Thursday, March 7, 2013

iPad Animal Inquiry Project

This year the educators at my school are focusing on impacting our students' writing through the use of non-fiction writing strategies and embedding conversations on metacognition to influence our students self efficacy as learners at my school.

Inquiry based learning is a perfect way to practice non fiction strategies and encourage metacognitive conversations.
My class is not a stranger to inquiry based learning.  We have done many inquiry based projects over the past year and a half.  This time was different though because in the past we have always done the inquiry as a class. This time I told my students that they were all going to produce a non fiction book on an animal of their choice.

Now, I'm not crazy! I didn't just let my 6 and 7 year old students loose and tell them to do whatever they wanted.  The students and I had just completed writing a non fiction book on walruses together.  We went through the Inquiry Stages together so when it was their time to do it independently they would know what I expected.  We also co-constructed our Learning Goal and Success Criteria for the project.

Step 1 - The Wondering Stage

I took the kids into our school library to teach them how to find and locate all the books on non fiction animals.  The only stipulation was that our library had to have a book on the animal they chose.  When the students decided on an animal the sticky notes came out and the wondering began!

Step 2 - The Planning Stage

Based on their questions from the "Wondering" stage, students began to map out ideas.  My students find the " Are, Can, Have" graphic organizer to be one of their favourites to use for mapping out ideas for non fiction writing.  Here is a picture of a generic one I created:

Many of my students were working on the same animal, so they formed groups and each filled out a graphic organizer, then they compiled the most interesting facts and created a popplet together.  Here is one on seals:

Step 3 - The Gathering Stage

Students continued to gather information about their chosen animal and began to write out the information they wanted in their non fiction books.

Step 4 -  The Creating Stage

This is where students created something meaningful to them using the facts and information they learned about their animal.  As a class we chose to use the Book Creator App to create their non fiction books.
Students used many different apps to draw the pictures for their books.  Students used Draw and Tell, Doodle Buddy, and the iluv drawing animals app.  Students also used Skitch to label a picture of their animal because one of the expectations for the book was that they needed to include a diagram.  Here are a few pictures from the various apps:
This picture was created on Draw and Tell then uploaded to the Book Creator app.

This picture was created on the iluv drawing app.
This photograph was labelled using the app Skitch.

Step 5 - The Sharing Stage

As I write this post, my class is still putting the finishing details on their books, so we have not reached this stage yet.  My plan is to store all the books in iBooks and to sync the iPads so all of the iPads have every book on it.  This way, students will be able to read each other's books no matter which iPad they are using.  I am also planning a special "Community Read" so my students can share their books with their families.  I may even ask a few of my teacher friends if we can Skype with them so my students can read their books to a different audience.

Update: April 7th, 2013

My students finished their books, and even went one step farther.... with the brilliant idea from my good friend Karen Lirenman, the children took screenshots of their completed books, imported them into iMovie and did a voice over using iMovie. They turned out fantastic and they posted them on their blogs.  Here are a couple for you to enjoy:


  1. Wow...I love it! Can't wait to try this with our students. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I have always done an animal research project with my grade 2s. Last year was the first year we used the iPads and Book Creator to make our books. I am planning on doing the same thing this year with a few modifications from reading your post!
    Sarah Betts
    Chantrell Creek, Surrey, BC

  3. Thanks for sharing this inquiry/writing unit of study! I plan to implement this mini inquiry project this summer in my summer reading camp!