From Caterpillars to Butterflies
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
Our classroom has turned into a world of butterflies as they flutter about from the clothesline that hangs overhead. We’ve been learning about life cycles, beginning with plants, and are now focusing on these interesting insects. Of course you can’t study butterflies without the “real deal” so I ordered caterpillars as a surprise for the class. Ever since our tiny creatures arrived, we have been patiently watching them eat and grow. The kids were hoping that they would begin to hang in the form of the letter J this week, as that is our letter of the week.
Each morning as my students arrive, I place the caterpillar container under the lens of the document camera. This enables me to show my students the little critters in larger than life form. They enjoy watching the fuzzy little caterpillars wiggle about their plastic enclosure. Sometime within the next week they should change into their chrysalises.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is my favorite Eric Carle book. It incorporates the days of the week, counting, and many of my favorite foods. I’ve used this book through the past week in various ways. It is the story of the week at our listening center so we’ve read the big book several times, and we’ve also used giant retelling cards and a puppet to reenact the story.
I am blessed to have a fantastic parent helper who really loves undertaking art with my kids. This is a messy project, but the end results are so cute. “It’s cold!” seemed to be the consensus of my students as the paint was spread on their tiny hands.
Life Cycle Mobile
Using a few pages from Scholastic Printables, I made mobiles with my class. This was the first time many of my kids had ever used watercolors. I was greatly impressed with their creativity. Once all of the pieces had been painted and dried, the students cut them out and taped them to the yarn. Before they could tape, they had to tell me the sequence of the life cycle.
My students have really begun to take off with their writing so I wanted them to be able to show me what they knew about caterpillars and butterflies on paper. I asked them to tell me something they actually knew about butterflies. This was to eliminate simple sentences such as “I like butterflies” and "I see butterflies.” We brainstormed some words they might use such as "egg," "caterpillar," "chrysalis," and "butterfly." Here are examples of two writers who did a wonderful job:
There are so many books about caterpillars and butterflies. Below I have listed a few of the class favorites we read this week.
- Ten Little Caterpillars — Great for counting and would make a fun handprint art project.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar — Always a class favorite; good for story retelling, sequencing the days of the week, and counting.
- I’m a Caterpillar — This is the perfect story to introduce the life cycle of a butterfly.
- Clara Caterpillar — Lots of tongue twisting words all beginning with the letter C. Also, good for teaching about differences among people.
- The Crunching Munching Caterpillar — A fun story about a caterpillar who wishes he had wings like his friends.
The life cycle of the butterfly is possibly my favorite unit to teach all year. It integrates reading, science, and art into a learning experience that my students will remember for a lifetime. From time to time I have former students return to visit, and when that occurs while we are learning about butterflies, they always comment about when they studied that unit with me. It is a delight to hear them recall what they learned about butterflies from that time.
What life cycles, if any, do you study with your students?