- Make predictions and inferences about the biggest, smallest, strongest, fastest, and slowest animals
- Identify and categorize different types of animals, and compare/contrast two animals
- Explain why the author includes particular animals as ‘record holders’
- Conduct research and assert why other animals should be included as ‘record holders’
- Animals: blue whale, African elephant, ant, giraffe, dinosaur, Etruscan shrew, bee hummingbird, sun jellyfish, bird spider, cheetah, antelope, electric eel, horse, land snail, anaconda, deer, goat, flea, Galapagos tortoise
- Animal groups: mammal, bird, insects
- Animal body parts: tentacles, filaments, shell
- Animal movements/actions/descriptive words: crawl, walk, run, hop, swim, fly, drag, drop, leap, flexible, grazing, acrobatic, flier, stun, catch, bite, spins, trap, wait, swallow, jumper
- Measurement/math words: microscope, biggest, smallest, fastest, slowest, strongest, longest, record, measured, feet, weighed, pounds, size, times, tallest, height, long, teaspoon, ounce, dime, largest, faster, speeds, 60 miles an hour, hundred, 650 volts, voltage, inches, minute, mile, large, whole, 65-story, years, twice, average
- Copies of Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
- Chart paper or whiteboard and markers
- Pencils and paper
- Optional: KWL Chart printable
For Lesson Extensions
- Copies of companion text What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
- Optional: Venn Diagram printable
Use the following links to review kingdom classifications and animal classes:
Background Information About Animals
Kingdoms of Living Things
- Five Kingdom Classification System from Rice University
- The Six Kingdoms article from Rhode Island College
- The Five Kingdoms - Classification article from Kids Biology
- Taxonomy article from Encyclopedia Britannica
Step 1: Share the title, title page, cover, and author/illustrator of Biggest, Strongest, Fastest with students.
Step 2: Ask: “What animal do you see on the cover? What body parts do you see on the title page? By looking at this title and these images, what do you think this book is about? Do you think this book is fiction or nonfiction?”
Step 3: Create a KWL chart on the chart paper and have students share what they know about cheetahs and other animals. Have them make predictions about the biggest, smallest, strongest, and fastest animals, and share what they want to know about animals. Tell them you will revisit the chart after reading the text.
Step 4: Read the book aloud. Pause as needed to explain or repeat certain words or phrases. Ask again: “Is this book fiction or nonfiction? How do you know?” Point out the sidebar and graph information on each page.
Step 5: Create a list together of all of the animals mentioned in the book (Included in the vocabulary list above).
Step 6: Ask students to work with a partner or group to sort the animals into categories. Guide students as needed to group animals under these categories: mammals (blue whale, elephant, horse, cheetah, antelope, shrew, deer, goat); reptiles (dinosaur, tortoise, anaconda); fish (electric eel — not a snake); insects (flea); bird (bee hummingbird); and others (jellyfish — not a fish, spider — not an insect, snail). You may wish to ask students which main animal group is not included (amphibians). Tell students that as they learn more about animals and different groups, they will understand better how they are classified, e.g., why jellyfish and whales are not fish.
Tip: For more basic grouping, animals may be categorized by size, color, etc. For more advanced grouping, animals may be categorized as vertebrates or invertebrates.
Step 7: Ask: “What words does the author use to describe the many ways different animals move?” (In the vocabulary list above) Say: “Let’s move around the classroom like one of these animals!” (Have students stretch and move around before the next reading. Circulate and ask each student what animal they are representing.)
Step 1: Tell students that you are going to reread certain sections of the book together to try to answer this question: “What is the smallest animal in the world?”
Step 2: Read the first paragraph on page 1. Ask: “What does a microscope do? Why do you think the author did not include animals in this book that are too small to be seen without a microscope?”
Step 3: Flip to page 11 and read the page. Ask: “Is the Etruscan shrew the smallest animal in the world?” Guide students to infer that the shrew is the smallest mammal, not animal. (Some scientists claim the bumblebee bat, the shortest mammal, has tied with the Etruscan shrew, the lightest mammal, for the record of smallest animal. Students may research these animals in more depth in the lesson extension.)
Step 4: Flip to pages 26–27 and read the pages. Ask: “Is the flea the smallest animal in the world?” Guide students to examine the evidence and to infer that although the flea is very small, it is not the smallest animal since you can see it without a microscope (and the text does not say it is the smallest animal).
Step 5: Ask: “Does the author tell us what the smallest animal in the world is?” Explain that this evidence is not included in the text. Tell students that they will need to research this later to find out the answer. You may wish to have students make predictions.
Step 6: Revisit the KWL chart and correct predictions and information in the K column as needed. Ask: “Which ‘record holder’ were you most surprised about, and why?” Add new things learned to the W and L columns.
Step 1: Tell students they are going to reread the text to answer some important questions. Give each child or group a copy of the book. Answer the following text-dependent questions together by way of modeling, thinking aloud, or guided group discussion. Model for students how to closely read for evidence and how to cite evidence from the text in answering questions.
Step 2: What is the main topic of this book? (Some animals have special abilities or characteristics that make them record holders of the world — page 1.) How is the title a clue to this main topic?
