Teaching Life Cycles in Upper Elementary: Watching students’ eyes grow wide in amazement as they learn about watch seeds grow into plants is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s similar to watching students discover how caterpillars turn into butterflies in a few short weeks through learning about life cycles!
Engaging and fascinating for students, life cycles cover a wide range of plants and animals. Students gain new respect for frogs, ladybugs, and other plants and animals when they realize the amazing transformations they go through. Today I will share ways we can engage and teach students about the life cycle in upper elementary!
Here are a five fun ways to bring the life cycle to your classroom!
- Experience Them First-Hand
There’s nothing more impactful than seeing life cycles happen right in front of you! Whether you have each child grow their own sunflower or you bring in a chrysalis to the classroom, bringing this into the classroom is a great learning experience. You can even turn the experience into a field trip by visiting a local farm, butterfly house, or a pond where you can see tadpoles.
If you’re unable to help your students see life cycles first-hand, you can also use videos and documentaries that highlight the life cycles of various plants and animals. One resource is the Florida Museum at the University of Florida which has a butterfly cam where students can view butterflies in various stages of their life cycles.
- Read About Life Cycles
Practice reading comprehension skills and add new words to your students’ vocabularies by reading about life cycles. Teaching reading skills is an essential part of any classroom. Yet, it can be challenging to find non-fiction topics that are engaging. Life cycle reading passages, like my set on ladybugs, frogs, butterflies, sunflowers, and ants, keep students interested as they read. Additionally, students can practice identifying the main idea and hone their comprehension skills.
- Make It a Unit
Dive into life cycles by forming a whole unit around your favorite life cycle. Include reading, writing, math, and science work on the life cycle in question. Use themed word problems, bulletin boards, and art projects to take it even further!
For example, encourage students to make a diorama showing the habitat needs of frogs throughout their life cycle. Or, have students complete life cycle pennants for creating a fun bulletin board.
- Write About Life Cycles
When writing, children can learn a lot about any subject, including life cycles. From fiction to explanatory, and descriptive writing, there are plenty of areas to practice. Provide your students with writing prompts such as:
- Imagine you’re a caterpillar. How would you feel about building your chrysalis? How would you feel when you finally leave the chrysalis and fly for the first time?
- Imagine you’re a seed in the ground. Write about growing into a sprout and feeling sunlight for the first time.
- Write about transforming from a tadpole into a frog. How does it feel to go on land?
If you’re looking for more writing ideas, try my Pumpkin Life Cycle Investigation Worksheets.
- Research Life Cycles
Setting students loose in the library or online to find information for themselves helps them build important research skills. Invite children to investigate various life cycles, including plants, insects, and amphibians!
If you need a template to guide your students’ research, feel free to grab my Research Science Spring Bulletin Board resource.
Here are a few great books for teaching about life cycle
The most important thing when teaching a new topic in science it to give students visuals and experiences. What better way to do this, than read alouds? Yes I know what you are thinking, those are only for elementary age students… Wrong! Your kids will love it too, no matter what age they are. Here are some fun books that teach about different types of life cycles.
- The Dandelion Seed
- Life Cycles: Everything from Start to Finish
- National Geographic Readers: Caterpillar to Butterfly
- Butterflies for Kids
Make sure to grab this Freebie
This butterfly freebie is the perfect way to start off your life cycle unit!
I hope you have a blast teaching this lesson to your class. Now, tell me, what is your favorite life cycle to teach? Get in touch with me on Instagram or send me an email at HERE, I would love to hear from you!
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