Black and White with Lots of Green Bamboo


IMG_7495“There!” I said excitedly as I pointed to the zoo map. I was touching the upper lefthand side and noticed that the star and the label YOU ARE HERE was in the lower righthand corner of the same map.

“Ok, let’s head up along this right side to see some other animals along the way,” my daughter Anne said. And off we started. Anne, her friend Giulia and I were tourist at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

First, we spied a lazy lion lounging in a shady spot in his enclosure. His head was held up high as if he knew we wanted to take his picture. We all did snapped his picture. Then, as if he knew we were done, he stretched to his left and laid down. Nap time! We only glimpsed one tiger living next door.  He was pacing down the stairs in the corner, outside the zookeeper’s entrance to the exhibit. “He must be thinking it is lunchtime!” I suggested.

Next,  I was in awe of the size and the details I saw at the gorilla exhibit. One very active gorilla was outside. He ambled from spot to spot, stopping at times to sit and eat some leaves he grabbed with his hands. His body resembled mine – a head, 2 arms, 2 feet. But the big different was the size. He was HUGE. And he was all covered in dark fur. Inside, a gorilla was fast asleep right against the glass wall separating him from me. He looked so peaceful sleeping on his back with his hands folded on his chest. Seeing him up close, I realized even his hands resembled mine. He, too, had fingernails and knuckle lines. His thumb was shorter than his other fingers, just like my thumb. The only difference seemed to be the darker, chocolate color and the fur covering his forearms.

Once back outside, we kept climbing the hill at the zoo to reach our ultimate destination – the panda house! Last year a new panda was born and I had not visited to see it in person yet. As we continued on, I had my fingers crossed that we would get to see this black and white bear in action. I wondered if instead, he would be tired like the lion and gorilla. With hope, I kept walking up the hill to reach the Asian Trail.

“We made it!” I pointed out when I spied the sign Pandas with an arrow pointing to the left. We turned and took the path. As we walked by the outside enclosures, no crowds were gathered. A sure sign that no pandas were outside. “They must be inside,” Anne said with confidence, believing we would see this beautiful black and white animal.

Once inside, there he was!! He looked like a student at school who was told to sit “Chris-cross-applesauce”. On his bottom, with his front legs crossed in front, he reached and grabbed a stalk of bamboo from the pile surrounding him and started eating the leaves. Munch, munch, munch! He sat in his enclosure enjoying his lunch as dozens of tourist clicked a photo or a video from the other side of the glass. Anne, Giulia and I joined right in. We watched, clicked, and laughed at this amazing black and white and covered in green animal enjoyed his lunch. I realized I was seeing something miles from my house, usually only seen in China. IMG_7503

As we headed back down hill, we saw more animals. Pink flamingos in the Bird exhibit, elephants in the Big Mammal exhibit, tree frogs in the Rainforest exhibit and pigs and goats in the Farm exhibit. All so different in their appearance and habits from each other and from me. Yet, this trip also made me realized the many ways we are similar. Walking back to the car, I said, “What a day! I feel like I have traveled the world.”

“Let’s stop and get a snack on the way home,”  Anne suggested. I chuckled and agreed. I guess seeing all those animals eating, gave her an idea! We headed toward a restaurant to get a human refreshment!

Have YOU visited a zoo recently? If so, what did you see?
If not, I recommend that you plan a visit soon!

NOTE: One reason I wrote this post was because this summer, I have been reading the TCRWP Writing UoS, Grade 3: Unit One, Crafting True Stories book. As I read each session, I acted as the student and went off to write independently, keeping in mind each session’s teaching point.

Before beginning the unit, I wrote this Narrative On-Demand:

Pre-OnDemand, June 26, 2016

Planning….a small moment…I could write about swimming…softball…shopping for back to school dress…July 4th fireworks… July 4th games…penny toss…


The whistle blew as the second hand of the clock reached the nine. It was a quarter to 2pm on a hot and sunny Fourth of July and I was playing Sharks and Minnows in the deep end. Yet, the blasting sound from the lifeguards meant I had to get out of the water for a 15 minute break because I was only 9 years old.

