Exploring the Neighborhood - Literature Jigsaw

3, 4, 5

Through a variety of literature, students will develop an understanding and awareness of the many types of wildlife that coexist with people in and around an urban area. Students will gain knowledge of how they can be instrumental in maintaining a healthy environment for humans and wildlife that inhabit our cities.

Lesson Rating 
Three Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define and compare wildlife and domesticated animals.
  • identify various species of plants and animals that have adapted to urban habitat.
  • read facts in non-fiction literature about how wildlife survives in urban areas.
  • recognize the responsibility of people to protect and nurture the environment.
  • several copies of Wild in the City by Jan Thornhill
  • several copies of Farewell To Shady Glade by Bill Peet
  • several copies of In a Backyard by Diane Swanson
  • several copies of City Park (Habitat) by Wendy Davis
  • copies for each student of Attachment One: Knowledge about City Wildlife
  • copy of Attachment One for teacher
  • copies for each student of Attachment Two: Literature Group Discussion
  • name tags: one per student
  • copies for each student of Attachment Three: Literature Jigsaw Notes
  • colored circle stickers to place on name tags to identify student groups (at least four colors, depending on the number of groups you have)
Home Connection 

None for this lesson.

  • Davis, Wendy. City Park (Habitat). New York: Children’s Book Press, 1998.
    ISBN: 0516203703

  • Green, Jen. In a Backyard. Crabtree Pub., 2002.
    ISBN: 0778701557

  • Peet, Bill. Farewell to Shady Glade. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.
    ISBN: 0395311284

  • Thornhill, Jan. Wild in the City. Owl Communications, 1999.
    ISBN: 1895688728


  1. Day One

    Tell the students that todaythey are beginning an exploration in search of city wildlife. Give them Attachment One: Knowledge about City Wildlife. Before youarrange the students into groups, have them reflect quietly about the words “city wildlife.” Ask them to consider how the words work together to help us predict or define its meaning. Arrange the class into groups of two-three students. Allow about five minutes for students to discuss and write about the two sentences on the handout. Bring the students back as a class. Engage students in a discussion by asking students to offer their perspectives on the meaning of the term. Record their responses and save for review during the lessons that follow.

  2. Explain to the class that you will be dividing the class into four groups. Each group will form a “literature circle.” Each group will be assigned a book to read and discuss.

  3. Give the students name tags with colored circles on them. The colors indicate which group they are in so all members of a group will have the same color.

  4. Every member of the group is responsible for reading the assigned book. Students are responsible for taking their own notes as they read. When the group meets to discuss the book, each student writes notes on Attachment Two: Literature Group Discussion. See the materials list for the four books to assign. Assign the books and let them get started reading. The members of the groups may read alone, pair up or read all together. Encourage them to read the questions on the handout before they start reading: What wild animals are able to dwell/live in the city? What makes wildlife wild? What do wildlife creatures need to survive? How can humans create and maintain a healthy relationship with city wildlife?

  5. It is the responsibility of the group members to make sure each person in the group has read the story and is prepared to discuss the book with other members of the class that have not read the book.

  6. When the groups have finished their reading and writing, move on to Day Two.

  7. Day Two:

  8. Ask the students to add to or change their initial brainstorm about city wildlife based on the reading they have done.

  9. In order to learn about the different books read, the students will “piece together” key words/ideas from the different books to form a “literature jigsaw.” Regroup the students so each member of the new group has read a different book. Hint: Regroup using the colors on the name tags. Each new group should have only one of each color. It may be helpful to give each member of the original groups a number. For example, the ones from each original group move into a new group together.

  10. Tell students that they are the experts for the book that they read on Day One. They will tell the members of their new group about the book they read. Allow each student about five minutes to report on the book—using the notes from Day One—to the rest of the group. The other students should listen carefully and take notes on Attachment Three: Literature Jigsaw Notes.

  11. After the discussion in the new group, have students write individual summations/observations of their findings on a separate sheet of notebook paper. They should focus on the four questions from Day One.

  12. Debrief with the whole class and define philanthropy and discusshow it impacts environmental stewardship. Ask students to define the words sensitivity and balance as they relate to the natural world. How does what they learned today relate to these words?

  13. Write the five essential questions for the unit on the board. Discuss any of the questions that seem relevant to this lesson. 1) Can humans and animals coexist in the same habitat? 2) If so, are there dangers that exist? For whom? 3) What is a community? 4) What do humans and wildlife share? 5) What is Common Good? Does it include wildlife?


Informal Assessment: Observe students’ teamwork, organizational skills and contributions to the group. Use the following rubrics for assessing work: Discussion/Note Taking Rubric: Needs Improvement Satisfactory Good Excellent Irregular notes; incoherent thoughts Irregular notes; attempts to answer at least three of the discussion questions Some organized, coherent thoughts; answers at least three of the discussion questions Organized, coherent thoughts; answers all of the discussion questions.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.

Academic Standards

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