Explore snails and their shells by observing them up close, taking notes, and researching information.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Let your students observe snails first hand. Students research information by gathering information with their own eyes.
- Research snails with a walk around the room activity
- Experiment and research how the snail moves and how fast it travels
- Rulers or tape measures and pencils
- The Biggest House in the World by Leo Lionni
- Walk-Around-the-Room Research Handout (PDF)
- Cornmeal, plastic cups, magnifying glass, rectangular piece of cardboard
- Snail Observation Handout (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- You'll need to have a collection of live snails for this lesson. You can collect them yourself or send a letter home several days before requesting the students bring in snails. Here are some tips for gathering your specimens.
- Place the snails around the room on bright colored paper
Step 1: Begin by asking, "Who has ever seen a snail? Where did you see it? What do they look like? What is on their backs?"
Step 2: Read The Biggest House in the World by Leo Lionni. Stop on the second page and ask the students, "How many of you have wanted something more than what you have? We all have." Continue reading, but stopping along the way and asking the students their predictions as to what will happen as the shell keeps getting bigger. When the snail adds the designs, stop and ask "How is this like the book A House for Hermit Crab?" At the end of the story ask, "Did the snail make a good choice? What would you have done if you were the snail? Why was it important for the snail to have a little house?"
Step 3: Give each student a Walk-Around-the-Room Research Handout (PDF). I let my students work in pairs. They are to walk around the room to find their answers. I remind my partners that there is to only be one group at a time at a snail. You can also use a timer and give each group five minutes at each snail. At the end, they are given the opportunity to go back if they are missing any information. Go over the research together to check for understanding.
Step 4: Divide the students into small groups. Give each person a Snail Observation Handout (PDF). Make sure each group has at least two snails. Have the students first observe their snails using the magnifying glass. Have the students follow the directions on their handout and record their findings.
Step 5: As a whole class, compare the findings. "Were any two snails alike? What did your snail do when you placed cornmeal in front of it? How fast did your snail travel in a straight line? What about the incline? And the decline? Could your snail get around the obstacle? If so, how? What conclusions can we draw as a whole class about snails?"
Supporting All Learners
More advanced learners may work on the Walk-Around-the-Room Handout independently. ELL learners may work with an English-only student. More advanced learners may also create other ideas to try with the snails. All learners can make observations and participate with the experiment for hands on learning.
- Snail Olympics: set up obstacle courses for the snails and race.
- Graph the class results of the snail experiments.
- Have the students put their backpacks on with one medium book in it (to simulate the shell) and have them try to slide across the floor.
Demonstrate for your parents how a snail travels. Explain why a snail needs a small house. Tell your parent three facts you learned about snails.
- Label the parts of the snail.
- Create and draw an obstacle course for a snail.
- Were the students able to complete the research?
- Were the students able to identify parts of the snail?
- Were the students on task in their groups?
- Can the students complete the research?
- Can the students correctly use the ruler to measure the snail?