A Prairie Dog’s Life
Level M 

About the Book 

Text Type: Nonfiction/Informational
Page Count: 16
Word Count: 546 

Text Summary
A Prairie Dog’s Life provides information about prairie dogs by describing the adventures of Charlie the prairie dog. The book informs readers about where prairie dogs live, what they look like, and how they respond to danger. The book also includes photos with captions, a map, a table of contents, glossary, and index. 

About the Lesson 

Targeted Reading Strategy

  • Summarize


  • Use the strategy of summarizing while reading nonfiction text
  • Analyze features of nonfiction text
  • Use homophones their, there, and they’re
  • Recognize other homophones
  • Recognize and use possessive pronouns

  • Book – A Prairie Dog’s Life (copy for each student)
  • Chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Using features of nonfiction text and homophones worksheets
   Indicates an opportunity to use the book interactively (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if books are not consumable.)


  • High-frequency words: there, their, they, that
  • Content words: burrow, colony, coterie, habitat, mammals, pioneers, prairie, predators (These words are found in the glossary.) 

Before Reading 

Build Background

  • Show students a picture of a prairie dog. Ask what they know about prairie dogs. Facilitate discussion using some of the following questions. Have you ever seen a prairie dog? Where? Why might they be called prairie dogs? Do they look like dogs? Does the prairie dog look like another animal you have seen before?
  • Ask students to think of questions they have about prairie dogs and record them on the board for future reference. 

Preview the Book

Introduce the Book

  • Give students their copies of the book and direct them to the front and back covers, and the title page. Ask the students what they think they might learn about in a book called A Prairie Dog’s Life.
  • Direct students’ attention to the cover of the book. Point out the title of the story and the author’s name. Say: This book does not have an illustrator’s name on the cover. Ask: Why do you think there is no illustrator? (Discuss the real pictures taken by a photographer.) 

Introduce the Strategy: Summarizing

  • Explain to students that one way to understand and remember details about what they are reading is to summarize in their head as they read. Explain that when they summarize, they do not want to tell everything in the story. They must decide what information is most important to know.
  • Model how to summarize.
  • Think aloud: As I read this book, I am going to look at the pictures and think about what I have read. I will stop at the end of the first section. I will ask myself what information was most important in that section, or summarize what I have read so far. After summarizing in my head, I will continue reading the next section and find the most important information. I will continue reading and summarizing in each section of the book. This strategy will help me remember the important information as I read.
  • Direct the students to the table of contents on page 3. Show the students each section of the book and explain that these are the sections they will use when they summarize. Ask students to turn to the heading on page 4. Explain that the author put the headings in the text to tell them where each new section begins. They should use them as a signal to stop and summarize what has been read so far.

Introduce the Vocabulary

  • As you preview the book, ask students to talk about what they see in the photographs. Model how to use what they know about prairie dogs as they preview the photographs.
  • Reinforce new vocabulary by using the words from the text. Incorporate it into the discussion of the text as you preview the book with students. For example, on page 8 you might say: Each prairie dog family lives in a coterie underground. Have the students repeat the language you used. Ask them: Where do the families live? They should respond with, coterie. Have the students look on page 8 and point out how you used the spelling in parenthesis to help you pronounce this word. Repeating some of the language throughout the text will help the students when they encounter difficulty.
  • Model for students the strategies they can use to work out words they don’t know. For example, point to the word burrow on page 5. Demonstrate for students how to say the first part bur and the last part row. The have the students read the whole sentence to see if the word burrow makes sense.
  • For additional teaching tips on word-attack strategies, click here.
 Set the Purpose

  • Have the students read the book to find out some new information about prairie dogs and to see if any of their questions are answered. Remind them to stop at the end of each section to summarize the important details in their heads. Tell them that this strategy will help them understand what they read and remember the important information. They will use the information later when they summarize on paper.

During Reading

Student Reading

  • Guide the Reading: Give students their books and have them put a sticky note on page 5. Tell them to read to the end of this page. Tell students to reread the pages if they finish before everyone else.
  • When the have finished reading, ask students what words gave them difficulty and review strategies to help them with tricky words.
  • Think-aloud: As I was reading the section “The Big Day” I was thinking about what I was reading and summarizing in my head. When I got to the next heading I stopped, and I thought about the most important information to remember from “The Big Day.” I found out that a prairie dog is a part of the rodent family and it is called a dog because of its bark. I also learned that Charlie has three sisters and they live in burrows underground. I think the first two details are important to remember so let’s record them on the chart. What do you think about the third detail? Is all of the information I remembered important? I think because I want to summarize information about prairie dog, the part about Charlie having three sisters might not be that important. I will just record the part about living in burrows underground. What do you think?
  • Have the students read the next section, “Welcome to the Prairie” and remind them to summarize in their heads as they read the text.
  • Ask the students what important details they remember from the section titled “Welcome to the Prairie”. Record on chart paper the details the students remember. Discuss each detail on the chart paper and decide if it is important information to remember. Mark through the details that are nice to know but not important. Try to narrow it down to two or three details.
  • Have the students read the remainder of the book and remind them to summarize in their heads in each section.
    Tell the students to make a small question mark in their books beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. These can be addressed in the discussion that follows.

