If you’ve followed me for a little bit, you know I love student research projectsYou may have even heard how much I love the Shine-A-Light Series by Carron Brown.  After I Periscoped about it, I had a lot of questions about what it actually looked like in the classroom.  So with the help of my former colleagues (Sarah Svarda and Angela Bunyi) and their first grade team (Bunyi, Suzanne St. John and Julia Hudson), I bring you some research projects and ways you can incorporate it into your own classroom!

The standards covered in this post will be the same Common Core Anchor Standards from the research project I posted about here.

The first grade state science standards for Tennessee that I’ll be using in this post are based on living things and their habitats:

TN.2.0. Life Science Interactions Between Living Things and Their Environment: The student will investigate how living things interact with one another and with non-living elements of their environment.

1.2.2. Realize that organisms use their senses to interact with their environment. 688

1.2.3. Examine interrelationships among plants, animals, and their environment. 320

1.2.4. Recognize that the environment and the organisms that live in it can be affected by pollution. 372

Project Overview


Animal habitats are a big study in elementary school.  But it can be hard to find new and creative ways of teaching it every year.  Enter the Shine-A-Light books!  If you aren’t familiar with these titles, you can watch this neat video here.  But basically they are books about various non-fiction topics that give information on the front of the page.  But by holding a light up behind the page, you are able to see the hidden pictures.  “The clever see-through reading technique creates an experience of interactive learning. showing both the surface and what is hidden underneath at the same time.” (Amazon.com)

The trick is that the back of each page is done in black and white, making the images easy to see when a light is shone on them.  This one is from Secrets of the Rainforest.


Your students will choose an animal and their habitat to research.  Once they’ve researched, they all create one page (or a whole book depending on the grade level) where they give clues about their habitat/animal on the front, and then sketch a hidden “answer” on the back.  Students write the text for both pages and the teacher will type them up.  Here are a few student examples:

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They are then gathered into a large class book and placed in the classroom library or school library next to the Shine-A-Light collection!

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What a fun and interactive way to incorporate non-fiction research in with your science curriculum!  And just as there is a wide variety of titles in the Shine-A-Light collection, you could do this with a wide variety of topics in your own classroom.

I’d love to see if you gave this a try.  Tweet me your class photos and I’ll share on Twitter!

Happy researching!