Tried It Tuesday: Penzu Research

I'm back again with Holly for Tried it Tuesday. I'm loving this linky.. I'm finding so many ideas to implement not only this year, but I'm pinning many for next year too!


Today one of my teaching partners and Ijust finished up a project that took about a week to finish. It involved a couple of great mentor texts, a new iPad app (it's also an online site), and some unusual animals.

To start, the student's listened to Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider. The format of the stories were highlighted: facts mixed into the story format. We read over a few of the pages again to see what information could be gleaned from them.

Then, we shared a couple of examples that had been previously written by a third grader and fifth grader as shared on Writing Fix. We read through their examples, highlighting the voice used, and trying to decipher what facts were being shared.

Next, students were to decide what animal to research. We wanted students to talk about an unusual animal, so we had them Google "interesting" or "unique" animals. We used graphic organizers from Writing Fix to help guide the students.

Students spent a day or so researching 10 facts. Then they spent another day putting these facts into journal entries that held the fact and more.  Like our mentor texts, we wanted the fact but a little bit of a story and humor along with them too. This graphic organizer was used more for notes, by the time the entries were typed 3 sentences were needed at least.

The last day or so was used to type up the journal entries. Using the notes as a guideline, students were encouraged to add more details and story elements to have well formed entries with 3-4 sentences, proper conventions, and pictures if they wanted using the Penzu app (but its available online too!).

It's a very simple app that can be used for diary entries. You can have multiple journals if you'd like (some students wanted to make their own personal journal, not just one pretending to be an animal). Free download, and a different format to present. Students were able to share their journal entries through Apple TV or by sharing their iPad with their table mates.

It was a fun activity that the kids really got into. They enjoyed "becoming" the animal they researched. It was funny to hear their voice shine through. It was also fun for them (and me) to learn more about Aye Aye's, frilled neck lizards, suction cup bats, and blob fish and other unusual creatures.


  1. That sounds like a fun project!! I love those mentor texts - they're so funny :) I wish my class had iPads but perhaps we could do it as an ICT lesson - not as much fun but it would work :)


    Fun in the Fours

  2. What a great writing activity. I love Doreen Cronin's books - they make awesome mentor texts.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  3. Ohh what an awesome activity - I LOVE LOVE LOVE those books...and am planning to use them next week! What perfect timing :) I am definitely going to check out that website - gotta love technology integration.

    Thanks for sharing, Christy!

    Joy in the Journey

  4. I really like hearing about what you do with your iPads! It gives me great ideas that I store up for when(if) I eventually get some!

    Everyone deServes to Learn

  5. Another item added to the pin board to explore later! This looks great and I hope I have access to more iPads next year. Thank you so much for linking up, Christy:)
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  6. This is such a great research project on all levels-interesting topics, guided using mentor texts to NOTICE things, and of course the involvement of the IPAD! :)


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