After Reading 

Reflect on the Reading Strategies

  • Ask students what words they marked in their books. Use this opportunity to model how they could read these words using decoding strategies and context clues.
  • Reinforce that stopping to summarize in their heads helps them understand the story. (It encourages students to pay close attention to the story and promotes active participation, which aids in retention.)
  • Model the strategy of summarizing.
  • Think-aloud: Stopping to summarize in my head while reading each section of the story helped me remember the important information better. It helped me be more involved with what I was reading. Now that I have finished reading the story, I know I can record some of the important information I learned about a prairie dog’s life. Can you? Let’s look at the chart and see if we can use the summarizing strategy to help us record some more important information about prairie dogs.
  • Add a few more important pieces of information to the chart.
Apply the Comprehension Skill: Analyze Features of Nonfiction Text

  • Discussion: Have students review their questions to see if any of them were answered in the book. Tell students that they will need to go to other sources to find answers to questions that were not answered by this book. Have each student tell one new thing he/she learned about prairie dogs.
  • Introduce and model the skill: Question the students to determine if they understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction text. Ask the students if they noticed any parts of this book that might be different from a fiction story they have read. (Use a specific story the students have read for your example.) The students should mention the table of contents, glossary, index, pictures with captions, and the maps. If they don’t, you should bring the ones they missed to their attention. Look at each of these special parts of the book and discuss their purpose.
  • Check for understanding: Ask the students which special part of the book they would use to see where the chapter titled “Danger” begins (table of contents). Ask them which part of the book they would use to find out what a word means (glossary). Ask what part of the book we might use to find out what pages have information about the prairie (index). Continue the discussion about other parts of the book the students might have mentioned, for example, the pictures with captions, and the maps with a key.
  • Independent practice: Give students the worksheet and explain the instructions. When the students have finished the worksheet independently, have them discuss the new information they have listed on the chart. Have them share where they found the information.
    Extend the discussion: Instruct the students to use the last page of their book to draw a picture about something they learned about prairie dogs. Then have them write a caption for their picture. Have them share their picture and caption with the group and discuss what other types of books might have captions. (Text books, magazines, etc.)

Build Skills 

Grammar and Mechanics: Possessive nouns

  • Write the words: animal’s call, dog’s bark and Charlie’s home on the board or on chart paper. Have students turn to pages 4 and 5 to find the words in sentences. Ask the students what they notice about these sets of words. Discuss the use of the ’s Explain that possessive nouns are formed by adding an apostrophe and s or only an apostrophe. Explain that a possessive noun shows ownership, or that something belongs to someone.
  • Ask several students to tell you something that belongs to them. Write a sentence on the board or chart paper using the possessive form of their name. For example, I see Jacob’s backpack on the floor.
  • Let the students work with a partner to write a sentence about something that belongs to their partner. Share the sentences with the group.
    Let the students highlight the places they find other possessive nouns in the book.

Word Work: Homophones

  • Locate the first sentence on page 5, the first sentence on page 9, and the sentence under the picture on page 15. Write these sentences on chart paper before the lesson. Read the sentences from the story. Ask the students to listen for words that sound the same as you read the sentences that include the words their, there and they’re.
  • Show the students the sentences written on the chart paper.
  • Explain that words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings, are called homophones. Discuss the meanings of their, there and they’re.
  • Assist the students in coming up with other examples of homophones. Write these on the board or on chart paper. Discuss the differences in meaning and spelling of the example words.
  • Explain the Word Work worksheet and have the students complete it independently. When they have finished, discuss the students answers.

Build Fluency 

Independent Reading

  • Allow students to read their books independently or with a partner. Partners can take turns reading parts of the book. Have them reread the book if they finish before others in the group.
Home Connection

  • Give students their books to take home to read with parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends.

Expand the Reading 

Writing Connection

  • Have the students look at the map of Charlie’s Underground Home on page 10. Discuss how each “room” might be used by the prairie dogs.
  • Explain that you are going to write a class story about the rooms in Charlie’s home. First, they must brainstorm what they think they know about each room.
  • On chart paper or the chalkboard, write What We Know About Charlie’s Home. Prompt students with questions that will encourage them to share information. To help students make personal connections, ask them to relate the rooms in Charlie’s home to the rooms in their homes. As students share, write their information under the heading on the chart paper.
  • Give sentence strips to students. Using the information they learned from the chart, children will write a sentence about one part of Charlie’s home. When they have finished, put all the sentences on chart paper or the chalkboard and read aloud. Working together with students, reorder the sentences to make a story about Charlie’s Home. Display the story along with the map.
Science Connection

  • Discuss the habitat of the prairie dog with students. They might want to begin to do research about other animals that share the prairie dog’s habitat.
  • Discuss that the prairie dog belongs to the rodent family. Some students might be interested in finding out more information about other animals in the rodent family.
  • Provide books from the library, and Internet information about these topics. Individually or in groups, let the students write down and share with the class the new information they have found.


Monitor students to determine if they can:

  • pause as they read to mentally summarize important information
  • use the features of nonfiction text to learn more information and record it on a graphic organizer
  • use and spell the homophones their, there, and they’re correctly and provide another set of homophones and use them in sentences correctly
  • use possessive pronouns correctly in written sentences and locate possessive pronouns in the text

Comprehension Checks

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