blog stats

A lesson inspired by the NNWP's
Six by Six
Print Guide: Traits Writing for Little Writers

Navigating WritingFix:

Return to the WritingFix Homepage

Return to the 6 Traits with Primary Writers Page

Return to the WritingFix for Kids Prompt Page


About this lesson's author:

Jodie Black is an all day kindergarten teacher at Rollan Melton Elementary. She started the kindergarten/tuition-based program in the Washoe County School District (WCSD). She has taught primary grades for over 20 years. She earned her Masters in education from the University of Nevada, Reno, and has a National Board Certification. Jodie was the Co-director of the NNWP for 5 years, during which time she hosted the Piñon Poetry Festival.

This Lesson:
We Saw Him
at the Zoo

Focus Trait:
Sentence Fluency

Lesson's Mentor Text:

Is Your Mama a Llama?
by Deborah Guarino

Thirty-six trait-based lessons for
primary writers can be found in:

The lesson on this page was inspired by the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Six by Six Guide. Click here to see how to order your own copy, which contains thirty-six trait lessons like the one found on this page.

Big Ideas behind this Lesson:

Trait Focus: Sentence Fluency —The concept focus is Sentence Fluency as a group of sentences we can read fluently because they follow an established rhythm and cadence. We can sing them as a song.  

Standards Addressed:

  • With assistance, draw or write sentences.
  • With assistance, decode words in text using letter/sound relationships.
  • Students understand that there are many kinds of living things on Earth.


As part of an overall unit on “Zoos” as a place, our class learned the song, “Mary Saw a Little Llama.” This song is sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It was very easy for our class to see that this song would work well for us as a class book.

Day 1: We began by making a list of all the students in our class and then assisting each student to choose an animal name that began with the same letter/sound as the student name. Maya chose monkey. Carlton chose crab. Aaron chose anteater.

Day 2: We began this lesson by singing “Mary Had a Little Llama” inserting all of our names and animal choices into the song. We realized that to keep the rhythm of the song, we had to add a “little” or “big” to some animal names. So Carlton saw a big crab, big crab, big crab. And Kailee saw a yellow cat, yellow cat, yellow cat. This allowed us to have an expanded discussion about the number of syllables in each animal name.


Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino with charming illustrations by Steven Kellogg.

We used the text format suggested by the poem “Mary Saw a Little Llama” with words by Fran Avni (sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), which is a part of the Scholastic Building Language and Literacy program.


Day 3: Using the first template, with the easier-to-follow left-to-right format, students wrote their own names and the animal names in the appropriate blanks. As they finished, students milled around the room assisting other children or reading their completed template to partners.

Day 4: Just to be sure that the final product wouldn’t cause us undue stress, we made a second template (examples pictured above) to transfer the text into the up and down pattern that our class book would require.

Tools Needed:

chart paper for names/animals list, the zoo book template #1 and template #2, 12 x 9 white construction paper (slit in thirds nearly to the top of the paper, leaving one inch for binding the book)


Day 5: Our template made it easy for us to copy our text onto the three-part paper of the final pages for our book. The pages were slit into thirds so that the final copy of the book could be used as a silly flip book. So students might read, “Hana saw a hippo, hippo, hippo. Carly saw a little cow. He saw him at the Zoo.” This provided a way for students to check their real reading of the book, rather than rely purely on memorization and it’s good kindergarten humor to mix up the gender pronouns!

Our class “Zoo Book” eventually made it into our classroom library. And our memory of all of our names and animals allowed us to sing “The Zoo Song” as a sponge activity throughout the rest of the school year.


WritingFix Homepage 6 Traits and Primary Writers Homepage  WritingFix for Kids
© WritingFix. All rights reserved.