For all the years I worked with 4th graders, I helped them write research reports on animals. We selected some web resources and they used various books and found information about the animal of their choice, including characteristics, habitat, diet, and behavior. The report usually took the form of a five paragraph essay including some pictures copied from the Internet. Eventually, the students were allowed to create a PowerPoint presentation and instead of paragraphs, they regurgitated facts in bullet points - no more than six per slide.

Using Diary of a Spider as a mentor text for books created by the students took a much more interesting and authentic approach to writing animal research reports using the iPads!  After they did some research on their favorite animal, the students wrote a "diary", writing in first person as the animal of which they researched. Each page of the book, created in Book Creator for iPad, included an illustration and a short text passage that carefully embedded a fact about the animal, including diet, habitat, behavior, or interesting facts. Many students recorded "sound effects" to add interest for the reader. After all the book were complete, students used the class Dropbox account to upload their story to share with classmate and download all the other stories to the iBooks library on their iPads. The spent some time reading and enjoying each others' hard work. The resulting project is particularly creative and fun to read!