If you are an elementary teacher, you are likely familiar with the wildly popular and engaging nonfiction series, Who Would Win. Even the most reluctant readers love the hypothetical battles between a pair of animals where the ultimate question, who would win?, is determined by a trait that makes one animal stronger or faster than the other. The most thrilling recent matchups (from dozens of head-to-heads) include Walrus vs. Elephant Seal, Falcon vs. Hawk, and Hyena vs. Honey Badger

The Who Would Win series was so popular in Genia Connell’s third grade class that during a read aloud of Polar Bear vs. Grizzly Bear, she heard her students imagining their own predatory animal matchups. Connell grabbed onto that teachable moment and came up with a research project that she has used every year since. Here’s how to conduct your own Who Would Win? 60-Minute Research Project.  

Introduce the Series

To set up the research assignment, start by reading a few of the Who Would Win? books with your class to establish the wide range of animals that students could pair up in battle: land mammals, birds, insects, ocean creatures, reptiles, and even prehistoric dinosaurs.

Generate a List of Pairings

Now it’s time for your students to brainstorm new animal face-offs. On chart paper or a white board, write down your students’ suggestions for as many new pairings as they can imagine. Think: Elephant vs. Hippo! Piranha vs. Electric Eel! Bat vs. Tarantula!

The research project will be more manageable if students work together in groups, so the next step is to par down the suggestions to the class’s favorite ideas, for however many groups you need. The first year Connell’s class did the project, they chose the animal pairs Leopard vs. Cheetah, Coyote vs. Wolf, Python vs. Crocodile, and Tick vs. Flea.

Create the Teams

You will need to assign each student to one of the final animals. To take your students’ preferences into consideration, ask them to write down their first, second, and third choices for which animal they would like to study. Since the project has a strict time limit, you should also consider your students’ personalities and strengths when creating the research teams while still respecting their preferences.

Launch the Project

Once the teams are assigned, you’re ready to begin! Explain that your students will be doing a mini research project on their assigned animal to determine which traits it has that would help it win a battle against another animal. They will have 60 minutes to work with members of their team to:

  • Research their animal using books and online resources (this printable can help students organize their research notes)  

  • Create a poster with text and photos to teach classmates about their animal and its special adaptations

  • Be prepared to present their poster and defend why it would win the “battle” 

Done in 60 Minutes

With the clock ticking, set your students to work! Most teams will divide the work between the group’s members, with some researching while others begin creating the poster.

At the 60-minute mark, everyone should clean up their work zones and report to the class meeting area with their posters. You will be amazed by what your students can accomplish in such a short amount of time!


So… Who Would Win?

When it’s time for the animal vs. animal presentations, each team should present the animal poster they worked on side-by-side with the team that researched the opposing animal. The rest of the class should listen to the presentations and draw conclusions based on what they hear.

For an idea of the kinds of discoveries and deductions your class will make, here are student insights from two of Connell’s matchups:

  • In Leopard vs. Cheetah, the class decided that the leopard would win because although the cheetah is faster, it can only run at top speed for a very short amount of time before it tires quickly and needs to rest. The leopard can run for much longer periods of time, therefore, it could escape the tired cheetah. 

  • In the (surprisingly enthralling) Tick vs. Flea matchup, the class determined that the tick would win because it is an arachnid that eats any insect in its path, and a flea is just that—an insect!

Sixty minutes may not seem like much time to conduct a research project, but when your students are inspired to research their favorite animals facing off against a predatory foe, they will learn and accomplish a ton while working together!

Shop more books from the Who Would Win? series below! You can find all books and activities at The Teacher Store.


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