Spring Life Cycles (Crown FREEBIE!)

As the end of winter approaches (at least here in Oklahoma!) it's time to start thinking ahead to Spring Life Cycles! It's wise to think ahead, because sometimes it can take a few weeks to order and receive specimens to observe in the classroom. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.

Here are some of my favorite animal life cycles to observe in the classroom, and some resources to make them even better!

Warning...be very careful as to the species of tadpole that you order. Some frogs have an extremely long tadpole stage, and your students won't be able to see the metamorphosis before the end of the school year! GrowaFrog.com has some kits that promise quick metamorphosis, or you can order tadpoles in different stages of their metamorphosis!

The Life Cycle Of A Frog is by Bobbie Kalman. She has several Life Cycle books and Children's Science books. I like her Life Cycle books becuase they have a lot of information on the animal, before even getting into the life cycle. It's 32 pages, includes a Glossary and Table of Contents, and lots of great photos of frogs! Learning Resources has a great Giant Magnetic Frog Life Cycle Set that has 9 large pieces! This would be a great activity for your Science Center! Safari Ltd. has a Life Cycle of a Frog set with 5 pieces. This set is great for allowing students to examine the different stages of the frog life cycle up close and hands-on! The Folkmanis Mini Frog Finger Puppet would also be great for retelling ~ puppets are super at ensuring student engagement!

 My very favorite science activity is raising chicks in the classroom! I've done it every year I've been teaching, and it is the highlight of the year - the kids always remember how many chicks we had, their names and other details. This life cycle requires more expensive equipment than others, but its worth it! I usually get my eggs from local farmers via a Craigslist ad in the Farm section (please be careful when meeting or giving out personal information!) or by buying eggs off of EBay, but if you're lucky you might also have a an outreach program from a local university with an agriculture program that will provide fertilized eggs and even come do lessons on candling the eggs! Chick Life Cycle is a Science Vocabulary Reader with simple text and great photos. Count Your Chickens is a cooperative board game (meaning everyone wins or everyone loses) which I love for teaching 1-1 correspondence, turn taking and social skills. It also requires no reading, so it can be an independent Math Center activity for up to 4 students! I have a Hova-Bator Incubator that I've used for 7 years now - it is a great little incubator with an affordable price!
Where Do Chicks Come From? by Amy Sklansky is a great book with illustrations instead of photos. I like how it explains that the eggs that we eat can never hatch into chicks. It does refer to roosters and sperm, but in a very general way, without showing how fertilization actually occurs.

If you're tempted to order a butterfly garden and the live caterpillars, I advise you to check out your local Goodwill and garage sales first - you can often find the butterfly nets for very cheap! Next, instead of the caterpillars, I order butterfly eggs. We raise the plants that they will eat in our classroom so we can see the whole process - and the effects of insects on crops! I highly recommend that route rather than the caterpillars that eat the brown sludge - which is just confusing when you're teaching that caterpillars eat leaves! Carolina Biological  has butterfly eggs, but depending on your state, you may find other sellers, just do a Google search! National Geographic Kids has a Level 1 Caterpillar to Butterfly book that is a great read for young learners, with detailed photos and lots of info on the butterfly life cycle! Pinkalicious fans will love Pinkalicious and the Little Butterfly - its a fiction story, but contain facts about the butterfly life cycle. Folkmanis also has a Reversible Monarch Life cycle puppet that is beautiful - your students will love to act out the life cycle with this puppet! Insect Lore has a Butterfly Life Cycle Stages set for hands on exploration that is plenty durable for a classroom setting.

I happen to love Praying Mantids, although they can be tricky to hatch in a classroom - some years I have great results and others the egg sac never hatches. I always make sure to have another life cycle going on at the same time, just in case we are disappointed by a dud egg sac. Also, praying mantids are cannibalistic, so when they hatch, they do tend to eat quite a few of their litter mates. My students weren't upset about that, but be ready for that eventuality. If you have your fruit flies ready and in plentiful supply, it will cut down on the cannibalism. Again, Folkmanis has an adorable Praying Mantis finger puppet that you can't go wrong with (do you sense how much I love puppets?!) Manuelo The Playing Mantis is a must-have fiction story to go along with your praying mantis unit - great illustrations, lovely story and incorporates music and instrument making! 20 Fun Facts About Praying Mantises is a non-fiction book full of great photographs too, while Praying Mantises (Animal Cannibals) is a great non-fiction text with glossary, index, fact boxes, and table of contents as well as photos.

