Homes for Hermit Crabs
Students appreciate shells by imagining themselves as hermit crabs and painting their own shells.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
As part of a unit on shells, students learn about the importance of a hermit crab's shell through read-alouds and designing their own shells. Students will then imagine a day in a life of a hermit crab and write a journal entry about it.
- Learn about hermit crabs and their shells
- Design a shell for a hermit crab
- Write a short story about a day in the life of a hermit crab
- A House for a Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
- Shells (real or card board)
- Acrylic paint
- Cups of water
- Paper towels
- Butcher paper or large sheet of paper and a marker
- Writing sheet Handout for Hermit Crab (PDF) and a pencil
Set Up and Prepare
- Have the paint already poured on paper plates, one for each group.
- Cover the work areas in newspaper.
- Have a cup of water for each group to rinse their brushes in.
Step 1: Begin by reviewing why hermit crabs have shells. Ask the students, "What have you learned so far about why shells are important?" "Why do hermit crabs move from shell to shell?"
Step 2: Read the book A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. As you are reading, stop and ask the students about the items he placed on his shell. Ask the students, "What did Hermit Crab use to decorate his shell?" "Why did he use each item?" Write their responses down on a sheet of large paper. "If you were a hermit crab, what would you want on your shell and why?"
Step 3: Focus on the shell in the story and its design. Show some examples of painted shells. Look at patterns and colors on the shells. Bring attention to the idea of large designs, not little pictures all over it. Look at the themes on each shell. Discuss what colors blend (yellow, blue, and green or blue, red, and purple) and what colors make a brownish color when mixed together.
Step 4: Hand out one shell to each student. Have them draw their designs in pencil first. Remind them to handle the shells carefully so not to break them.
Step 5: When the students have shown you their design, let them paint them.
Step 1: Hand the shells back out to the students. Take them on an imaginary journey through guided imagery. They are going to become the crab in their newly painted shell. Have them close their eyes. "Imagine yourself as the hermit crab that lives in the shell you just made. You are in the ocean. Feel the warm, salty water. The sun has just risen. You awake from a warm, comfortable night's sleep. You stretch and poke your head out of your shell just enough to see what's going on in the ocean around you. You see the beautiful colors of the water around you. You decide it's safe to take a stroll and find something to eat. What do you see? What do you smell? You hear a sound in the distance, what is it? You feel something with your claws. What does it feel like? You finally have found breakfast, what does it taste like? What adventures are you going to have in the ocean today? Who will you see? What will you do? When I count to three, I want you to open your eyes."
Step 2: Have the students write about their day as a hermit crab on the Handout for Hermit Crab (PDF) . Remind them of the things they saw, smelled, heard, tasted, and felt. Remind them to add details.
Step 3: Share time! When everyone is finished, sit in a circle on the floor. Let each child stand and show their shell and read their story.
Supporting All Learners
To meet the different learning abilities of the students, I would adjust the writing assignment. Some of the students may only write a few sentences, while an advanced student may need to write a more detailed story or a short picture book.
- Cover a paper shell with a collage of pictures that describe the student.
- Make a list of things you would need in order to have a hermit crab as a pet.
- Write a persuasive letter to your parents asking for a hermit crab as a pet.
- Create a shoebox diorama of a home for a hermit crab.
- Make crab finger puppets and let the crab tell the story to the class.
Have the students ask one of their parents what items they would have in their home if they moved into a new, empty home.
- Make a list of things that would be important for you to have in your home. Be able to tell why you chose each item.
- Write about a time that you were crabby or what makes you crabby.
- Can the students respond to the questions about the hermit crab in the story?
- Did the students follow directions when painting their shells?
- Did the students follow along during the guided imagery?
- Did the students write a story about being a hermit crab?
- Were the students able to design and paint their own shells?
- Did they have any difficulty in following directions?
- Were they able to write a descriptive story?