Silk-tastic Spider Webs

article by Mina , illustrated by Michel Streich

Learning Intention:


I am learning to research animals and to create a presentation based on an interview with an ‘expert’ so that I can develop my skills using multiple sources when researching ideas.


Success Criteria:


  • I can complete a KWL chart on spider-webs, considering what I know, what I would like to know and what I have learnt.
  • I can research an animal of my choosing.
  • I can interview a peer to gather information about the animal they researched.
  • I can create a presentation.
  • I can include the information collected through the interview in my presentation.


Essential knowledge:


View the video Genre from The School Magazine. Ensure students note that:

  • Genre is the term used to group texts, based on their similarities in form and function
  • Knowing the genre of a text helps us to know what to expect of it and the patterns it might follow.

Discuss the genre, informative texts, and discuss the styles of informative texts students are familiar with, for example:

  • Information reports
  • Articles
  • Presentations


Oral language and communication:


Prior to reading Silk-tastic Spider Webs write the word ‘spider webs’ on the board. Provide students with a blank KWL Chart and discuss ideas of what students know already about spider webs and what they would like to know about them. Leave the ‘Learnt’ column blank for now. For example, they might know that spider webs are built often in dark places, and they might want to know how spiders build them.

Place students with a partner and instruct them to discuss further ideas about spider webs and to add these to their charts.


Understanding text:


Read Silk-tastic Spider Webs or listen to the audio file if you have a digital subscription.

Discuss the following:

  • What information in the article did you already know?
  • Which was new information?
  • Which of your areas you wanted to know more about were answered?

Focus on information that students might have found surprising or interesting, for example that spider webs is one of the toughest fibres found in nature and that understanding the strength and toughness of spider webs has enabled ‘scientists to improve everything from durable bulletproof vests to flexible surgical stitches, repairing ligaments in knees, elbows and jaws and even biodegradable fishing gear’.

Instruct students to add new information that they have learnt to the final section on their KWL charts. Draw students' attention to the amount of new or surprising information students have learnt, using what they have recorded in the ‘Learnt’ column to support this.

Discuss the following:

  • What impact did learning new and surprising information about spider-webs in the article have on you as a reader? (Most likely students will conclude it made the article more interesting and engaging)


Creating text:


Discuss ways in which authors locate information to include in articles and presentations, ensuring students note that they might:

  • Research information using online resources or books
  • Interview experts for information

Tell students that they will be becoming experts on an animal. Inform them that they will then be interviewing each other about the animal they selected to enable them to create a presentation about the animal they learnt about from the ‘expert’. Emphasise that the goal here is to share enough in the interviews for students to be able to compose a presentation with information that is obtained purely on what they learn from the ‘expert’.

Place students with a partner and provide them with access to a variety of sources and instruct them to select an animal. For example:

Inform students that once they have selected an animal that they should research it and make dots points with information about it. Inform students that one of the pair may act as the scribe while the other reads. Emphasise that there won’t be time to copy whole paragraphs of texts and instead students should select the most important details to include in their dot points.

Note: This activity works best if students each select a different animal. If multiple students select the same animal, instruct them to select a different one.

Allow eight to ten minutes for students to research their chosen animal. Bring students back together and inform them that they will need to plan the questions they will ask the ‘expert’ to ensure they obtain enough information to compose their presentations. Remind students that the only way they will be obtaining the information about the animal they will be using in their presentations is through the interviews.

Discuss questions students might ask when interviewing the ‘expert’, for example:

  • What is the animal’s name?
  • What does it look like?
  • Where does it live?
  • What is its diet?
  • What interesting features does it have?

Role-play asking questions with one of the students. Pretend not to have understood one of their responses and discuss with the remainder of the class what you might do in this instance. Ensure students identify that you might do any/all of the following:

  • Repeat back what the other person has said to ensure they have correctly understood
  • Ask the ‘expert’ to repeat their response
  • Rephrase the question, for example changing the word ‘diet’ for what they eat
  • Ask clarifying, follow-up questions, such as ‘Do you mean it only eats leaves or that it eats leaves as well as seeds?

Match pairs into groups of four, ensuring that each pair selected a different animal to research from each other. Allow time for students to conduct the interviews and to make notes on the ‘experts’ responses.

Instruct students to use the interviews they conducted to compose a presentation about the animal the expert told them about, based on the information they collected through the interviews. Tell students to use programs such as PowerPoint or Google Slides to create slides to accompany their presentations. Inform students that they do not need to include all the information in their slides, just the main points. Inform students that they should then search for illustrations and/or video of the animal they a presenting on to their slides to accompany their presentations.

Assessment for/as learning:

Instruct students to present their presentations to the ‘experts’ they interviewed. Tell students to identify key facts in the presentations their partners produced that support information they shared in the interviews. Discuss any instances where the interviewers may have been confused or misunderstood the information in the interviews, based on the responses they provided in the presentations.

Instruct students to use their ideas to respond to the following exit-ticket question in their workbooks:

  • When engaging in discussions with peers, it is useful to use the following techniques to ensure I have correctly understood the information:

(Repeating back what the person has says to ensure I have correctly understood, asking the other person to repeat their response, rephrasing the question, asking clarifying questions)

For more on assessment, view Assessment for, as and of Learning.