You can also check out my Pinterest Life Cycle Board for more great resources! I also have a fun freebie for you - life cycle crowns! There's one for every life cycle mentioned in this post, plus one for plants!
My son Sullivan was my model for these ;P

FREE Groundhog Day Activities You Won't Want To Miss

Groundhog Day is coming up, so I'm sharing some of my 
favorite FREE activities!

First, here are some of the best Groundhog Day books I've found (affiliate links provided for your convenience):

Substitute Groundhog: This is a great book for teaching compare/contrast! Groundhog is sick and interviewing other animals for his job, but only one meets the necessary criteria!

Go To Sleep, Groundhog!: This is one of my faves - Groundhog can't sleep so he keeps waking up and experiencing different holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you teach time, note that the clock has hands that point to months rather than hours!

Groundhog's Runaway Shadow: This is a brand new book (published Dec 2016), but I absolutely LOVE the illustrations, so I ordered it already! Groundhog and his shadow have grown apart, so Shadow goes off to have his own adventures. Soon though, Phil misses him - will they be reunited in time for Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Stays Up Late: Groundhog doesn't want to prepare for winter, and when the other animals start to hibernate he stays up to play in the snow! He soon becomes hungry though and tricks the other animals into waking up early to share a Spring Feast with him. They realize that he tricked them and trick him into thinking there will be 6 more weeks of winter so that he sleeps through Spring! Great book for teaching about hibernation!

Ten Grouchy Groundhogs: This is a rhyming, counting and alliterative book, so its perfect for so many lessons! Focus on adjectives with giggly, grouchy, graceful, grubby and glitzy groundhogs, or read it during Math for a great -1 subtraction lesson!

Groundhog's Dilemma: This one is great for a lesson on being truthful. Groundhog takes bribes from the other animals, promising to predict either more winter or early spring based on their preference. When Groundhog Day rolls around he must tell the truth and make amends.

Groundhog Day: This is a Level 1 reader, perfect for kinders. It has basic facts about Groundhog Day in simple sentences.

Grumpy Groundhog: This groundhog is sleepy and doesn't want to get out of bed to make his prediction. This one has fun illustrations and rhyming text. The children in the story come up with different ways to get Groundhog to come out - which would be a wonderful writing prompt!

Groundhog Weather School: This one is great for teaching about speech bubbles in illustrations, as much of the book is written in this format. I love the illustrations and there are lots of facts packed into the fun!

Groundhog's Day Off: This is another book where Groundhog decides to take time off and other animals try to fill his shoes. This is great for teaching children appreciation - maybe combine it with writing thank you notes to school staff?

Groundhog Gets a Say - If you have students write reports about different animals, this book would be great as it contains a ton of facts about groundhogs.

Kids Explore! Groundhogs: If you have Kindles in your classroom, you can get this book for free on Kindle Unlimited! Its a non-fiction story with great photos, but is a bit wordy - I would recommend reading aloud only a few pages at a time and discussing the facts and vocabulary.

Groundhog Day: Another non-fiction book with simple text and great photographs!

Now on to the activities! I keep my plans short and sweet for Groundhog Day, as it's usually right around our 100th Day of school so I only devote about two days to it - and that's all it really needs lol!

First FREEBIE: Ground Hog Day Roll & Cover Game:
My students LOVE Roll & Cover games, so I make them for every theme we do! I'm sure your students will enjoy these games at Math Centers or in Early Finisher tubs too - they can play in pairs or even solo!

Next, a FREE Groundhog Day Class Graph & Prediction Pack:
Of course Groundhog Day lends itself to prediction graphs! My advice is to do the graph the day before - otherwise you run the risk of someone hearing the report on the radio on the way to school! Click the picture to download all of the pieces to make this class graph for free!

And finally, a simple Groundhog Day Crown, modeled by my 3 year old, Sullivan! My students love crowns, and this is a quick craft that is a great conversation starter to get them talking about what they did at school with their parents! Just click on the picture to download it for free!

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