Reptiles and Amphibians

A Thematic Unit by Jill Bodily & Lori Schmidt
Utah State University, Level III, Spring Semester 2000

Unit Goals and Objectives

1. Students will be introduced to a variety of amphibians and reptiles.
2. Students will recognize the difference between amphibians and reptiles.
3. Students will understand the life cycles and characteristics of a sample group of amphibians and reptiles.

Initiation Activity Ideas

1. Shared Writing: Write a song including the characteristics of amphibians and reptiles.

2. The Aquarium: Have students study reptiles and amphibians according to their acceptability as a pet. Show students an empty aquarium and brainstorm what could go inside. Brainstorm the things that we must think about when we are choosing a pet. Make a pet choosing checklist.

3. KWL: Create a KWL bulletin board. Ask students what they know and what they would like to know about amphibians and reptiles. After the unit, find out what the students have learned.

4. Children's Literature: Read a book about amphibians and reptiles. Talk about their characteristics. Tell class that for the next couple weeks they will be talking about those animals and what they would need in order to be good pets.

Development Activity Ideas


1. How Far Can a Leap Frog Leap? Study the distance that frogs, such as the Mascarene frog, can leap. Their world's distance record for frog jumping is 33.5 ft in three consecutive jumps (or 17.5ft in one single bound). These numbers could be used to study multiplication (if the frog jumped 6 times, how far would it leap?), division (if it jumped 33.5 ft in 3 leaps, how far would it go in one leap?), or measurement (how many leaps would it take to cross the distance of the classroom?).

2. Fractions of Life: While studying metamorphisis, discuss the amount of time frogs spend as tadpoles, adults, etc. Create ratios or fractions using that time compared to their whole life span. Compare those fractions to the fractions of life that humans spend as babies, teenagers, adults, etc.

3. The Longest Croc. in the World: The longest reptile in the world is the saltwater crocodile which can grow up to 25 ft. long- as long as a small school bus. Measure out 25 feet. Is it longer than the classroom? Compare that length with other amphibians and with the students themselves. Ask students if a 25 ft. crocodile would be an appropriate pet.


1. Slimy Stories: Fairy Tales with a Reptilian Twist: Talk about fairy tales and the characteristics that make a story a fairy tale. Share some fairy tales that have amphibians or reptiles as characters, such as "Crocodile Cinderella" or "The Frog Prince". Have students write their own fairy tale that includes an amphibian or reptile as a character.

2. Readers' Theatre: Have students perform a story or fairy tale that includes a reptile or amphibian in a readers' theatre setting. Have students use voices they think that animal would have. Discuss why they think the voice would be like that.

3. Children's Literature: Share a variety of children's literature that include amphibians or reptiles. Discuss with students if the animals are portrayed with human characteristics or if they have the characteristics they have discussed in class.


1. Introducing…Me!: Have students write a letter to the chosen reptile or amphibian introducing themselves, their school, and their class, and tell the animal why they were chosen as their favorite.

2. Class Book: How to Choose a Pet: Have class write a book giving pointers on hove to choose an appropriate pet from an amphibian or reptile.


1. Environmental Dioramas: Talk about habitats and environmental needs of amphibs and reptiles. Have students choose an amphib or reptile and create a diorama showing their environment.

2. Life Cycle Movie Scrolls: After talking about metamorphisis, have student create a movie scroll, with each screen showing a life phase of the amphib. Attach the paper to two pencils and put it in a crayon box or other type of box. Twist the pencils to move the scroll.

3. Turtle Patterns: Show pictures of a variety of turtle shells and talk about why they have different patterns. Talk about the environment where the turtles live, and how that could effect the type of shell they have. Also point out the symmetry that occurs in turtle shells. Have students create their own turtle shell with a symmetric pattern.


1. Which Would You Choose?: Have students create a poll to take home to parents, neighbors, or friends asking which amphibian or reptile would be the best pet. Tally results of poll and graph.

2. Putting It to a Vote: Talk about the process of voting. Create ballots and take a class vote to decide which would be the best pet.


1. Surface Tension: Show pictures of the South American basilisk "walking" on water. Talk about how it can stay on top of the water because of its large feet and the speed that it is going as it hits the water. Do an experiment having the children test different "feet" that will float on water. Example feet would be: paper clips, pop-top rings, and plastic tabs. Have students create a creature and attach feet onto it so that it will float.

2. Scaly Skin: Talk about the fact that one difference between reptiles and amphibians is that reptiles have scales. Have students choose a reptile and draw a picture of it. Have them decorate the surrounding habitat, but leave the reptile blank. Then have the students create scales for their reptile with finger paint.

3. Tadpole Diary: Read a book about the life cycle of a frog. On a paper plate, have students draw each cycle. In the center, have a frog face with its tongue sticking out. Attach the frog face with a brad fastener so that it becomes a pointer. Assess student learning by having them point to different life stages with the frog tongue.

Culminating Activity Ideas

1. Alligator True/False: Give students two alligator faces. Have them write True on one side and False on the other. Put them together on a Popsicle stick. Ask students questions about amphibians and reptiles. Have them hold up the correct alligator face.

2. Guest Speaker: Have a guest from the local zoo bring in live amphibians or reptiles to show the class.

3. Board Game: Have students choose one amphibian or reptile and depict its life and the challenges it faces in its environment through a board game.

4. Collage: Create a class collage with pictures and information about amphibians and reptiles.

5. Display or Diorama: Have each student choose an amphibian or reptile and create a display or diorama showing the characteristics of the animal.

6. Letter: Have students write a letter home to their parents describing all the things they learned about amphibians and reptiles.

7. Mobile: Have students create a mobile of different amphibians or reptiles.

8. Picture Dictionary: Have students create a picture dictionary of the different amphibians and reptiles they have studied.

Our Favorite Lesson Plan

Lesson Name: The Anaconda


1. Students will practice the math concepts of estimation and measurements.
2. Students will be introduced to the world's largest snake in the world, the anoconda.
3. Students will learn the method of tear art.


1. 33ft. strip of butcher paper cut to represent the snake. (Black works really well)
2. Measuring tape.
3. Large pieces of constructions paper for each student. (Green)
4. Different colors of construction or normal paper. (bright colors)


1. Show students a picture of the anaconda and tell them that the largest anaconda on record was 33 ft. in length.
2. Estimate the length of 33ft. Compare it to the students (How many students...), the classroom, etc.
3. Unroll the 33 ft. butcher paper to see how close the estimation was. Make comparisons of its length with classroom items or with the children themselves.
4. Give students a square of different colored construction paper and have them decorate it with different patterns and other pieces of colored paper. Have them tear the paper and make it look like scales.
5. Glue the decorated squares of the students' to the snake, and hang the snake along the wall of the room or in the hall.


1. After the snake is on the wall, ask students check-up questions comparing its length with other things. Could also compare its length with the lengths of other snakes.

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