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Dangerous Animals

Dangerous Animals

Unit Summary

Students read the story of Doctor DeSoto by William Steig and then ponder the Essential Question, How do we know what is real and what is make believe? Throughout the unit, students use the story’s context to learn about fact and fiction, the importance of going to the dentist, and the characteristics of dangerous animals. They brainstorm a list of dangerous animals thinking about, What makes an animal dangerous? Then in small groups students use the Visual Ranking Tool to rank the list of dangerous animals from least to most dangerous and explain their reasoning for their rankings. As a culminating activity, students present their conclusions about whether the DeSotos were justified in refusing to treat "dangerous animals" or animals that eat mice. They provide evidence from the story or other stories to defend their conclusions.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How do we know what is real and what is make believe?
  • Unit Questions
    What makes an animal dangerous?
    If you were Doctor DeSoto, would you treat the fox?
  • Content Questions
    What is fact and what is fiction in the story?
    Why do the DeSotos refuse to treat dangerous animals?
    Why is it important to go to the dentist?

Assessment Plan

Assessment Timeline
This timeline shows in chronological order the different types of formal and informal assessments that occur during the unit. The table below explains how each assessment is used and who uses it for what purpose.

Assessment Timeline

Before project
work begins
Students work on projects
and complete tasks
After project work
is complete

  • Questioning
  • Journal Checklist
  • T-Chart
  • Observation Checklist
  • Scripting
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Voting
  • Drawing Checklist
  • Peer Feedback
  • Anecdotal Notes
  • Conferences
  • Team Assessment
  • Probing Questions
  • Project Checklist
  • Project Scoring Guide
  • Self-


Assessment Process and Purpose of Assessment
Questioning for Prior Knowledge(doc)
The teacher uses questioning to access students’ prior knowledge and to monitor their understanding of concepts. Students are encouraged to ask each other questions for clarification and to challenge each others ideas.
Quickwrite Journal Checklist(doc)
Students use journals to keep written records of different types of discoveries, reflections or misconceptions, to access prior or current knowledge, and to record questions. The teacher uses the journal checklist to assess students’ prior and current knowledge, to address any questions they may have, and to adjust instruction if necessary.
T-Chart The teacher uses the T-chart to assess students’ prior knowledge and to monitor students’ ability to make predictions and use clues to make meaning of a story. Students use T-charts to make connections and to compare and contrast information.
Observation Checklist(doc)
The teacher uses observations as visual or written snapshots of students’ progress. Observations help the teacher check each student’s current understanding and level in speaking, listening, writing, reading, identifying visual clues and applying critical analysis. Observations also allow the teacher to see which students are progressing and which students are in need of teaching and reteaching. Oral observation is a major component of a kinderdergarten assessment because students are just learning to express their thoughts and feelings and hone their listening skills.
Scripting The teacher listens to students and writes exactly what they say on a chart. Scripting allows the teacher to assess students’ speaking, listening, and their ability to describe the concepts being taught. At this stage in development students are learning how to put ideas into complete sentences as well as learning how to organize and express their thoughts and feelings. The teacher can provide immediate feedback and support by referring to the script.
Graphic Organizers(doc)
The teacher uses graphic organizers to assess if students understand the concept and are able to articulate and justify their answers. Students use graphic organizers as visual representations of their thoughts. They use them to organize and interpret data. A specific graphic organizer used in the unit is the COW diagram: Connection…this reminds me of. Observation…I noticed. Wonder…I wonder.
The teacher takes a class vote to monitor student thinking and the way they are processing information. This quick informal assessment method provides a “snap shot” of student understanding of key concepts. The teacher can adjust instruction based on the responses students provide. Students use voting to express their thoughts and feeling on a certain situation and to justify their thinking.
Drawing Checklist(doc)
The teacher uses the drawing checklist to assess the levels of student understanding; this is especially helpful in assessing emerging writers. The checklist helps in planning future lessons and in re-teaching the concepts if necessary.
Peer Feedback(doc)
Students use peer feedback to seek assistance when reviewing each other’s work and then justifying their agreement or disagreement with their peers. They learn to share their reasoning and to think about others’ problem-solving methods. Kindergarten students can do peer feedback orally. The teacher uses peer feedback to check for understanding and to make instructional decisions. Use the peer feedback forms with the fact and fiction activities(doc).
Anecdotal Notes(doc)
The teacher uses this form throughout the unit to capture notes about students as they work. The notes are used to monitor progress, provide feedback, and adjust instruction.
The teacher has private conversations with each student to make sure they are learning what they need to, answer any questions students may have, and to assess individual progress at the time. Conferences provide students with the time to ask questions and clarify information.
Team Assessment(doc)
Students use the team assessment form to assess their collaboration skills during group work. The teacher uses it for final assessment. Use the job assignment(doc) sheet to help guide the group work.
Probing Questions(doc)
The teacher uses these questions to probe for higher-level thinking towards the end of the unit. The teacher assesses the student’s ability to make connections, think critically, and justify answers with evidence from the story.
Project Checklist(doc)
Students use the checklist to help ensure they have met all of the requirements of the project. The teacher uses it during conferences to monitor progress, clarify misunderstandings, and offer feedback.
Project Scoring Guide(doc)
The teacher uses the scoring guide to assess the final presentations.
Students self-assess to reflect on their learning. The teacher uses these self-assessments to help teach and reinforce metacognitive strategies.


Vanessa Jones participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for an assessment plan. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.

Dangerous Animals

At a Glance

Grade Level: K-2

Subjects: Language Arts, Science, Health

Topics: Reading, Writing, Classifying

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Decision-making, Analysis

Key Learnings: Brainstorming, Organizing, Identifying and Analyzing Information, Fact and Fiction, Justifying Answers, Dangerous Animals, Dentistry

Time Needed: 1.5 hours per day for 5 days