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Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

By Allie Magnuson on April 15, 2011
  • Grades: PreK–K


Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

 


Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

 

You can purchase One Tiny Turtle here.

One Tiny Turtle Introductory Activities

To get my students excited about this unit, I kept the topic a surprise in the days leading up to it. The only thing I told them was that we were going to be reading and discussing a fun book that they had probably never heard of before.
   
First we talked about sea life in general. We watched SpongeBob SquarePants, played "under the sea" games on write & wipe mats, and took a field trip to the dolphin habitat at the MGM Mirage resort. I revealed the author of the mystery book, Nicola Davies, a zoologist who studies wild animals. I shared her book Wild About Dolphins and we talked about how seeing a dolphin at the zoo when she was younger encouraged her to go on two dolphin expeditions when she was older. I read aloud some of her other books — Surprising Sharks, Big Blue Whale, and Ice Bear — but left out the mystery book.

One Tiny Turtle Introduction 01  

If you can't make it to a real habitat or aquarium, replay Scholastic's virtual field trip to an aquarium in Florida, where your students can learn about a bottlenose dolphin named Winter. Scholastic also has activities for ocean life, seashore science, and seashells.

To activate my students' background knowledge about turtles in general, I exposed them to a variety of familiar experiences. They watched the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and cartoon, read books and put on puppet shows about Franklin the turtle, put Magic Grow sea turtles in water to make them grow 600% in size, played with toy turtles, and observed real turtles of different species: two semiaquatic red-eared slider turtles, a tortoise, and a loggerhead sea turtle. By this time the kids had guessed that the book was going to be about turtles, and I explained that it was about loggerhead sea turtles in particular. This firsthand observation allowed them to make a real-life connection with the content of the book.

One Tiny Turtle Introduction 02

One Tiny Turtle Introduction 03

 

One Tiny Turtle Pre-Reading Activities

One Tiny Turtle Pre-Reading My students brainstormed what they already knew about turtles. I was surprised; they knew more than I thought they would. To find out more about sea turtles in particular, we made a concept question board, with things they wanted to know on the left and a space for the answers on the right. Below is a picture of the finished board.

One Tiny Turtle Concept Question BoardOne Tiny Turtle Concept Question Board
Find information about turtles in Scholastic's Darwin Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went over the vocabulary they would encounter in the book and sorted keywords by category. We also made comparisons of and connections between different things. I published PDF versions of my documents, which you are welcome to print out or download.

 

 

One Tiny Turtle During-Reading Activities

We read the book one page at a time. After reading each page, we engaged in an activity that stimulated my students' thinking about the material. The book begins:

Far, far out to sea, land is only a memory, and empty sky touches the water.

We talked about how big the ocean is, and how if you're far enough out into the ocean you can't even see land. To help my students visualize the size of the ocean, I made a scale model of the world ocean and each continent. From this model, it was easy for them to see that the ocean is much larger than all the continents combined —  three times larger, in fact. You can find directions for making this scale model in the free educator's guide to the Disneynature film Oceans.

01 One Tiny Turtle - The Ocean is Large

 

Just beneath the surface is a tangle of weed and driftwood where tiny creatures cling. This is the nursery of a sea turtle.

We watched a video to see what sargassum looks like and discussed how all babies have nurseries.

Sargassum01

Video image courtesy of Kimmvill via TeacherTube

 

Not much bigger than a bottle top, she hides in the green shadows. She's a baby, so her shell is soft as old leather.          

To get an idea of just how small baby sea turtles are, we decorated bottle tops with green paint and soft leather.

 03 One Tiny Turtle - Small as a Bottle Cap

 

The turtle swims around, flapping her front flippers like wings. She is flying underwater.

My students really enjoyed taking turns wearing flippers and pretending to swim like sea turtles.

04 One Tiny Turtle - Flippers

04 One Tiny Turtle - Flippers

 

She pokes her pinprick nostrils through the silver surface to take a quick breath, so fast, blink and you'd miss it!

Everyone practiced holding their breath for as long as they could. Then we talked about how humans, like sea turtles, need air to breathe. When swimming underwater, sometimes we hold our breath — but not for long — and sometimes we use things to help us breathe, like snorkels and oxygen tanks. I brought out a snorkel and a water table, and the kids went at it. 

