Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Zoo's Clues!

Kelly Allen


Students develop a better understanding of the relationship between major and minor details by retrieving interesting facts about animals, categorizing these facts by using a graphic organizer, and writing an essay from the gathered information.


The student reads and organizes information (for example, in outlines, timelines, graphic organizers) throughout a single source for a variety of purposes (for example, discovering models for own writing, making a report, conducting interviews, taking a test, performing a task).

The student uses a variety of strategies to prepare for writing (for example, brainstorming, making lists, mapping ideas, grouping related ideas, keeping a notebook of ideas, observing surroundings, answering questions posed by others).

The student uses supporting ideas, details, and facts from a variety of sources to develop and elaborate the topic.


Animal books or magazines to gather information (“Zoobooks” are wonderful! These are created by John Bonnett Wexo with Zoobooks, P.O. Box 85509, San Diego, CA 92186-9615) Many school libraries will already have these periodicals.
-Graphic organizer (Download attached file.)
-Paper and pencil for each student
-Writing Rubric (Download attached file.)


1. Gather “Zoobooks” by John Bonnett Wexo or other reading resources.
2. Make copies of graphic organizers (one for each student).
3. Make a copy of the writing rubric (one for each student).


Day 1
1. Read a description of one of the animals from a “Zoo Book” and have the students guess what animal you described using this description. “Zoobooks” are magazines for students that provide wonderful illustrations and interesting facts about animals. If your library doesn’t carry this periodical, you can substitute these with Nature’s Children books or any other text appropriate for children.
2. Tell students that today we are going to learn how to gather clues (or information) about animals and organize this information in writing so that the reader will be able to figure out your main idea or animal by the end of the essay before you have revealed the name of the animal. An effective writer will give elaborated descriptions and clues that will lead the reader to guess the main idea before you reveal your secret.
3. Hand out graphic organizers and explain the meaning of each category. Review with the students the relationship between a major detail and minor details. Make sure they understand that their main idea is the animal that they choose. Give one example on the board from the description that you read to your class at the beginning of the lesson, showing them where you would put that information on the graphic organizer. Ask for questions and give as many examples as you feel are needed.
4. Allow students to choose a “Zoobook” of particular interest to them. You may want to pair up students and allow them to work with a partner in order to gather their information for their graphic organizers(file attached). This “buddy system” is optional. It may be necessary to pair up students if you do not have enough “Zoo Books”.
5. Review with the students the arrangement of the information within the Zoobooks. Encourage students to use headings, captions, and bold print words to locate information. Review the meanings of these words and give brief examples of each using their “Zoo Books” or other text.
6. Allow students 30-50 minutes to read, locate, and write down information for the graphic organizers.
Day 2
7. Review with the students the relationship of the information gathered. Headings are the major details, and the examples are the minor details. Discuss how these are organized when writing paragraphs. You may possibly want to model an interesting introduction using a riddle or question to invite the reader to keep reading in order to guess the animal that you are writing about.
8. Point out in the student sample how the categories (major details) each have their own paragraph because each category represents a different major detail. Each paragraph is describing a different aspect of the chosen animal.
9. Have the students engage in writing using their graphic organizers. (This is done on their own and not with a partner.) Monitor students’ progress by walking around and reading what they are writing. Some students may need assistance in organizing and setting up their paragraphs, depending on their prior knowledge.
10. After students have completed the writing process, ask for volunteers to share their writing by reading it to the class. Have students attempt to guess what animal is being described before the reader reveals the main idea.
11. Conclude the lesson by emphasizing how paragraphs contain major and minor details, the relationship between the two using student examples, and the importance of gathering quality information before you write.

**(If you use Power Writing in your classroom, you can use this organizational system on the Zoo’s Clues worksheet. Otherwise, you may want to white out the P-2 and P-3 labels that I have used. Feel free to insert your own labels.)


-Students are able to complete the graphic organizers using the given resources.
-Students will produce a writing sample using their graphic organizers.


Students will need to have a strategy or plan for organizing their thoughts before they write. This will illustrate the relationship between main idea, major details, and minor details. My students are taught and have used Power Writing successfully before I use this lesson. Outlining, webbing, and numbering can also be used, in which case you may want to change the format of the graphic organizer.

Web Links

Web supplement for Zoo’s Clues!

Attached Files

-Zoo’s Clues Worksheet -Writing Rubric     File Extension: pdf

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