​Who Would Win? Your Students, of Course!

I've been dying to blog about this post for a long time! This collaboration happened years ago and now it's finally documented. This is probably one of my favorite collaboration and research projects ever...and it's all thanks to Jerry Pallotta and his awesome Who Would Win series.

Who Would Win

I learned about Jerry Pallotta and his Who Would Win books when he visited at a TASL conference in Murfreesboro, TN. The books are also very easy to find because they are available at Scholastic Book Fairs and through the Scholastic Reading Club. There are always new books being published in the series to keep your kids reading. Here are the two newest published in 2015 and 2016:

Who Would Win...

Each of the books is only $3 through Scholastic so they are very affordable. Jerry takes two animals and sets up a potential fight if the two animals were to meet. He always says, "What would happen if a _______ met a _______? Who do you think would win?"
 
Each book is full of amazing nonfiction features that keep the readers excited about learning new facts about each of the animals. A checklist in the back of the book allows the reader to compare each animal's strengths one by one. This checklist also helps the reader decide who might win. We have fun bringing each book home and voting as a family about which animal will win before we read the book together. We always look at the checklist in the back of the book before we read.
 
I knew that this would be a great way to encourage our kids to research. It's also an exciting collaboration with the classroom teacher as it covers extended research, nonfiction text features and animal adaptations.
 
Here are a few things you can do to roll out this project with your kids. You can decide how many of the lessons you'd like to teach in the library and how many can be taught in the classroom. Once your teachers get used to the lesson, they may feel more comfortable taking on more of the research in their classrooms after you kick everything off and get the kids excited about this writing project in the library.
 
1. Build background knowledge: Read about Burmese pythons and American alligators. Storyworks by Scholastic has an amazing article called, "Monsters of the Everglades," that will get your kids interested. The full article is archived and available including color photos. This article talks about invasive species, why the pythons don't belong in the Everglades and how they got there. The problem is that when the two meet, the python can actually kill and swallow an American alligator whole, disrupting the ecosystem.

2. After reading the article by Storyworks, show the kids this video published by Nature (PBS):

Video

3. Talk to the kids about how the fight in the video could end either way. Either the python or the alligator could win, depending on specific circumstances and adaptations each animal has for survival. This video will be a flawless transition into presenting your Who Would Win books. Show the kids this book:

Who Would Win...

4. Reading the book needs to be a separate lesson. You've read the article, shown the video and the kids can't wait to learn more! Originally, I spent another 45 minute lesson with the kids just reading a Who Would Win book and creating an anchor chart with the kids. On our anchor chart we noticed three things: specifics about the author's craft, nonfiction text features he uses and layout of the book. You will keep this anchor chart for the kids to refer back to when they are researching and beginning to publish their own Who Would Win books.

NOTE: If you teach this lesson in the library, you can send your teacher back to class with more books in the series. They can continue to share books with their kids in class. The more the kids are familiar with the series, the better their published books will turn out.
 
5. Research: Getting started. If you live in the state of TN, you are in luck for the research portion of this project. TEL (The Tennessee Electronic Library) has so many great databases and World Book for your students to use for free! World Book Kids has a World of Animals section which is perfectly tailored to pairing with this lesson:

The Tennessee Electronic Library

Show your kids how to navigate to the world of animals and let them play around with it. The kids get to choose any two animals and World Book will generate a Venn diagram for them to use to compare specific information and adaptations between each of the two animals. Here is what a Venn diagram looks like when an alligator is compared to the python:

The Tennessee Electronic Library

Students easily use this Venn to choose five comparisons they'd like to make between their two animals. Here is an example of a completed student Venn comparing the jackal and a dingo:

Jackal vs Dingo

I have the students write what they are comparing between the two animals in the middle space of the Venn. Then, they write out the facts for each of the animals on the corresponding side of the Venn. We talk about how you have to compare "apples to apples" on every two facing pages in your published text. That makes it easier for your reader to compare each adaptation or trait of the animal one at a time. Each of these will also be included in the back of the book where the student publishes a checklist for the reader to use as they read. Here is what a checklist looks like:

Jackal vs Dingo

After your students have the five comparisons filled out on their Venn diagram, they work through the rest of the following checklist (this takes a week or two):

Checklist

I staple this checklist to the front of a file folder and highlight each step as the student completes the tasks in order. The students can bring their folders to the library to research or they can use them in class. The checklist lets you see easily where each student is in their research process. All of the research and student work stays in the manila folder until the finished book is published. The folder is used for grading all finished work.
 
We've used Pebble Go with our kids for the diagram which is a paid subscription database. If you don't have the database, your kids can draw a picture of their animal and label its specific adaptations and body parts.
 
All of our area maps for each animal were also found using World Book through TEL for free.
 
When your students are ready to create a book dummy, you just have them folder blank copy paper in half and staple it. Be specific about having each animal adaptation or trait face to face on every two pages. Layout is very important at this point.
 
Once the book dummy is complete and edited, your kids are ready to publish!
 
Be sure to brag about your kids every step of the way! Pair up students on a regular basis and let them be revision partners. What do they love about their partner's work? If they could make one wish about their partner's work, what would it be?
 
TIP: I've had teachers who published a class Who Would Win book first before having the students research and write their own. This works well with younger students or students who need more guidance before setting them loose on this research and writing project.
 
Here is a sampling of published student work:

Student work
Student work
Student work

I've taught this research/writing project with third and fourth graders. It can be varied by subject and intensity of research to work with any grade level. Here are a few more books that are similar to the Who Would Win series that may provide more inspiration. This series is published by Capstone and includes four books about insects. Another title for upper grades faces off presidents with each Super Bowl.

Who Would Win...

This book could also be used with upper grades. It compares historical figures and gives specific situations in which you have to decide who would prevail. The situations change the outcomes and each historical person and situation FLIPS, so the book has tons of outcomes! This would be an awesome class book!

Who Wins?

 
You can also purchase the Who Would Win card game though Scholastic here:

Who Would Win...

 
If your kids love the books, they have to have the card game. Again, if you want to create a class project, cards would be easier to publish than individual books. You could have each child publish a card, laminate them and let the kids in your class play the game with each other.
 
Happy researching!