Dinosaurs! Teacher's Guide
Students explore dinosaur-related content study the characteristics of some dinosaurs, classify dinosaurs using a time line, craft questions to a dinosaur expert, and more.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
The subject of dinosaurs appeals to the natural curiosity of young students, as it blends together a mixture of fact and fantasy, much like the study of medieval castles or whales. This project is designed to offer students a rich environment of standards-based skills steeped in fun technology-based activities. Students explore dinosaur-related content as they find out about a recent dinosaur discovery, study the characteristics of some better-known dinosaurs, classify dinosaurs using a time line, craft questions to a dinosaur expert, and use prior knowledge to answer fun and interesting questions about dinosaurs. The project culminates with a writing activity, in which older students craft what they've learned about dinosaurs within a writing genre of their choice. As students work through the project, they will contribute cumulatively to a K-W-L chart and individual portfolios. Although this project is appropriate for grades K-8, certain activities are geared toward more specific grade ranges. See Lesson Planning Suggestions for tips on personalizing the content for your classroom's needs.
- Develop goals for scientific inquiry
- Improve content-area reading skills, such as distinguishing between real and make-believe
- Develop a context for the study of dinosaurs
- Use technology to gain a basic understanding of dinosaur characteristics
- Understand how the study of dinosaurs informs scientific knowledge
- Use technology as a mode of inquiry to access information from experts
- Describe through writing accumulated knowledge of dinosaurs
- Improve content-area reading skills, such as reading for detail
- Dinosaur Times (Grades 3-8)
In this interactive timeline, students unearth the time of the dinosaurs. "Click and drag" technology allows students to organize dinosaurs into appropriate time periods. Information about the dinosaur will pop up and aid as a clue for appropriate placement.
Note: This game requires Flash technology. If you don't currently have the plug-in, download it for free.
- Ask a Dinosaur Expert (Grades K-8)
Meet paleontologist and marine archeologist Sue Hendrickson and read a transcript of her interview by students.
- Dinosaur Picture Book (Grades K-8)
Look at photos from The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and read a transcript of our interview with illustrator Brian Selznick.
- Dinosaur Research Starter(Grades 5-8)
Start your research paper with our Dinosaur Research Starter. Grolier Online's encyclopedia articles allow students to get ideas for their topics and start reading articles right away.
- Dinosaur Write (All Grades)
Incorporating at least three facts into a piece of writing, in a genre other than nonfiction/research, students share what they have learned. They can also publish their work online, read other students' writings.
- Real or Make-Believe (Grades K-2)
Students test their knowledge of dinosaurs as they take a humorous, interactive quiz. Players improve reading and comprehension skills such as drawing conclusions, using picture clues, and distinguishing between real and make-believe.
- Dino Don's Dinosaur Quiz (Grades 3-5)
Students challenge themselves with "Dino" Don's Dinosaur Quiz. This interactive multiple-choice test provides answers to relevant questions about dinosaurs.
- Build-a-Dinosaur! (Grades K-2)
Students familiarize themselves with dinosaur anatomy by taking part in an interactive dinosaur-assembly game. Students learn dinosaur facts and create six different types of dinosaurs from their component parts: head, body, tail, and legs. They can also create an imaginary dinosaur of their own.
- Argentinosaurus (Grades K-5)
This interactive nonfiction photo story reveals a recent dinosaur discovery. A team of scientists uncovers a previously unknown dinosaur, one of the largest ones found to date. Students use simple technology skills to learn how scientists unearth, assemble, and display the skeleton.
Build Background (1-2 days)
Discuss what students already know about dinosaurs and explore what they would like to learn further. Organize student input on a chalkboard, or have small groups record responses with poster paper. If this is done in small groups, the results should be discussed as a whole class. Post a K-W-L chart of student questions on the wall. Contribute to the poster throughout the life of the project.
What Do You Know About Dinosaurs? (1-3 days)
Have students play a game of "Real or Make-believe." You may wish to fill out the K-W-L chart as you read and answer questions with students.
Once you've played the game, have students play again with a partner. Collect a classroom library of dinosaur books from the library or from the Scholastic Recommends book list. Suggest that students create their own "Real or Make-believe" scenarios using some of the books you have collected. Encourage students to write, draw, or record their scenarios. You may wish to take dictation with pre-writers. If you haven't done so already, have students add any relevant information to the K-W-L chart. Begin a dinosaur portfolio to use as a reference tool. Encourage students to contribute their work to the portfolio.
When Did Dinosaurs Live? (1-3 days)
In order to place dinosaurs in a historical context, discuss the concept of a time line. Ask: Why are they important? How can they help us learn? Then allow students to test what they know about dinosaurs by participating in the time line activity. Create a schedule for students to play the game individually.
Then, as a class (or individually), create your own dinosaur time line. As you continue through the project, add other dinosaurs in their appropriate time periods. Make the time line on large sheets of newsprint as a classroom mural! Ask students how a paper-drawn time line is different from the online version. Encourage students to add their time lines, if created individually, to their portfolios. If you create the time line as a class, have students list how the time line increased their knowledge about dinosaurs. Begin a dinosaur portfolio, and include the list or dinosaur time line.
