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Reading and Writing Connections for this selection:

Counting Dots: Determining
Caribou Population

Reading Strategies:

  • Identifying Main Idea and Details
  • Describing Cause and Effect Relationships
  • Sequencing Events
  • Asking Questions to Set a Purpose for Reading
  • Connecting to Prior Knowledge/Building Background Knowledge
  • (About Reading Strategies)

    census, insect harassment, dense, density, dimensions, area (length x width), aerial camera, high-resolution photographs, fly-over photograph, GPS (Global Positioning System)


To connect with students’ background knowledge, ask students to calculate the population of the school: “How many students are in our school?” “How many adults?” “On a given day, how many people are in our school?” Challenge your students to devise a way to take a census of your school’s population. Invite students to investigate the population of their neighborhoods, towns, cities, and state or province.
Ask students to list questions about census data. Invite them to make predictions about why census data is important, how the data is collected/used, what kinds of data is collected, etc.
Connect these prior knowledge experiences to reading the upcoming selection. Ask students to read the title and subtitle. Make a chart of questions and predictions about caribou census data: How is data collected? Who collects data? How is data used? Invite students to skim the article for headings and other text features to make predictions about which questions from their chart will be answered in the article.

Read the nonfiction selection "Counting Dots: Determining Caribou Population >>" aloud to the class.

Revisit the selection to collect facts that answer questions generated prior to reading.
Revisit the selection to identify cause and effect relationships related to issues raised in the text: If census data reveals a decline in the caribou population, what are possible causes?
Reread the paragraph that describes how the caribou census data is collected. Create a flow chart that sequences each step of the process from start to finish. Invite students to work in groups to design the flow chart with descriptive phrases and illustrations.

Journaling Questions:
Many technological advances have enabled scientists to collect a vast amount of data in their research studies. How do you think technology can also be used to help protect animal species and their habitats?

Making Connections: Counting On Us
Contact the Census Bureau. Interview staff from the bureau to collect information about their work. Prepare interview questions in advance. Use the data collected to teach others about census facts by creating an informational flyer.

Evaluate: (Readers examine author’s strategies.)
Why do you think the author organized the information about the process of collecting census data using a chronological framework?
What examples from the text demonstrate how the author provided context clues and descriptive details to help readers understand complex words and ideas?

Writer’s Workshop
  • Expository
    Research specific technological tools caribou researchers use to study the habits of the herd. Write an informational piece for readers who want to know more about how technology is used in field research. Reread the selection to identify various tools.
  • Expressive
    Say Cheese! Write a humorous monologue featuring a young caribou roaming on the range. Include details about the young caribou observing photographic fly-overs. “What thoughts do you imagine caribou have as they observe researchers roaming over the range in their photo-collecting aircrafts?” “What questions would caribou ask?”
  • Descriptive
    Writers paint pictures with words. Sentences that make a picture are called Snapshot Sentences. Write snapshot sentences to describe a herd of caribou roaming on the range. What sensory details will help readers see the landscapes, hear the parade of hooves, smell the windswept plains, and feel the guard hairs of caribou fur?