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hands-on dinosaur activities
Following my students’ interests to DINOSAURS
1 May, 2016. 6 Comments. A Day In First Grade, Kindergarten, Kindergarten Science, Kindergarten Social Studies. Posted By: Kristen Smith

hands-on dinosaur activities

We have had an absolute BLAST studying dinosaurs these last two weeks. My students are SO into them and I am ashamed to say that I have a few students who can say obscure dinosaur names much better than I can.  (:

(As this post is very long, I have broken it down into three pages. Please remember to click on to read more. This helps the blog post load faster!)

Part One: The beginning of our unit

To begin our unit, we started with creating an anchor chart to guide our learning. We created an “I see, I think, I wonder” chart. Students worked around the room as they recorded their thoughts on Post It Notes.

I love the idea of creating an anchor chart to guide your inquiry-- students write what they wonder about a topic and this guides the lessons

(When we complete an anchor chart like this, we use three different color Post It Notes for each section. I place books and the Post It Notes at my three different tables and let students organically flow from table to table as they write, discuss, and place their thoughts on our anchor chart.)

I love the idea of creating an anchor chart to guide your inquiry-- students write what they wonder about a topic and this guides the lessons I love the idea of creating an anchor chart to guide your inquiry-- students write what they wonder about a topic and this guides the lessons

From reading and hearing my students thoughts and wonders it became very clear that my students wanted to learn about what dinosaurs ate, what their habitat was like, what their skin was like, how big they were, and how we know about them.

To help guide my students to discover the answers to their questions, the next day, I set up a few exploration centers for my students.

The first was a  “small world” dinosaur habitat. This group of students can not get enough of small world play.

small world dinosaur habitat in a kindergarten classroom (reggio inspired)

Each time my students play at this center they add to the habitat and act out great stories. In the picture below on the left, the dinosaurs are running away because the volcano was exploding! On the right, T-Rex was in search for a meal. The other dinosaurs were all trying to hide from him!

small world dinosaur habitat in a kindergarten classroom (reggio inspired)small world dinosaur habitat in a kindergarten classroom (reggio inspired)

I love how the habitat evolves to include what we are studying and allows the students to use their imaginations in new ways every day.

small world dinosaur habitat in a kindergarten classroom (reggio inspired)

I also set up a “paleontologist dig site” for my students to explore. I put real fossils (that I purchased from Amazon) in the sand along with the fossil book and tools.

"paleontologist dig site" - sensory table idea: add real fossils to make it authentic and engaging! (reggio inspired)

My paleontologists loved carefully sifting through the sand in search for the fossils.

"paleontologist dig site" - sensory table idea: add real fossils to make it authentic and engaging! (reggio inspired) "paleontologist dig site" - sensory table idea: add real fossils to make it authentic and engaging! (reggio inspired)

"paleontologist dig site" - sensory table idea: add real fossils to make it authentic and engaging! (reggio inspired)

After they found the fossils, they used the book to identify what they found. (Who says students don’t learn when using sensory tables?!)

"paleontologist dig site" - sensory table idea: add real fossils to make it authentic and engaging! (reggio inspired)

These play stations brought out many new wonders. My young scientists wanted to know the names of our dinosaurs and what they ate. This brought out a new center that got much traffic the past two weeks.

We called it our “research table.” Students would sort the dinosaurs, then look up their names, and determine if they were a herbivore or carnivore.

kindergarten students researched and sorted their favorite dinosaurs and then created a card to add to their wall of dinosaurs. (reggio-inspired)
After the dinosaurs were sorted, my students created a dinosaur card for them.

kindergarten students researched their favorite dinosaurs and then created a card to add to their wall of dinosaurs. (reggio-inspired)

They used their resources to add details to their illustrations and then added them to our “Wall of Dinosaurs.”

A "Wall of Dinosaurs" created by kindergarteners (reggio-inspired)

During exploration centers, my students enjoyed using clay to create replicas of their favorite dinosaurs.