05 One Tiny Turtle - Water and Breathing

 

For three or four years, maybe more, the turtle rides out the storms and floats through the hot calms.

We discussed how sea turtles swim in deeper, cooler waters during summer storms. In the winter when the weather is calm, they move to warmer waters and float near the top. We made water bottle oceans with 1/4 blue water, 2/3 mineral oil, and seaweed, then dropped penny-size turtles to the bottom and moved the bottles back and forth vertically to make waves.

06 One Tiny Turtle - Ocean in a Bottle
 

 

Steadily she outgrows her nursery. Nobody sees her leave, but when you look for her, she has vanished all the same.

We revisited our discussion on ocean size by putting toy ocean animals on a large piece of blue paper and moving the tiny sea turtle around.

  07 Ocean Migration

 

Bigger than a dinner plate now, she's not a fish snack anymore. Her shell is hard as armor. Her head is tough as a helmet. She's grown into her name: Loggerhead.

I decorated an actual dinner plate to look like a sea turtle, and we compared it with the bottle-top sea turtle to get a sense of the size difference between a baby sea turtle and an adult sea turtle. I showed my students a toy knight with armor, and we talked about how a turtle's shell is like real armor — hard as steel. The kids tried on a bicycle helmet to think about the toughness of a loggerhead's head.

08 One Tiny Turtle - Big as a Dinner Plate08 One Tiny Turtle - Big as a Dinner Plate 08 One Tiny Turtle - Armor and Helmet

 

She has come to eat crabs. . . . Their shells crack as easily as hens' eggs in her heavy jaws.

We made crabs out of two seashells and used a pair of pliers decorated like a turtle's jaw to break open the shells. Afterwards we cracked an egg to compare. The kids loved this!

09 One Tiny Turtle - Eating Crabs

 

Loggerhead wanders far and wide in search of food. In summer to cool seaweed jungles, where she finds juicy clams and shoals of shrimps. And in winter to turquoise lagoons, warm as a bath, where she can munch among corals.        

We made dark blue-green underwater scenes on paper with clams, shrimps, and seaweed, and turquoise underwater scenes with coral reef sea fans.

10 One Tiny Turtle - Underwater

 

Loggerhead may travel thousands of miles, but she leaves no trace or track for you to follow.

We discussed how turtles can only be tracked if transmitters have been attached to their flippers or shells. Researchers do this to know more about sea turtle behavior in order to help them. We visited the Sea Turtle Conservancy Web site to track the movements of a satellite-tagged loggerhead named Squirt.

Satellite Tracking Map - Squirt the Sea Turtle

 

She's found her way here, sensing north and south like a compass needle.

My students were shown a compass and they tried using it to find their way around the room. 

12 One Tiny Turtle - Compass

 

Male turtles wait just off the nesting beaches. They mate with the females. Then the females come ashore to lay eggs.

After drawing pictures of turtle families, my students hung them on the wall.

13 One Tiny Turtle - Turtle Families

 

She's big as a barrel now.

I made a barrel out of brown butcher paper and decorated it like a sea turtle, which my students compared with the dinner plate-size sea turtle and the bottle top-size sea turtle.

14 One Tiny Turtle - Big as a Barrel

 

Floating in the sea she weighs nothing, but on land she's heavier than a man.

To observe how anything, including a body, is lighter in water because the water helps lift it, my students tried to lift shells and rocks out of the water table.

15 One Tiny Turtle - Weight in Water

 

Her eyes streak with salty tears, which helps keep them free of sand.

We talked about how tears are salty, just like the water in the ocean. Salt water is just like ordinary table salt. I filled two glasses with water and added salt to one. My students each got two spoons and had a taste from both glasses. Then they separated salty foods from non-salty foods.

16 One Tiny Turtle - Sea Salt

 

Loggerhead makes her nest where the sea won't reach. Scooping carefully with her hind flippers . . . she makes a deep hole.

Outside in the sand, the kids tried to dig holes using flippers, which wasn't easy.

17 One Tiny Turtle - Digging Nests

 

Inside she lays her eggs, like a hundred squidgy Ping-Pong balls.

After digging holes, we made nests of Ping-Pong balls.