Step 3: Read this sentence on page 7: “With their long, flexible necks, giraffes can eat leaves that other grazing animals cannot reach.” What does the word flexible mean in this sentence?
Step 4: What is the largest land animal? Why does the author include the word land in front of animal? (Guide students to infer that the African elephant is the largest land animal, and that because the blue whale is the overall largest animal, the author does not need to say ‘largest water animal’.)
Step 5: What clues can you find in the names of some of these animals that tell us where the animals are from? (African elephant; Galapagos tortoise; Etruscan shrew)
Step 6: How do the images and graphs show information about each animal? Choose an image and describe it in detail.
Step 7: Choose two animals from the text and describe them, including key details and reasons the author uses to support his claim that these are animals are ‘record holders’. Tell how these two animals are alike and how they are different. (You may use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast.)
Step 8: Which animal would you like to add as a record holder, and why? (Students can revisit after research.) Differentiation: Instead of sorting animals into broad or specific categories, have students focus solely on observing various animal characteristics. You may assign various extension activities to different groups of students by ability.
As a companion text, read What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page (featured as a complex informational text in the CCSS). Have students add to the list of animals/categories they began earlier, and compare and contrast the two texts. You may use the Venn Diagram printable for this exercise.
Revisit the KWL chart and determine what students would still like to know about animals. Assign groups to research books and online resources to answer questions. Challenge students to find another ‘record holder’ animal.
Conduct research about the smallest animal in the world. Many scientists agree this is the microscopic yet multicellular tardigrade, also known as the water bear. Research these and other sites to find out why the tardigrade is so important to scientific study and why scientists call it the toughest animal.
- First Animal to Survive in Space video
- University of North Carolina tardigrade research
- Tardigrade Facts video
Have students research the other animal that vies for the record of smallest mammal, the bumblebee bat:
- What Is the Smallest Living Mammal? article from Wonderopolis
- Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat Is World’s Smallest Mammal article from SciTechDaily
Here are a few other interesting web pages about ‘record holders’:
- Oldest Land Animal from Guiness World Records
- 8 of the Smallest Animals of Their Kind article from Mother Nature Network
You may also wish to have students research amphibians to see if they can find a ‘record holder’ among them. Here is a fun video about animal classification that describes amphibians (and also mentions the tiny bumblebee bat).
Reference the chart at the back of the featured book Biggest, Strongest, Fastest to discuss what each animal eats, and introduce the terms carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore as a segue to the study of habitats and ecosystems.
Make a list together of all of the mathematical and/or measurement words in the text (Italicized in vocabulary list). Discuss the meanings of these words as related to the visual graph on each page showing the animals’ size, strength, height, speed, voltage, and life span. Reference the chart at the back of the book for specific information regarding each animal’s size. Bring in some animals for students to measure and weigh. Recreate to-scale drawings of some animals. You may also have students create a Venn diagram or use the Venn Diagram printable to compare and contrast two animals or groups.
Discuss in depth the meaning of the word record. Explore the current Guinness Book of World Records or visit the Guinness World Records website. Choose some categories and research the many types of ‘record holders’ of the world throughout history. You may also wish to discuss some geographic records, such as the tallest mountain, deepest sea, etc.
Make a list together of the types of general habitats in which these animals live. Reference the chart at the back of the book for information about specific habitats and continents or ranges. Use a map to find these locations and create markers for each animal. Have students choose a range to research, such as the Galapagos Islands.
Discuss the use of the superlative adjectives in this text: biggest, smallest, strongest, fastest, slowest, tallest, largest, and longest. Have students provide the root word and comparative adjective for each. Create a list together of superlative adjectives with their root words and comparatives. These may be generic or apply to specific animals (e.g., cutest, scariest, calmest, toughest).
Have students group vocabulary words into categories: animals, measurement words, action words, descriptive words, etc. Create word clouds and add to them. Do a study together of unfamiliar words. Have students practice inferring meaning from context, as they did in their close reading for the word flexible.
Have students write a short report about something they have learned about animals from the text(s) or from their research. Have younger students draw a labeled picture or dictate sentences. Students may also respond to the following writing prompts:
- Which record-holder animal were you most surprised about, and why?
- Which animal would you add to this book about amazing record holders, and why?
- Why do you think there are more mammals than any other animal group in this book?
Select a poem about animals to read to students from the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry or another source. Have students write short poems about their favorite animal.
Have students choose an animal from the text and draw or sculpt it. Encourage them to include a surrounding habitat, detailed body parts, labels, and captions. Have students choose either a favorite animal from the text or from their research and create a ‘My Super-Star Animal’ poster with text and images.
Sing songs together about animals. Choose well-known songs such as ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’ or others from the Songs For Teaching website.
Have students act out different animals. Have the class guess which animal it is based on the types of movements, sounds, and other characteristics.
Featured K–1 ELA Common Core State Standards
- RI.K.2/RI.1.2: Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text (with prompting and support).
- W.K.8/W.1.8: With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
- SL.K.1/SL.1.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade K/1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
- L.K.4/L.1.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade K/1 reading and content (choosing flexibly from an array of strategies).