Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Easy Lesson Plan Ideas About Animal Life Cycles

By Paula Dugger, M. Ed., Guest Blogger

Helping children explore science concepts while learning to read has a direct effect on building language, vocabulary, and critical thinking. You can leverage children's interests in animals while exploring life cycles with guided reading leveled books. In today's blog post, I'll describe how you can teach kids about the life cycles of frogs, butterflies, fox, and fish, as well as ways to engage them in fun follow-up activities.

Sequencing Events in a Frogs Life

Images and simple sentence structure in Frogs Grow show the progression of a frog’s life from eggs to tadpoles, and finally frogs. This level C informational text is also available in Spanish and you can use the big book version for shared reading. After kids read this book, you can include an easy reading comprehension activity in your guided reading lesson plan to test your students' understanding of a frog's life.

Your activity can include four stages of a frog’s life that students have to put in the correct order. Print the words frog eggs, tadpoles, little frogs, and big frogs on individual cards or on a piece of paper that you can cut into four sections (one for each word). Then have students assemble each card or piece of paper to show the correct sequencing of a frog’s life. If you'd like to help kids learn about words with double consonants and adjectives, you should download the Kaleidoscope Collection Teacher's Guide and go to page 52 for great ideas.

Illustrating and Labeling the Transformation of a Butterfly

The text and beautiful illustrations in A Butterfly’s Life will show your students nouns that accurately identify each stage in the butterfly's life cycle. This is one of the newest level D titles in the Joy Cowley Early Birds First Readers Set .

You can plan a fun follow-up activity by having students create a small book of illustrations, labels, and sentences that show their understanding of the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. This activity will help the student retain knowledge and show their comprehension. Be sure to write the following nouns on the board to help kids write their labels correctly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly .

Butterfly is another book about butterflies that you can use with kindergartners along with the big book version for shared reading. This informational text shows images of a butterfly's transformation and a very simple sentence structure. You can go to page 29 in the Kaleidoscope Collection Teacher's Guide to use some great ideas to help students make meaning of vocabulary that pertains to a butterfly's growth.

Making Real-World Connections to Fable Animals 

To engage kids in a lesson about foxes, you can start by reading the fable The Fox and the Goat to teach kids about listening and thinking before acting. Then to help them make real-world connections, you can use The Life of a Fox , which is a level E guided reading book that is also available in Spanish and as a big book .

This nonfiction book for kids is an engaging resource because the text is simple and detailed photographs help readers increase their knowledge about foxes as real animals, as opposed to being a fictional character who learns a valuable lesson. After downloading the Fables & Real World Teacher’s Guide , you can go to page 60 for ideas to use a cycle diagram with students to reinforce what happens after a fox is born. You can also use this page in the teachers' guide to practice prepositions, similarly-spelled words, and tips to help kids with content-area vocabulary.

Another way you can pair a nonfiction book with a fable to teach kids about life cycles is by reading aloud the level H narrative text The Heron and the Swan . Since fish happen to be eaten by Blue Swan in the fable, you can teach kids about how fish grow by having them read The Life Cycle of a Fish . This level G informational book bubbles with helpful nonfiction text features and interesting facts kids can use to compare and contrast to deepen their understanding of a fish's life.

When you help students improve vocabulary and with word skills, you prevent the word gap from slowing down their academic progress. You can read Closing the 30 Million Word Gap Before Third Grade to find out more details about closing the word gap. After downloading the Fables & Real World Teacher’s Guide , you can go to page 74 for ideas to help students practice using nouns, verbs, and sight words to show evidence of their reading comprehension about how fish live.

When you use engaging books that teach beginning readers about animal life cycles, you're helping them embark in the right direction with strong content-area literacy skills. Students will be able to reread these books throughout the year to improve reading fluency, which will serve as an asset as they practice writing at the same time.

Don’t forget to check back for more helpful tips on how to use leveled readers to teach in different content areas.

Paula is an educational consultant who has previously served as a Reading Recovery Teacher/Teacher Leader, first-grade teacher, Title I and high school reading teacher, and a Reading Coordinator. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy  more from Paula on our blog .