Dear Zoo, by Rod Campbell


  • A couple paper lunch bags
  • A large piece of bulletin board paper 4-6 feet long.
  • Many lengths of yarn 2-feet in length
  • Beanbags
  • Several boxes about the size that comes from the liquor store.


  • Fierce (ferocious)
  • Grumpy (grouchy and in a bad mood)
  • Descriptive Words  (words that help explain and make something easier to imagine)

Before Reading the Story

Put a familiar classroom object inside each brown paper bag.  Let the children take turns guessing what is in the bag without touching it.  They may ask questions about what is in the bag but they may not touch it.  If your children are not good at asking questions, you can prompt them (This is something shiny from our science center, This came from the Book Nook, but, it’s not a book).  When they guess correctly have a child come up and feel the bag to confirm before taking the item out.

Approaches to Learning/Reasoning & Problem Solving; grows in recognizing and solving problems through active exploration, including trial and error, and interactions and discussions with peers and adults.

Reading the Story

Stop on each page and let the children try to guess what animal is in the container before opening and showing and showing them.

Literacy/Book Knowledge & Appreciation; demonstrates progress in abilities to retell and dictate stories from bookstand experiences; to act out stories in dramatic play; and to predict what will happen next in a story.

After Reading the Story

Ask the children if any of them have a pet at home.  Allow them to share their pets’ kind and name.  Steer the conversation to ‘What does a pet need’?  (Food, shelter, water)  Let the children talk about their own pets.  As they mention their pet, ask questions to the children.  “Where does your pet sleep?  What does it eat?  Do you have to walk it everyday”?  Allow the children to share as much or as little about pets as they want.

Language Development/Speaking & Understanding; develops increasing abilities to understand and use language to communicate information, experiences, ideas, feelings, opinions, needs, questions; and for varied other purposes.


Make a bar graph.  At the bottom draw the animals that the children say are pets at home.  Help each child to be able to mark their pets on the graph (I give each child a sticky note or piece of tape with their name on it that they can then put on the graph in the appropriate spot. For older children I ask them to write their name).  Allow the children to continue talking about pets if they choose.  Bring in books or pictures about animals for the children to explore.

Science/Scientific Knowledge; expands knowledge of and abilities to observe, describe, and discuss the natural world, materials, living things, and natural processes. AND Literacy/Early Writing; develops understanding that writing is a way of communicating for a verity of purposes.

Music and Movement

There is a cute YouTube called, We’re Going  to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo.  Have the children make up movements to go with the lyrics.

Creative Arts/Music; participates with increasing interest and enjoyment in a variety of music activities, including listening, singing, finger plays, games, and performances.

Put on music and practice walking like different kinds of animals.  As you change animals you can say, “Zoo keeper Juan says jump like a frog”.  Call out different zookeepers to name the next animal and begin the movement.

Creative Arts/Movement; expresses through movement and dancing what is felt and heard in various musical tempos and styles.


Put Zoo animals in the center today.  Encourage the children to make cages for the like kind of animals.  How many elephants are there in the cage?

Mathematics/Number & Operations; begins to associate number concepts, vocabulary, quantities, and written numerals in meaningful ways.


Secure bulletin board paper to the floor with tape.  Put out several trays of paint and many 2-foot lengths of yarn.  Show the children how to walk beside the paper. The children dip the yarn into the paint and them drag it across the bulletin board paper. This will be a group painting.

Sand and Water

The zoo and home both have animals that live in water. Put out any aquatic animals with plastic lids or tupperware that they can try to float them in. How many animals can they get into the container before it sinks?

Science/Scientific Methods & Skills; begins to use senses and a variety of tools and simple measuring devices to gather information, investigate materials, and observe processes and relationships.

Library and Writing

Have a small group of children sit in circle with you.  You will write their responses and turn it into a story or dictation. Ask the first to name an animal.  Then say “The _______”.  Ask the next child to name a size of animal.  Then say “The ____ ____. Ask the next child to name a color.  After each repeat back what has already been said.  Continue adding pieces to either make sentences with the children or an older group might be able to make a whole story using lots of descriptive words.

Social & Emotional Development/Cooperation; increases abilities to sustain interactions with peers by helping, sharing, and discussion. AND Literacy/Early Writing; begins to represent stories and experiences through pictures, dictation, and in play.

Make you own Dear Zoo book by having the children draw an animal.  Write their description of the animal underneath.  If they give a short answer, encourage them to add descriptive words. 

Literacy/Early Writing; begins to represent stories and experiences through pictures, dictation, and in play.

Dramatic Play

Add some stuffed animals to the center today and encourage the children to pretend that they are their pets.  If you or a parent has empty pet food containers, toys, or special equipment for a pet, add it to the center today.  (I took my class to a children’s museum that had stuffed dogs with leashes and food bowls, etc.  The class loved walking the stuffed dogs and pretending to take care of them).

Creative Arts/Dramatic Play; shows growing creativity and imagination in using materials and in assuming different roles in dramatic play situations.

Math and Manipulatives

Show the children the pet cards.  Ask them to help you sort them by those that would make a good pet, and those that would not make a good pet.  As you sort, talk to them about any pets they may have at home.

Mathematics/Patterns & Measurements; shows increasing abilities to match, sort, put in a series, and regroup objects according to one tor two attributes such as shape or size. AND Social & Emotional Development/Knowledge of Families & Communities; develops ability to identify personal characteristics, including gender and family composition.

Outdoor Play

Take the beanbags outside today to play a throwing game. Scatter the boxes out at various distances from a throw zone (where the child will stand to throw the beanbags). Give each child the opportunity to throw 5 beanbags into the boxes. After they have taken their turn throwing, let them help count how many went into the boxes and how many did not. Which had more?

Mathematics/Number & Operations; develops increased abilities to combine, separate, and name “how many” concrete objects.


Do animal riddles with the children.  (I’m thinking of an animal that lives on a farm and gives us milk.  I’m thinking of an animal that was in the story and was too scary to keep.  I’m thinking of an animal that lives in the ocean and has many sharp teeth and they are scary!).

Language Development/Listening & Understanding; demonstrates increasing ability to attend to and understand conversations, stories, songs, and poems.


About Kerry CI am an Early Childhood Educator who has seen daily the value of shared book readings with my preschoolers. I use the book theme in my centers and can daily touch upon a variety of Early Childhood Domains which makes assessing the children easy and individualized.