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Fish Tales

School: Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences

City/State: Santa Fe, NM

Grade(s): 1, 2

Format(s): Book

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology

Project Overview

“Fish Tales” was part of a yearlong integrated learning expedition in a first and second-grade classroom which focused on investigating their 150-gallon fish tank. The tank has a school of African Cichlids and a large Amazon Plecostomus living in it. The year’s curriculum was organized around this investigation. 

All of the science learning revolved around the tank: students learned about fish anatomy, form and function, life cycles, adaptations, water chemistry, and animal behavior. They also learned how to collect, organize and interpret data based on work with the fish and the tank. They learned how to write letters thanking experts who visited the classroom, and they learned how to diagram and document their learning in science journals. In understanding how the fish interact with one another important social and emotional themes were brought into focus as well. The students could easily take the perspective of the fish in their stories because they had both a cognitive and emotional investment in the fish and their life in the tank.

This instruction helped student writers organize their writing chronologically with a definite beginning, middle, and end. They learned that temporal words help cue the reader to the order of events as they unfold. It also helped them learn to choose their words carefully and use detail to describe the events and characters’ experiences more succinctly. Sharing their stories with teachers and peers gave them the experience of writing for an audience. Students also received important feedback about their writing from the audience which helped them answer questions such as:

  • Does my story make sense?
  • Did I paint a clear picture of the characters, setting and plot? 
  • Is my problem interesting? 
  • Is my ending satisfying? 

The students learned that understanding how their writing is received can give them ideas on to how to revise their work.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Excellent model of how a fish tank or any other classroom animal or vegetation could be used as an impetus for a learning expedition
  • Highlights a project that allows each student to shine individually in a compilation of work
  • Useful example that could be used at multiple grade levels and in almost any school setting

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can include an ending for my story.
  • With support from adults, I can revise my writing by adding details.
  • I can close my story.
  • With support, I can strengthen my writing through editing.
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