First grade teacher Donna Marlatt (Perry Elementary in Selma, IN) developed a fun idea for encouraging students to utilize stronger word choice and more specific details in their writing. Using the popular Zoo Pals paper plates (found at most grocery stores), Donna let each child choose one of the seven animal faces. Working individually, the students spent an entire writing time drafting detailed descriptions without ever naming their animals specifically. They each described the face and its features using color, shape, and size details.

Once they were done, Donna collected the descriptions. The next day, she displayed each of the different animal paper plates. Then, she read aloud the students’ descriptions one by one. The class had to guess which Zoo Pal animal had been written about. The more precise the word choice and the more detailed the writing, the easier it was for the class to determine the particular paper plate. Her first graders loved it! And what a fabulous way to remind students that their readers need lots of specific details. Thanks, Donna!

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