How to Teach Reptiles and Amphibians in Preschool
Preschoolers are especially receptive to lessons about animals and wildlife. Since the topic is so broad, divide it up into units, and make one of the units about reptiles and amphibians. Teach about the characteristics of reptiles and amphibians and species that fall into these categories, such as snakes, frogs and turtles. Construct lessons by incorporating circle activities, arts and crafts, reading and guest speakers or field trips.
1 Circle Time Songs and Rhymes
During circle time, introduce preschoolers to reptiles, amphibians and their behaviors through songs, rhymes and finger plays. Examples of reptile and amphibian-themed songs include "Snapping Turtle," "Boa Song," "If You See" and "A Salamander." These songs name different types of reptiles and amphibians and describe their appearance and movement. Have students sing along, clap along and act out the movements of the animals. For example, in "Snapping Turtle," students can make a snapping motion with their hands to imitate the turtle's snap. The lyrics and movement guides for these songs and rhymes are available online.
2 Reptiles, Amphibians and Art
Have students create a model or drawing of an amphibian or reptile of their choice to help them understand what the animal looks like and teach them to identify the animal's different body parts. Some crafting ideas include making miniature alligators out of wooden clothes pins, making a snake out of a green-painted paper plate cut into a spiral or making a turtle using construction paper and an upside-down coffee filter as the shell. While students are creating their pieces, ask them questions such as "What color is the animal you chose?" and "What do you like about the animal you chose?" This allows them to be creative while still actively thinking about the animal they are portraying in their artwork.
3 Reptile and Amphibian Stories
During reading time, incorporate books that are about reptiles or amphibians. Since this is for preschoolers, forgo science or nature books in favor of children's stories that feature amphibian or reptile characters. In this way, the students learn about the animals through an engaging story with colorful images. An example of a book with this theme is Eric Carle's "The Mixed-Up Chameleon." This book tells of a young chameleon coming into his own and features real-life chameleon behavior such as the ability to change color and climb trees. The illustrations also offer a good visual representation of what a chameleon looks like. Other reading suggestions include Eric Carle's other books "The Greedy Python" and "The Foolish Tortoise" and Leo Lionni's frog-themed "It's Mine!"
4 Meet a Reptile or Amphibian
To provide a more in-depth, firsthand experience for your students, plan a class trip to a local reptile zoo or aquarium to observe live reptiles and amphibians. If this is not possible, see if it's possible to have a representative bring some live animals, such as frogs or turtles, to the classroom. This gives students the opportunity to see and interact with the animals in a safe environment while learning from an expert. During the visit, encourage students to ask questions about the animals and express what they observe.