Kids LOVE animals!! It is the number one "GO TO" research topic for kids, teachers and librarians. Free websites that provide animal facts for kids are one of my most common requests. I have spent LOTS of time searching the Internet for websites that are easy for elementary students to navigate. I hope that this post will make your job WAY easier. 

1) San Diego Zoo for Kids: Great animal photos!! Easy to read facts.

2) National Geographic for Kids: There are no better pictures on the Internet. Lots of comprehensive facts too.

3) Ranger Rick: LOVE that this site is full of facts mixed in with PDF files from their magazine. Awesome.

4) Wild Kratts on PBS: Check out Creaturepedia!! Fun facts for kids.

5) Animal Fact Guide: The reading level is geared for older students; however, the text is comprehensive and printer-friendly too!

6) Soft Schools: A hidden treasure with straight-forward facts about tons of different critters.

7) Science Kids: A simple and straight-forward collection of animals and facts.

8) Enchanted Learning: Lots of animal printouts great for kids.

9) ESpecies Fact Sheets: Got an endangered species to research? Can't go wrong with this website.

10) Smithsonian National Zoo:  Facts! Videos! Live cams!


If you are REALLY lovin' this list. Click on the infograph above, and you will be magically transported to my TpT Store where you can download a FREE clickable, yes clickable, PDF file. What does that mean?? Well, if you open the downloaded file on your computer, you and your students will be able to click on each picture to be taken DIRECTLY to that website. Easy Peasy Right???

Happy Researching
As I was planning for my first graders' holiday read alouds, I decided to read several stories revolving around Christmas trees. My student body is primarily full of students who do celebrate Christmas in a myriad of ways, and nearly ALL of them have a Christmas tree!! I knew that I would find common ground here and that I could add to their holiday spirit ... Not that they need much more spirit. Boy, oh boy, if only I could bottle up a bit of that energy and spirit!!

I chose to start with a book that I had NEVER read before, and admittedly had never even recalled being on my shelf ... A Christmas Tree Farm by Ann Purmell. I chose this book thinking that it would be a good intro to "Christmas Trees." And boy, was it ever PERFECT.

It does an engaging job of describing "how" a Christmas tree becomes a Christmas tree. The book offered the opportunity for me to talk about vocabulary words like pine, spruce, fir, and trimming; all words which were essential for my next two books. The kids especially seemed to enjoy learning about planting the seedlings in the spring, trimming the branches in the summer, and measuring them in the fall.

In my opinion, the following two Christmas tree books should be holiday MUST READS!! Undoubtedly, if you are as old as I am, you have read or even had read to you, Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree, by Robert Barry. Yes it is a classic ... not that I am, mind you ... but certainly the book is!!

Mr. Willowby's tree is so LARGE that the tippy top of the tree must be cut off so that it will fit into the parlor. The top is passed on to Miss Adelaide to be used as her Christmas tree. However, alas, it is too tall for her room and needs to have the top trimmed off. Miss Adelaide throws the top away in the garbage, but Mr. Trimm finds it and takes it home to his wife. However, it is also too tall for their snug little house, and Mrs. Trimm cuts off the top and throws it out into the yard ... You can most certainly see where this is going!! 

We ended our Christmas tree read aloud session with the Kindle version of A Wish to be a Christmas Tree. This beautifully written story tells of a GIANT Christmas tree that wants nothing more than to be able to go home with a family and be decorated. But, he is much too large to fit into anyone's house, so his woodland animal friends decorate him to show him how much he is loved and appreciated.

Hope that these holiday selections help you during this holiday season!
Task cards have been around for several years. I have read about them in blog posts, seen them on Pinterest, and thumbed over them in catalogs. It was just recently that I became intrigued enough with the cards to give them a go. As a librarian, I was naturally drawn to the creation of research-based task cards.

What are task cards?

Task cards are great tools to use both in the classroom and the library. Task cards are exactly that … a card with a task. Each of my research task cards states one fact and then asks three questions pertinent to that fact. Each question is easily researched and facts would be found in multiple resources.

Why research based task cards?

Researching the answers to simple questions is a multi-skill task. It requires students to read for comprehension, identify key words, locate pertinent articles, scan for information, and seek accurate answers. Kids also seem to genuinely enjoy quick research based questions. It gives them an opportunity to explore new information!

How can I use task cards?

Task cards are perfect for center work, for differentiating instruction, and especially great for your fast finishers. Here are a few popular ways that educators are using task cards. 

Research Centers: Set up a center with books, encyclopedias, and technology! Add the cards and VOILA!!

Scoot: Post the cards around the room. The students can walk about and complete the task cards. You can set up certain books at each card, or even send them around the room with technology such as tablets.

Bulletin Boards: Use the cards to create an active engagement bulletin board. Display the cards and place the answer sheets nearby. Consider creating more than one copy of the card. Then kids can take one copy back to their seats.

Bundle the Cards: Cards can be stored in lots of different ways. After cutting and laminating the cards, punch a hole in the upper-left hand corner and put a binder ring through them all. Store them in those colorful plastic soap boxes that you can purchase for just a couple of dollars. Task cards also fit perfectly in those inexpensive photo albums.

Are you ready to give Task Cards a go?

I have made it super simple for you to try!! Click HERE or on the picture at the beginning of this post and download an Autumn Sampler of research task cards. The FREE sampler includes a set of four colored task cards, the same four cards in black and white, a recording sheet, and an answer key.

Happy Researching!

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My name is Sonya Dykeman, and I am an elementary school librarian in upstate New York. I taught third and fourth grade for 12 years, and then I went back to school, so that I could get my dream job. I have been in the library for 7 years, and I can honestly say that I LOVE it! Feel free to message me at

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