What Did Dinosaurs Look Like? (1-2 days)
Introduce the Build-a-Dinosaur activity. Explore the game with students until they become comfortable with the technology. Then allow students to create the six different dinosaurs.
Also, have students create an imaginary dinosaur by mixing the various parts! Advanced students may wish to design a habitat, name their dinosaur, and decide its size, scale, and eating habits in a descriptive paragraph. Encourage students to add any relevant information to the K-W-L chart and the dinosaur machine. Students may add their creations to their portfolio at the end of the project.
Note: The Flash plug-in is required to play the Build-a-Dinosaur game. If you don't have the free software, click here.
How Do We Find Out About Dinosaurs? (1-2 days)
Review with students the K-W-L chart. Ask: What have you learned about dinosaurs that you didn't know previously? Ask students if they know where our information about dinosaurs comes from. Write responses on the chalkboard. Introduce the word paleontologist. Write it on the board, too. Inform students that this is the name of the person whose job it is to study and research about dinosaurs. Discuss what a paleontologist does and where one works.
Next introduce students to a dinosaur expert, Sue Hendrickson. Print out the page for older students to read independently. Read the story aloud with younger students.
After all students have read about Argentinosaurus, have them respond to the following questions:
- If dinosaurs lived so long ago, how do we find out about them today? K-5
- What fact made the discovery of Argentinosaurus so important? K-5
- Use sequence of events to tell how a dinosaur skeleton ends up in a museum? 3-5
- What was your favorite part of the story? K-2
- Was the story real or make-believe? How do you know? K-2
- Why is the study of paleontology important? What does it tell us? K-5
Ask an Expert
After reading through the story, students can work on questions for Ms. Hendrickson. They can look through the transcript of the live interview and see if their question was answered. Add questions to the K-W-L chart from day 1, as needed. Students can check back throughout the life of the project. Remind students also to add what they learned to the chart, as they read Sue's responses.
Write About It (3-4 days)
Tell students that they will use what they've learned about dinosaurs to create a piece of writing. Have students include at least three dinosaur facts. Remind them that their writing should be from a genre different from a nonfiction/research paper. Have students refer to the time line, Dinosaur Research Starter, Q & A with "Dino" Don, Argentinosaurus, and previously learned facts to create their writing. Allow time for independent research in the library, or use your classroom resource collection.
If students need help with the writing process, have them visit the Writing with writers' workshops for a step-by-step plan on writing in an appropriate genre. If students are writing a research paper, start their research with the Dinosaur Research Starter. When students are finished with their writing, allow them to publish their work online. Have students contribute a copy of their writings to their portfolio. Encourage them to add what they've learned to the K-W-L chart and dinosaur time line.
Project Wrap-up (1-2 days)
All Grades Schedule individual interviews to go over students' portfolios. Review the K-W-L chart with all students. Is there anything that they've left out? What information about dinosaurs did they find the most useful/interesting? Use the last few days to allow students time to finish any outstanding projects.
Grades 3-5 Challenge students to test their dinosaur knowledge with "Dino" Don's Dinosaur Quiz. You may wish to have students form teams and use the Quiz to create their own game show. Meet individually with students to share writing and review the writing rubric together.
Supporting All Learners
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) include:
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.
- Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
The Science Research Expedition helps students meet the standards of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.
Science as Inquiry (Content Standard A)
All students should develop:
- Understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge (Grades K-8)
- Understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry (Grades K-8)
- Understanding of the scientific enterprise (Grades K-8)
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (Grades K-8)
Life Science (Content Standard C)
All students should develop understanding of:
- Organisms and environments (Grades K-4)
- Structure and function in living systems (Grades 5-8)
- Populations and ecosystems (Grades 5-8)
- Diversity and adaptations of organisms (Grades 5-8)
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Content Standard F)
All students should develop understanding of:
- Characteristics and changes in populations (Grades K-4)
- Changes in environments (Grades K-4)
- Science and technology in local challenges (Grades K-4)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
Challenge students to make a dinosaur diorama. Using an old shoe box and art materials, re-create a dinosaur time period.
Have students prepare a skit and imagine they are newscasters reporting on the discovery of their favorite dinosaur. Have them write a list of questions and interview a paleontologist about this dinosaur.
Have students create a postcard that has arrived from the Jurassic period. What does it say? Who or what wrote it?
Invite students to write their favorite dinosaur a letter. What questions would you ask? What would you like to know? You may wish to dictate for pre-writers.
Challenge students to use estimation and measurement skills. In the schoolyard or in the cafeteria, instruct them to measure out the length of their favorite dinosaur. Younger students may use counting bears and do the activity as a class or in pairs.
Challenge students to use place-value skills. How can they write 225 million, 55 million, etc?
Have students use classification/grouping/sorting skills. Sort and graph the meat-eaters and plant-eaters. What else can they group?
Create a word web and study the word extinction with the class. Ask: What does it mean? Why did it happen to the dinosaurs? What would/wouldn't they need to survive today?
Encourage students to research lands where dinosaurs once lived. Challenge them to find out where they have been discovered. What the territory is like today and what was it like back then?
Have students make their own time line from birth to the present.
Invite students to create a dinosaur dig. Help them to bury chicken bones, artifacts, etc. in sand and then dig them up and classify them. As an alternative, you may wish to make bones/fossils out of clay or paper mache.