As I dried myself off with my big yellow towel, an announcement came over the loudspeakers. “All children ages 6-10 years old, report to the 3 ft area of the pool. It is time for the Annual Fourth of July penny-dive.”

“Come on,” I shouted to my friends Diane and Lisa and we speed-walked across the pool deck. My pool was shaped like a Z – the top part was 3 feet deep. The middle part was 25 meters long and started at one end as 4 ft and ended at the far end at 5ft. Then the bottom part of the Z was the deep end. It was where I had been playing before the whistle blew and was 8-10 feet deep and also had 2 diving boards, a low dive and a high dive. Being a strong swimmer now, I rarely spent time in this 3 ft. part of the pool but I was NOT going to miss the PENNY DIVE CONTEST.

“Sit on the edge of the pool, please,” the lifeguard instructed. Then stepped down the pool stairs and was standing in the 3-foot high water in front of a long line of 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 year old boys and girls sitting with their legs dangling in the water. He was holding an open coffee can and he reached in, grabbed a handful of the contents and threw it into the water. Suddenly, copper-colored circles sprayed across the surface of the water and slowly drifted down to land on the bottom of the pool area. He repeated this action 4 more times, sending coins throughout this area of the pool.

I sat and waited. He moved back to the pool steps and ascended out of the water. “Swimmers, whatever you find, you get to keep. If what you find has a RED mark on it, be sure to show it to Mrs. Larkin at the PRIZE TABLE. The RED marked coins can be traded in for a PRIZE.”

“On your mark,” he shouted.

“Get set….”


Ten minutes later, Diane, Lisa and I returned to our towels, sat down and revealed our newly found treasures.

“I found 10 pennies and 1 dime but nothing with on it,” Diane announced.

“I got 3 dimes and a 8 pennies but no RED here either,” Lisa chimed in.

“LOOK,” I shouted. “This penny is painted RED! Come on, let see what I win!” I screamed.

Once at the Prize Table, I discovered I could pick from anyting on the table. I saw candy bars. I saw coloring books. I saw water sqirt guns. And then I saw a real, live baby turtle.

“Can I have the turtle?” I asked.

“You sure can!” Mrs. Larkin said with a smile.

Just then the whistle blew for break to be over and Diane and Lisa ran to resume the Sharks and Minnows game. I happily took my turtle over to show my mom my new pet. What a great Fourth of July!


And then this week, I drafted this panda story as my final on-demand. As I wrote it in one-50 minute sitting, I kept MY goal in mind. My goal I set for myself was to work on my ending so that “I chose the action, talk, or feelings that would make a good ending.”

As a final reflection after reading and living this Unit One:

I used to be the kind of writer who didn’t think much about my endings. My stories just ended. Now I am the kind of writer who works hard right through the end of a piece of writing. And I think about how to craft the ending by including just the right action, dialogue or inner thinking.

I can’t wait for school to start on September 6th to teach this unit alongside a group of 3rd graders!

3 thoughts on “Black and White with Lots of Green Bamboo

  1. jarhartz says:

    One of the many things I love about you is that you are a teacher that does the work!
    My kiddos did their pre-assessment yesterday. Now the work begins! And by the way, zoos are such an interesting topic. My daughter loves them. Has a thing about always visiting them, yet my son found them disturbing. Turns out opinion polls are split on the zoos. Makes for a great opinion unit topic.
    Excited for your incoming third graders. They are so lucky!


  2. readingtothecore says:

    I’ve never been to the National Zoo, but thanks to your descriptive writing, I feel like I was there with you, hiking up the hill toward the Panda House! The Penny Dive Contest sounds like fun, too. I love how you set a goal for yourself and worked toward it. (Endings are an issue for me, also!) Looking forward to hearing more about how this unit goes with your students!


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