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Authentic Reading: Meet Tarra and Bella

A few days ago, my daughter jumped off the school bus and said “Mom, can I go on You Tube? I HAVE to show you something!”. I was a bit taken aback and asked what she wanted to see. Immediately she and her twin brother began talking about Tarra and Bella, two animals they met in a book during their library time.

Tarra and Bella are unlikely best friends. Terra is an elephant and Bella is a dog. The You Tube video describes their connection and provides some adorable footage of the friends in action. As we explored, I found a book published about the pair and they told me about the book from their experiences in school. 

I was so happy to see my children excited about reading books and deepening their reading with technology. Too often, they lament that read is ‘work’ and they dread writing about their reading in school. Since they were so taken with these animals, I thought I would share the links with you in case you want to share them with your class. Think of the possibilities: examine photos of pair and make inferences about what they see, read the book about Tarra and Bella, view some of the online videos posted, read a few non-fiction articles about friendship, particularly in animals, and then share their thinking across texts and technology with others. Interested? Here are some links to get you started. If you see more that might add to this mini-theme, please share!

Here are some links to photos that you might use to preview the reading. You will even meet some other unlikely pairs that might get your students thinking! Create an ‘I Think / I Wonder’ chart with your students or simply talk about what they see.

Terra and Bella Photos.

Read the book titled Tarra and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends. Talk about students predictions and if they matched. Infer together. 

Complement the reading with some technology and view the following videos with your class. View the videos in order and watch the original first. Encourage students to share their reactions and questions. These questions could drive further research!

Unfortunately, Bella has passed away. You can read the announcement from the Elephant Sanctuary here, adding in work with primary sources. 

You might broaden your exploration and connect to some non-fiction pieces. Head to Read Works and search for ‘friendship’, ‘dogs’ or ‘elephants’ within your grade level. A few passages should appear as possibilities. How can students connect the new facts they are learning to the Tarra and Bella story? Investigate some of the other animal odd couples out there, such as Owen and Mzee.
Who knows where this could take you and your students!

Starting with a single spark in a topic, we can provide our students with a reading and writing experience that holds their interests, works across multiple texts and technologies and encourages deeper thinking. How might students share that learning with others in an authentic way? Could they research additional information and then present their findings to another class to explore? The possibilities are endless!

Happy reading!


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