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Save the Salamander Writing

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

Focus Questions: How do human beings have an impact on the wildlife? What can we do to minimize our impact on wildlife?

Goals: Students will be able to identify Beginning/Middle/End of a story. Students will understand how our actions can have an environmental effect. Students will be able to write a persuasive story or letter that ties to topics explored.

Materials needed:

  • Picture of Barton Springs
  • Picture of the Barton Springs salamander


“We’re going to look at a picture and talk about what we see. There are no right or wrong answers, and we may see different things in the same picture." Pass around the first Barton Springs picture so each student has a chance to look at it.

  • Describe: What is one object you see (follow up with how they know it’s that object-what color, shape, etc. told you it was a ______).
  • Analyze: Thinking of all the objects we saw I want you to tell me what you think this might be a picture of.

Then reveal the second picture, and move through DAR questions:

  • Describe: What do you see in this picture? What might this be a picture of?
  • Analyze: Why might someone be interested in looking at a picture of a salamander? Why might a salamander be important?
  • Relate: How do the two pictures we looked at relate to each other? How are they the same? How are they different? 

Transition: “The first picture is actually from Barton Springs. And the second picture is of a Salamander who lives there called a Eurycea Sosorum or the Barton Springs Salamander. Has anyone ever been to Barton Springs?“


Narrative Pantomime

“I really like to visit Barton Springs and we are going to take a trip there today. But for the sake of time, we are going to take this trip in our imaginations. We are going to do a narrative pantomime. This means that you are going to pantomime the action as I tell the story. Can anyone tell me what pantomime means?" Gather ideas. "Right, pantomime means to act out the action without words, only using our bodies. Remember to also think about how you feel and how you might show me that with your body and facial expressions. Now in this narrative pantomime we will need to run-can everyone show me how we can run without moving from our place or touching anyone around us? And in pantomime since we are silent-how could we show we are scared and just screamed. Can everyone show me that? Great-I think we’re ready to pantomime our story. I will know you are ready when you are in your own space and make a statuei of yourself being perfectly still during a long hot car ride. Ready?" 

Narrative: Finally, you arrive in the parking lot and jump out of the car. You breathe in the thick hot summer Texas air. While waiting for your mom, you impatiently kick up the dust and gravel around your feet. Finally she’s ready. You run ahead and once you make your way in, you unroll your towel and walk to the edge of the water. First, you feel it with your toes. Then you leap in with a giant splash. You duck your head under and swim across the pool underwater. Some tangly plants brush against your feet. There are a lot more of them than you remember. You have to squint your eyes as the sun reflects through the green water. It’s a lot more green than you remember. Maybe this has something to do with the algae stuff your dad told you about. You swim over to the edge of the pool. The water pours into what looks like a giant filter and empties out the other side, down into the creek. This isn’t a regular swimming pool. This place is special. All of a sudden, you notice a salamander. It isn’t quite like any that you have ever seen before. You swim after the salamander and it continues to slip just out of your reach each time you get close. Finally, it leaps right up to your nose and you are looking at it eye to eye. For a moment, there is a strange connection. As if you can speak its language. The salamander says, “This is my home too”. It leaps away and vanishes down the rocks and into the lower creek. You snap out of it and swim quickly back to the edge. You climb up to your towel and look out over the pool.”

Processing the activity:

  • What happened at the beginning of the story?
  • What happened in the middle? Do you remember any details about where you were swimming?
  • What happened at the end?
  • What was the salamander talking about?
  • Why might this place be so important to the salamander?

“As some of you may know, the Barton Springs salamander we saw only exists in Barton springs. They were discovered in 1993 and put on the endangered species list in 1997. Do you know what an endangered species is? What might make this salamander an endangered species? What could be harming this salamander’s home?”

Transition: “Something is wrong. That salamander seemed like it was trying to give us some sort of message. I don’t think that we have all the information. Maybe we could ask it a few more questions.”

Teacher in Role (Salamander)

“I actually have the salamander right over here, but it’s a bit scared. How do you think we should talk to the salamander, so that we don’t scare it? What questions should we ask it?" Brainstorm questions to ask it first because you don’t want to scare it away. Teacher transitions into role with puppet. Students interview the salamander and teacher eventually reveals the info below.

Teacher reveals the following information in role: 

  • Salamander is worried about its home.
  • There’s been a lot more algae growing lately. Something in the water has been making it grow.
  • Less oxygen in water. My food source is dying.
  • I have been forced to move further underground.
  • There are weird shimmery fluids in the water.
  • This might have something to do with lots of new building being built. The other salamanders and creatures have been talking about it. When it rains all kinds of stuff moves along the road and into the springs (something from the grass to make it green, fertilizer, shimmey liquid from cars and buildings (oil and transmission fuel), etc.)

Transition out of role: Salamander asks, “Do you think you can help me? Promise? Ok, I’ve gotta get out of here before anyone else sees me. I can’t let anyone else see me here.” Change back to teacher by leaving and returning or hiding puppet.


  • What is the salamander talking about?
  • What did we learn?
  • What do you think could be changing the salamander’s environment?

Transition to writing: “I bet we have lots of great ideas about how we can help the salamander and some thoughts on what might be happening. And over the next few days we are going to try to help the salamander by writing his story to share with other people about the salamander. It will be your job to write the ending to the story about how we might help the salamander.

  • What is the first thing people need to know about the salamander?(Brainstorm ideas to become beginning)
  • What did we learn is happening to the salamander?(these will be great things for the middle of your story)

"Now when I say go I want to see how quickly and quietly we can go back to our seats. When we get there we are going to choose one idea for the beginning and one idea for the middle to use for our stories, then during tomorrow’s class we will work on writing our stories individually. Thumbs up if you understand the directions. Great-GO."


What is one thing you remember from today’s class?

Hold up your fingers to show me on a scale of 1-5 how we think we did in respecting ourselves, our space and our work today. 1 means we have a lot of things to work on and 5 means we did excellent and almost never needed a reminder to be respectful.