18 One Tiny Turtle - Burying Eggs

 

Left behind, under the sand, her eggs stay deep and safe. Baby turtles grow inside.

The children made paper eggs with sea turtles inside.

  19 One Tiny Turtle - Baby Turtles

   One Tiny Turtle - Getting Ready to Hatch
Video image courtesy of Tour de Turtle

            

And before the summer's over they wriggle from their shells.

We wanted to see real sea turtles hatching, so we watched a video of a baby turtle in Mexico that took over 20 minutes to hatch, another video 80 loggerheads hatching in Australia, and a third video of 119 hatchlings which was taken at night with an infrared light in North Carolina.

One Tiny Turtle - Hatching

Video images (from top left) courtesy of bajabeyond, NPWSnorthern2007, and ndorow via YouTube.

 

Above them on the beach a hundred eyes watch, on the lookout for a meal. So the hatchlings wait until night. The horizon, where the sea meets the sky, tells baby turtles which way to turn to get to the water. But street lights and buildings next to the beach can confuse them and make them go the wrong way.

We did a small-scale, classroom version of the turtle hatch demonstration from Let There Be Night. Some students stood in a wide circle and shined flashlights or acted as predators while other students in the middle pretended to be turtles. When I said go, the "turtles" had to hatch and scurry toward a source of light. Only one of the lights was the moon, and the rest were artificial lights, but the students in the middle did not know which was which. The turtles who were tagged by the predators died because they were eaten before reaching the ocean, and the turtles who went to the wrong lights died because they never made it to the ocean. Only the turtles who went to the moonlight and were not eaten by predators remained alive.

21 One Tiny Turtle - Turtle Hatch

  One Tiny Turtle - Light Confusion

Watch a PSA on sea turtles and light confusion. Video image courtesy of Tour de Turtle.

 

But now she dives under the waves and swims. Swims and swims!

We pretended to be baby turtles running from the beach to the ocean, and watched videos of sea turtles swimming.

22 One Tiny Turtle - Skittering to the Ocean

One Tiny Turtle - Swimming

Video images courtesy of nasdrave and cripxtreme via YouTube

 

One Tiny Turtle Post-Reading Activities/Extensions

Since Scholastic gave us a class set of One Tiny Turtle books, I had each student make a word bank in the back of their book. They taped an envelope to the back page and put word cards in it, which they used to match with the print when rereading. I also made copies of some of the turtle's adventures in the book, and the children put them in sequential order.

One Tiny Turtle Vocabulary Word Bank

 

 

We did writing responses to the book using sea turtle themed paper and my turtle pencil holder, reviewed the author by reading some really fun "Things You Didn't Know About Nicola Davies," and talked about how, as a society, we have to protect our oceans and sea turtles. My students played a beach cleanup think & sort game, learned about sea turtle conservation and rescue, read about two friends named Owen and Mzee, and did some turtle shell activities.

One Tiny Turtle Post-Reading

Sea Turtle Books by Mara Hixon Read some great sea turtle books by Mara Uman Hixon, written especially for kids in preschool and kindergarten. View some PSAs about marine pollution, and watch a video to learn about how Little Tikes is partnering with the Sea Turtle Conservancy to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the Sea Turtle Sandbox.

One Tiny Turtle - Marine Pollution

Little Tikes - Turtles for Turtles

Video images courtesy of: (top) Tour de Turtle; (bottom) LittleTikesCompany via YouTube

 

 

My students had a lot of fun with this unit, and they really learned a lot from it. It just goes to show what a good book and hands-on learning can do!

Reading One Tiny Turtle

Have an adventurous weekend!

~Allie

 

If you enjoyed this article, please link to it using this html:

<a href="http://blogs.scholastic.com/classroom_solutions/2011/04/adventures-with-books-one-tiny-turtle-by-nicola-davies.html"</a>

 

Comments (2)

Hi Joy - thanks for the wonderful comments. The kids really loved this book and all the hands on learning that went with it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

~Allie

Loved this one! I just bought the book for my grandchild! Great visualization of how a turtle's jaw works to open the crab. Can't wait to see the videos that are coming soon. The concept board will be used in my classroom. Wonderful blog this week.!!!

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