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Reading and Writing Connections for this selection:

Off the Top of Your Head…

Why Do You Suppose Caribou Have Antlers

Reading Strategies:

  • Summarizing Main Idea and Details
  • Sequencing a Series of Events
  • Comparing and Contrasting Ideas
  • Asking Questions and Making Predictions to Set a Purpose for Reading
  • Connecting to Prior Knowledge/Building Background Knowledge
  • (About Reading Strategies)

    phases, rut, calving, barren, retained, velvet


To introduce the selection, create a three-column KWL chart (What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned). Ask students to share facts they know about caribou and antlers. Ask students to write questions they want to research. After reading nonfiction selections, ask students to share facts they learned about caribou.
Prepare an “Anticipation Guide” with true/false statements students will use in small group discussions to preview the selection. On a handout or overhead transparency, write true and false statements using details from the text. For example:

  1. “Only male caribou have antlers.” (False)
  2. “Year after year, caribou antlers are grown and shed, then regrown and shed again.” (True)

Invite students to make pre-reading predictions by labeling the statements true or false.
Read the non-fiction selection, “Off the Top of Your Head
and other nonfiction selections that describe facts about caribou and their antlers aloud to the class. Encourage students to “mark up the text” as they read: circling unfamiliar words, highlighting key words and phrases, and writing notes in the margins.

Revisit the Anticipation Guide to confirm or revise predictions made prior to reading.
Have students reread the selection to answer the following questions: “Why do caribou have antlers?” “Why do caribou shed their antlers?” “What are the similarities and differences between male and female antlers?”
Create a month-by-month timeline that sequences and describes the “Growth, Shed, and Regrowth” phases of antler development.

Journaling Questions:

  1. For what reasons might female caribou keep their antlers during the winter, while males drop theirs in the fall?
  2. Why are the male caribou antlers generally much larger than the female’s? Why might the females antlers begin to develop after calving?
    Remember, WHEN something happens often helps explain WHY it happens, so try to think of what kinds of energy that goes into growing antlers and the different ways antlers can be used. Then guess the reasons for the the differences Urquart describes.

Making Connections: Stages of Development
What changes/transformations do we experience as we grow? Create a personal timeline that describes significant events from your life.

Evaluation (Examine Author’s Strategies):

  • How did the author help you understand the phases of antler development?
  • How did the author help you understand what occurs at each phase of the development?
  • What words or phrases did the author use to describe each phase?
Writer’s Workshop
  • Narrative
    Use these story elements to create a narrative about caribou antlers: Characters: a family of Porcupine caribou; Setting: the Arctic; Problem: an antler dilemma. In the beginning of your narrative, introduce the caribou family and their antler dilemma. In the middle of the story, build suspense with conflict and action. Write a creative solution to the caribou conflict at the end of the story.
  • Expository
    Write a condensed version of this reading selection: introductory paragraph, bulleted list of fact statements, and a concluding paragraph.
  • Descriptive
    Writers paint pictures with words. Sentences that make a picture are called Snapshot Sentences. Write snapshot sentences to describe caribou antlers.