Spring is a great time to teach students about life cycles! Raise your hand if you love this unit? If you didn’t raise your hand, don’t worry! I’ve got you. Today I am sharing my best tips for teaching life cycles in elementary. These activities are actually fun and engaging- really!
Here are my favorite activities for teaching life cycles.
1. Butterfly life cycle
This unit takes a couple of weeks. We have so much fun creating a lapbook. First, we get caterpillars from Insect Lore. I place them in a literacy center with a ruler so the students can measure the caterpillars. Then, I print a journal and vocabulary cards for my students.
I teach them vocabulary words and we play vocabulary games before this unit. You can get my free science vocabulary games here. Each day, the students measure the length of the caterpillars and record their observations. This is such an easy way to integrate math and science into literacy! Next, we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and discuss the vocabulary words of this story.
Do you know the difference between cocoon and chrysalis? Most moths create silky cocoons while most butterflies create hard chrysalis’. After discussing this, my students rewrite the story. It turns out so cute and the kids love watching our butterflies grow. Once they’re adults, we finally release them into the wild. You can grab this lapbook from my TpT shop here.
2. Frog life cycle
Frogs are so adorable! I once jumped out of my window to catch this enormous bullfrog! So, when I’m teaching my students about the life cycle of a frog, we like to create flipbooks. They’re so easy to do! First, we read The Caterpillar and the Pollywog.
It’s a cute story about how the pollywog changes and while the caterpillar is happy for him, he also wants to grow. We record the changes the pollywog makes throughout the story. Then, we discuss the differences between the butterfly and the pollywog. Once we compare the life cycles, we compare frogs with toads. I love reading the Frog and Toad Are Friends for this! Again, this is a great way to integrate science into literacy.
3. Ladybug life cycle
This unit also may take a couple of weeks. This one is a lot of fun! First, we go outside to hunt for ladybug eggs. Most of the time it’s easy to find ladybug eggs. They’re tiny golden columns that nestle onto blades of grass. Sometimes, you can find them on the side of your school building.
We learn about their life cycle, their body parts, etc. To piggyback off of our butterfly unit, we also use The Grouchy Ladybug and to determine what could make the ladybug happy. You don’t necessarily need this book to do this, but I like using it because it integrates telling time which is always nice to review!
Next, we determine the basic needs of a ladybug and create ladybug habitats. My kids did so good with this!
Here’s our gallery of our ladybug habitats.
4. Sea Turtle Life Cycle
Sea turtles are my most favorite animal! They are so magical, so when I got the opportunity to teach life cycles to my class, I knew I had to use sea turtles! We use this Sea Turtle Unit from my TpT shop. First, I teach my students about the seven species of sea turtles. Then, we learn about their life cycle, how many eggs they lay in a nest, and more.
Next, I like to get these jumbo water beads to give my kiddos a feel for sea turtle eggs. I put two or three inside a ziplock bag (depending on how many I have), and let the kids take them home. They are NOT allowed to open it before they go home… I’ve made this mistake before and had jelly all over the floor!
Finally, we do a little writing craftivity with this which can be found in my shop here. Students get to select one species of Sea Turtles. Then, they write an informative essay about it. Once they’re finished, they get to create a tissue paper sea turtle. They always turn out so cute!
These are my four favorite activities for teaching life cycles. For more teaching tips, check out my post on teaching force and motion here! I have a lot more in my TpT shop which include other plants and animals like salmon, shark, apples, elephants, and more! You can grab those here!