Those Crazy Penguins!
Grade level: K-3
This is an integrated unit about penguins and it makes a fantastic winter theme. It is a very simple task to integrate these ideas into your whole curriculum. Many children are interested in
penguins and excited to learn about how they live. There are many wonderful books and materials available to extend these ideas.
This unit can be integrated into your lesson plans. Many of the activities detailed here can be performed as whole group activities. The books and information can be read as part of the guided
reading block, whether done as a class, in pairs or individually. Many of the art, research and math activities can be done in centers or as part of writers workshops.
Students will explore penguin life and expand their knowledge of penguins to include different types of penguins, their behavior, habitat, communication, reproduction, diet, eating habits and
The student will:
- Know the names of at least X penguins. The number X varies with grade level.
- Compare sizes and physical characteristics that distinguish one group of penguins from another.
- Identify penguins that live in warm climates and also penguins that live in cold climates.
- Explain how penguins gather food, feed their chicks, and protect their chicks and themselves from predators. They will also explain penguin life cycles.
- Goodnight Opus - Berkeley Breathed
- A Penguin Year - S. Bonner
- A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story- Berkeley Breathed
- Cuddly Duddly - Jez Alborough
- Hector and Christina - Louise Fatio
- Little Penguin's Tale - Audrey Wood
- Mr. Pin: The Chocolate Files - Mary Elsie Monsell
- Mr. Popper's Penguins - Richard and Florence Atwater
- Penguin Day - Victoria Winteringham
- Penguin Moon - Annie Mitra
- Penguin Pete - Marcus Pfister
- Penguin Pete and Little Tim - Marcus Pfister
- Penguin Pete and Pat - Marcus Pfister
- Penguin Pete, Ahoy - Marcus Pfister
- Penguin Pete's New Friends - Pfister Marcus
- Penguins of ALL People! - Don Freeman
- Tacky the Penguin - Helen Leister
- The Penguins are coming - R. Penney
- The Spy Who Came North from the Pole - Mary Elise Monsell
- Three Cheers for Tacky - Helen Lester
For your youngest students:
- Each student will create a travel brochure for a visit to Antarctica with penguins on the cover. Tell the students you will study different types of penguins during our thematic unit.
- Gather facts about penguins and make a fact book using penguin shaped paper.
- Write about what you think it would be like to have a pet penguin.
- Keeping Warm: discuss the special down feathers that penguins have to keep them warm. You will need 3 zip-lock bags, ice cold water and ice cubes for this activity. Fill one bag 1/2 way with water
and ice and seal it shut completely. Zip the second bag almost all the way up but blow some air into it before you seal it completely (it should be like an air pillow). First put the bag with the air
under the ice cube/water filled bag. Then do the same with a flat bag. Which is warmer? Why do you think that is?
- Make a penguin finger puppet: take empty film canisters and cut the lid in half. Glue the lid halves to each side to make wings. Cut an oval piece of white paper or fun foam for the belly. Add
wiggle eyes and orange for a beak. You can also make a neat scene for the penguins. Take a blue piece of paper and paint a snow scene. Cut a Styrofoam ball in half for an igloo, the kids can move
their penguin around the scene.
- Make a graph of favorite penguin books: after you read all your penguin books, have each member of the class choose their favorite book. Create a graph with the children's input.
As A Class
Discuss the similarities and difference between all species of penguins, including location, size, physical characteristics, birth process, eating habits and their predators. Answer the
- Where do penguins live?
- Which penguin is the largest?
- Which is the smallest?
- What are the physical characteristics of the penguins known to scientists?
- How are baby penguins born?
- How do adult penguins care and protect their chicks and themselves?
- What is the life span and causes of death for each species of penguins?
- What do penguins eat?
Be an Emperor Penguin.
You will need an egg made of play dough. Explain that once an egg is laid the emperor male penguin keeps it warm for two months for balancing it on his feet. See if you can balance the egg as you walk around the room!
- Act out the father penguins guarding the eggs on their feet while the moms "waddle" away to eat. Used plastic Easter eggs.
- Work together as a class, or let students work individually on a graphic organizer in a t-shape. Let them show what is fact about penguins and what is fiction in stories they read.
- On a map, locate all the places where penguins live. Then plot all the places the penguin in the story went.
- Make a penguin mobile of the different varieties of penguins. Draw the penguin on one side and write it's characteristics on the other side.
- Have the students choose their favorite type of penguin and create a slide show about it. Be sure to include it's vital statistics, characteristics, and why you like it best. (note: this can be done in Kids Pix, Clarisworks, Hyperstudio or Powerpoint.)
For older or more independent students:
Make paper mache' penguins. Try creating an egg-shape made by paper-mache'ing over a medium oval balloon. When it is dry, painted to show face, chest, and feet. Hang from a string or attach to cardboard (and add feet) after it has dried.
The culminating activity can be evaluated using the following criteria:
- Do the students' reports contain information that shows an understanding of their topics?
- As you read each book, ask for comments and feedback, especially if the student-made book allowed readers to increase their knowledge and understanding of penguins, the different types of penguins, and the various characteristics of penguins.
- Listen to student discussions, do students' express their expanded knowledge about penguins.