Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Studying Insects with Pre-K and Kindergarteners & a freebie!

Here are some projects I did with my Pre-Kers for our entomology unit last Spring. This is a great unit to introduce students to science, because it is so relevant. Almost all students have had some type of a experience with a bug or spider, and that will always motivate students to learn more about them.

We became Entomologists.
I like teaching young students words like entomology, and every time we started science, we would turn into entomologists (or oceanographers, biologists, archaeologists, etc. depending on the unit). We talk about what that word means, and some tools that entomologists might use (magnifying glass, notebook for observation, guide book, etc).

We went on bug hunts.
This was an absolute favorite for these kiddos, because we would go out on the playground with magnifying glasses, and go looking for bugs or spiders. When we found a critter, we would count how many legs there were. By the end of the unit all my students knew that if the critter had six legs, it was an insect, and if it had eight legs it was an arachnid.

We organize toy bugs using a Venn Diagram.
We had a large Venn diagram mat that was perfect for a group of 10 students or so. Each student would get a plastic bug or spider and magnifying glass. Then I would tell them the criteria for each circle. For example, I would then tell them that the blue circle was for critters with 6 legs, and the red circle was for critters that have wings, and if your critter had six legs and could fly, if would go in the center. If your critter didn't fit either criteria, it would go outside of the circle. The students had to say a complete sentence about their critter while placing it on the mat, like "My bug has six legs and wings." It also gave us a chance to do more math. We would count how many bugs were in each side, then students would volunteer to say a true statement about our graph, like "there are more bugs without wings than with wings". This is a really good way to assess their critical thinking and listening skills. I used the Venn diagram once a week for our 4 week unit, and by the end, most had a good grasp on how a Venn diagram works.

 We made a Numeral Ladybug in Math.
This is a great cross curriculum activity and the students were so excited to have their own ladybug to take home. I traced out the circles for my students to cut out. After we glued the red wings on, they drew on their dots. Having black circle stickers would work great too or you could hole punch black paper and they could glue them on, that way you have more control over how many dots they have. (Some of my students went overboard with drawing the dots, and it became very difficult when it came time to count, so if you do let them draw the dots, don't give them very much time). I then helped them fold their wings out, and write the matching numeral under the wings.

We made an Insect's Body Parts foldable.
Here's another project we did, that my students loved. This also took quite a bit of prep time on my behalf. I drew a dragon fly's body on white paper, then copied it to card stock. I tried to make the lines very thick, so students could cut it out without too much difficulty. Then I created the foldable template. I folded the paper in half, hamburger style. Divided the paper into thirds with dotted lines. Then opened the paper up and wrote head, thorax, abdomen so students could trace it. I then used yarn to use for legs and antennae. When it came time to gluing the dragon fly to the front, I went around and assisted the best I could, so that when we cut on the dotted lines, the body parts would line up. Someday I plan on making this template, so it will require less prep time for you. I will update this when I do, or keep an eye on my TpT account

Since my students couldn't actually read what the words inside said, we sang a song to reinforce it. It's really simple and very effective. It goes to the tune of Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes. "Head, thorax, abdomen, (spoken) SIX LEGS" then repeat, and repeat and repeat. Once our foldables were finished, my students LOVED singing while opening their foldable to the song. 

When we were constructing the insect, it was a great opportunity to teach students that the antennae are in the head, the wings and legs come out of the thorax and the abdomen is how they go to the bathroom and lay eggs (my students thought that was especially hilarious).

We used pasta to show a butterfly's lifecycle. 
This was another favorite, because my students loved to pretend that the pasta was the real deal. For the eggs we used orzo or couscous pasta. For the larva we used rotini. For the pupa we used shell, and the adult we used bowtie. I was crunched for time and didn't have enough time to make a prettier template for this, so I just drew one quickly. When I do this activity in the future, I will use this template that I made, and a freebie for you! It's much nicer to look at, and reinforces that the fact that it is a cycle. It's available at Teachers Pay Teachers for free. 

What are some activities you have done for an insect unit?

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