Dear Zoo

Author - Rod Campbell
Illustrator - Rod Campbell
Publisher - Campbell Books, MacMillan Publishers, UK
Year - 2007 (first published in 1982)

Text Features
Dear Zoo is a 'lift the flap' book about a child who sends a letter to the zoo asking the zoo to send a pet.  Various letters are sent, 'pets' arrive and are then sent back as unsuitable for a variety of reasons, e.g. the elephant is too big, the lion too fierce, the giraffe too tall, the monkey too naughty, the snake too scary.  Each animal is returned to the zoo until finally the zoo sends the perfect pet.
The text is simple, direct and rythmical with a lot of repetition, making it ideal for Early Readers.  A repetitive pattern is easily recognised by junior primary children and repeated throughout the text.

Language Features
Simple clauses featuring nouns (zoo) and verbs (wrote, send) e.g.'I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet' 
Adjectives which relate to each animal, e.g.  'They sent me an elephant, but he was too big', They sent me a snake, but he was too scary'.
Basic conjunction, 'but', was repeated throughout.

Other textual Features (illustrations and layout)
The bright animal drawings provide more information to the reader and 'clues'. Each animal is presented in a different way (e.g. a crate, box, basket), and each child can see a glimpse of the animal to enable them to predict which animal it might be. 

Young children through to Primary Year 1 


Before Reading    

Activity 1 - Relate
Introduce the topic of 'zoo' and 'zoo animals'. 
Discuss who has been to the zoo and brainstorm a list of animals that we can see at the

Activity 2 - Animal Characteristics
Ask students to pair up and talk about a variety of zoo animals and identify and record their characteristics on large sheets of paper. e.g. Tiger - orange and black stripes, four
legs, like a cat, tail, sharp teeth, climbs.
Share and record students' responses as a whole class group.

Activity 3 - Book Review and movie
Students visit the library to read and view a collection of books about zoos and zoo
animals.  Students watch a video from Australia Zoo - an episode of 'Bindi the Jungle Girl'

Activity 4 - Animal Verbs and Adjectives (whole class)
Using the template below - brainstorm a list of verbs and adjectives that describe different types of zoo animals.  Display this in the classroom.
List of Animals
Verbs and Adjectives
scary, fierce, hunts, hairy mane
scary, fast, stalks, stripes, fur
long, slithers, scary, scales, dangerous
jumps, climbs, hangs, naughty, funny, furry
big, strong, slow,
tall, long legs, long neck
spits, chews, grumpy, brown fur


To identify students prior knowledge

This can be referred to later to see new knowledge.

Students as text-participants

Activity 5 - Animal mask and writing
Students can create an animal mask of their favourite zoo animal using paper plates
and craft materials. 

Activity 6 - modelled writing
Students then write a sentence that describes their animal mask, using the verbs and
adjectives wall chart.  The following sentence outline can be provided and modelled
prior to the students completing their individual writing task. e.g.

My animal is a Lion (Noun)
Lions are fierce.  (Adjective)
They have hairy manes and like to hunt (Adjective and Verb).

For fast finishers - matching pattern activity
Provide students with animal skin patterns and outlines of various zoo animals.  
Match the animal skin patterns with the correct animals.  Observe, assist and discuss. 

Activity 7 - True/False animal quiz
Students individually complete a true/false quiz to identify animal characteristics by
circling the correct response. For example: 

Lions are small and soft                        True or False
Snakes are cuddly                                 True or False
Monkeys can swing from trees             True or False

During Reading

Activity 8
1. Introduce the book 'Dear Zoo', by Rod Campbell. 
2. Point out that this book is written and illustrated by the same person, Rod Campbell.
3. Question students - has anyone read this book before?
4. Read the book through, stopping at each page to point out various features,  e.g. 
    adjectives used to describe each animal, repetitive pattern of sentences.  Also ask
    students to predict if they can, which animal is going to be inside the various containers.
    Ask - how do you know?
5. Re-read the book, this time asking students to join in with the patterns and read-along.

Students as text-users and participants

Text-users: students learn that words can describe people, places animals and things.  Students produce a text to describe their animal mask.

Students as code-breakers

Students as text-participants

After Reading

Activity 9 - Whole class list
As a class, discuss the story, then list and record animals in the story and identify the adjective used to describe each animal.  Eg. 
Lion                too fierce
Giraffe            too tall
Camel            too grumpy
Elephant        too big
Monkey          too naughty
Snake            too scary
Frog               too jumpy
Puppy            just perfect

Activity 10 - Jointly construct a class book about pets
Identify and discuss the repeated pattern in the text, 'Dear Zoo'. 
Brainstorm a list of pets that you can buy at the pet store and adjectives to describe
each. (Pet word bank)
Using the Pet word bank, work collaboratively with the class to create a book using
the same format and pattern as the original text 'Dear Zoo', but using 'pets' instead of 
zoo animals  e.g.

            I wrote to the pet store to send me a pet. 
            They sent me a
            He was too creepy so I sent him back.

            So they sent me a kitten.
            She was too scratchy so I sent her back.

Activity 11 - Identify initial sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. 
Pair students and give each pair a laminated card and a white board marker. 
Call out various words from the text 'Dear Zoo' and ask students to write the sound
they hear
either at the beginning, middle or end of the word you call out. 

The correct responses will spell out a word and the first pair of students to put their
hand up and say the word wins.  For example, the beginning sound of Camel ('c'), the
middle sound
of snake ('a') and the end sound Lion ('n') will spell the word 'can'.  Continue - to give
students practise hearing and writing phonemes.

Activity 12 - Explore different purposes for writing through the shared writing
of a letter.
Explain that the class is going to compose a letter to Australia Zoo. 
Ask them why we think we should do that?
Explain that we are going to visit Australia Zoo in a few weeks and would like some information to help us plan our visit.  
Encourage the students to identify the important components of a letter.  
Ask them to think about what we would like to ask the zoo and explain that the letters
will actually be sent to the zoo.

Activity 13 - Modelled writing - Jointly constuct the letter with the class
Students can help sound out words and use their sight word vocabulary. 
Read the letter through and make sure all the information is included. 
Post it to Australia Zoo. 
Discuss the process of placing a stamp on the letter and putting it in the post box.

Activity 14 - Individual letter writing
Students can write their own letters to the zoo using the class modelled letter as a 
basis for their own writing.

Activity 15 - Share returned information from Australia Zoo
Review the class letter to Australia Zoo and share and read with the students the
information that has been sent to school from Australia Zoo. 
Ask students to identfiy how this information will help in the planning and organising 
of our excursion.  'Think, Pair, Share' followed by class discussion.
Evaluation - how else could we get this information, other than to write a letter?. 
Explore this with the students.  e.g. email, internet, visit, ask friends.

Activity 16 - Class excursion to Australia Zoo
Culminating activity

The ideas for some of these activites came from discussions with teachers at Mooloolaba State School and Matthew Flinders Angilcan College on the Sunshine Coast, and from the Schools Net website. 


Students as code-breakers

Students as text- participants: brainstorming a word list.

Students as code-breakers - identifying phonemes.

Students as text-users: explore purposes of text - letter writing.


Students as code-breakers and text participants.  How does the information from Australia Zoo help us to organise our class excursion?