute a piece of notebook paper to each student. Students will set up their papers for a 3-2-1 review of the day's lesson. At the top of their paper, they will have their name and list 3 things they learned from the lesson. Next, they will skip a line and write 2 things they thought were interesting or they would like to learn more about. Finally, they skip a line and write 1 question they still have about the lesson's topics.
    3. Provide 10 minutes for students to complete their exit ticket, and have them submit it to the teacher as their ticket out of the classroom or their ticket out of the activity.

    Assessment Strategies

    Formative Assessment

    • Teacher observations during "Think-Pair-Share" and group exploration of books will assess students' success in group participation and on-task expectations.
    •  The brainstorming paper will provide a formative assessment of a student's background knowledge as well as the use of time for a given task.

    Summative Assessment

    • An exit ticket will serve as a summative assessment of concepts learned from the lesson.


    • Students may research the pros and cons of zoos. They can present their opinion and reasoning to the class. A class debate could be held between students with opposing viewpoints.  
    • A visual dictionary of keywords related to the zoo topic can be created. Terms such as carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, habitat, predator, prey, endangered, adaptation, etc. can be provided by the teacher for inclusion in the dictionary.


    • Students who struggle with writing can share their thoughts orally with a peer, an aide (if available), or the teacher. Drawings can also be used in place of words.
    • Students who are disturbed by typical group noise when an activity promotes talking from many people at once (ex. the "pair" portion of the Think-Pair-Share activity) may wear headphones if appropriate, or move to a quieter area to participate. For example, a student who needs a more quiet environment can go with his or her partner to the nearest classroom (with prior explanation and permission of the teacher in that classroom) or to his/her safe place specified in the IEP.
    • Those who are frequently unable to work cooperatively with others may be given the same activity structured for individual work rather than partner or group work. For example, the student can find examples of the text features on their own in a set of books provided for his/her use only.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    91 to 120 Minutes

    Background and Preparation


    Student Background Information:  Prior to teaching this lesson, students need an understanding of the classification of animals and the organization of zoos. If students do not possess this background knowledge, the teacher can provide access to the following video: "Animal Classification" YouTube video (1 minute 43 seconds)


    During the lesson, students will be required to navigate to a website using a technological device. Students will also be required to work in collaborative groups of 4-5 students. They will need to be familiar with the jigsaw strategy of breaking away from their group to create new groups for sharing information.

    Teacher Background Preparation:  

    Prior to beginning the lesson, the teacher should put a colored dot sticker (or use markers to create a colored dot) on the corner of notebook paper, being sure to create enough papers for each student in the class. This strategy will allow students to break into partner groups at the beginning of the lesson.

    The teacher needs to select 4-5 animals for students to research. The teacher should find photos of the animals to show to students and use in creating an online survey for students to prioritize their choices. The survey should allow students to rank their preferences for animals and give reasons for their choices. Google Forms and Survey Monkey are two resources that can be used to create an online survey. If a zoo field trip will be connected to this particular unit, the teacher should select animals that can be viewed at the zoo location chosen for the field trip.

    The teacher should preview the YouTube videos to determine the two best videos to show students. A concept web chart or a chart list should be created for students to share their background knowledge regarding zoos and animal classification. One of the literature books should be located and previewed. The teacher should be familiar with the jigsaw strategy of grouping students, and should also have the class divided into groups of 4-5 students for the lesson.

    Teacher Background Information:  The first zoo is credited to Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt in 3500 B.C. The exotic animals she collected included hippos, elephants, baboons, and wildcats. The animals were gathered for personal amusement, intimidation of enemies, or to provide hunting opportunities in a closed setting. In 1907 a zoo in Germany was the first to use open enclosures surrounded by moats, rather than barred cages, to better replicate animals' natural environments. The Central Park Zoo opened in New York in 1860 as the first public zoo in the United States.  

    The function of zoos started as a means to demonstrate royal power. The purpose shifted from entertainment of the imperial family to scientific research and education, as well as public entertainment. Zoos began to consider conservation as their central purpose in the 1970s. To show their dedication to this issue many zoos stopped having animals perform tricks for visitors. Because of the mass destruction of wildlife habitats, many species of animals are endangered. Zoos hope to stop or slow the decline of these species by breeding animals in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild. They also aim to teach visitors the importance of animal conservation letting visitors witness the animals firsthand.

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    Teacher Materials

    Zoos by Gail Gibbons or The View at the Zoo by Kathleen Bostrom

    Class attention grabber (something the teacher routinely uses to get the attention of the class such as holding up their hand, using a clapping rhythm that students repeat, or a teacher statement/student response. For example- The teacher says "Class, class", and students respond "Yes, yes!")

    Small colored sticker dots or colored markers


    Chart paper

    Animals survey created in Google Forms (link is attached)









     "Why Do We Need the Modern Zoo?" YouTube Video (4 minutes, 10 seconds)


    The Pros & Cons Of Zoos (5 minutes, 3 seconds)


    A variety of books about animals

    Student Materials

    Post-it notes


    Notebook paper

    Zoo booklet or folder (printed cover sheet or plain cover sheet for students to decorate and 10 pieces of notebook paper stapled together) 

    Student Materials (per group)

    Chart paper


    Technology Resources Needed

    Internet-capable technology devices for teachers and students (iPads, Chromebooks, computers, etc.)


    Google Classroom and Gmail accounts (if using Google Forms for the online survey)