We love using modeling clay to not only build fine motor skills but also to look closely at objects. Here, kindergarten students create models of their favorite dinosaurs. We love using modeling clay to not only build fine motor skills but also to look closely at objects. Here, kindergarten students create models of their favorite dinosaurs. We love using modeling clay to not only build fine motor skills but also to look closely at objects. Here, kindergarten students create models of their favorite dinosaurs.

We also used bubble wrap to try to create a reptilian scaled texture for our dinosaur’s skin.

students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin

My students painted directly onto the bubble wrap trying to paint the “perfect” camouflage.

students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin
students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin

Then they pressed their paper onto their painting.

students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin

When it was still wet, it looked like this.

students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin

Once dry, I traced over the black lines using a Sharpie and my students cut them out. We added a few to our inquiry documentation wall.

students used bubble wrap to create a reptilian scaled texture for their dinosaur's skin

Click on to read about our exploration of how BIG the dinosaurs were.

Kindergarten students create a T-Rex out of recycled materials

Get where you want to go fast!

Part 1: The unit begins http://adayinfirstgrade.com/2016/05/following-my-students-interests-to-dinosaurs.html

Part 2: Our unit continues http://adayinfirstgrade.com/2016/05/following-my-students-interests-to-dinosaurs.html/2

Part 3: Culminating the unit http://adayinfirstgrade.com/2016/05/following-my-students-interests-to-dinosaurs.html/3

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6 Comments
  1. Hey!

    I adore this unit! You did such a great job, and I’d love to adapt it for my combined Frist and Second Grade class. I’m curious to how you broke up each lesson? Do you have a schedule of the activities and lessons you taught over the 2 weeks?

    Thanks so much for the great ideas!

    Kristen

    • Hi! I’m so glad that you like this unit! I tried to illustrate the different days in this blog post. I have a first and second grade dinosaur pack (available on TpT) that you might be interested in. It has a ton of activities for older kids!

  2. Do you have a dinosaur packet specifically for kindergarten? I saw the one for first and second, but I thought it would be too high for my kinders?

    Thanks,

    • Allison, I’m debating making a kinder focused one. I used the first and second grade unit and modified it down for these lessons. I’d like to make a kinder/pre-k pack in the format I have been using in my recent packets however, I probably won’t get to it until the summer.

  3. Hi! These posts have me so excited to teach my students about dinosaurs! Can you recommend a specific company/product for both the miniature dinosaurs you used for sorting and the larger ones with which you made fossils? Trying to find the most realistic! As well as the source of the Amazon fossils? Thanks!

  4. I loved the idea of assembling a skeleton with TP rolls! We used this in our science class that we teach for kids age 3 – 7. Check out all the other hands-on dinosaur activities we did at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/01/23/dinosaurs-2/

6 Comments

  • Hey!

    I adore this unit! You did such a great job, and I’d love to adapt it for my combined Frist and Second Grade class. I’m curious to how you broke up each lesson? Do you have a schedule of the activities and lessons you taught over the 2 weeks?

    Thanks so much for the great ideas!

    Kristen

    • Hi! I’m so glad that you like this unit! I tried to illustrate the different days in this blog post. I have a first and second grade dinosaur pack (available on TpT) that you might be interested in. It has a ton of activities for older kids!

  • Do you have a dinosaur packet specifically for kindergarten? I saw the one for first and second, but I thought it would be too high for my kinders?

    Thanks,

    • Allison, I’m debating making a kinder focused one. I used the first and second grade unit and modified it down for these lessons. I’d like to make a kinder/pre-k pack in the format I have been using in my recent packets however, I probably won’t get to it until the summer.

  • Hi! These posts have me so excited to teach my students about dinosaurs! Can you recommend a specific company/product for both the miniature dinosaurs you used for sorting and the larger ones with which you made fossils? Trying to find the most realistic! As well as the source of the Amazon fossils? Thanks!

  • I loved the idea of assembling a skeleton with TP rolls! We used this in our science class that we teach for kids age 3 – 7. Check out all the other hands-on dinosaur activities we did at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/01/23/dinosaurs-2/

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