Kids love dinosaurs! Everything about a dinosaur unit screams FUN. From making and studying fossils to erupting a volcano and discussing extinction theories, to reading about and comparing/ contrasting dinosaurs. I love using themed units across all content areas. It gives students a chance to connect and build upon learning throughout the day and weeks.
Here are some ideas for activities you can use in your kindergarten or first grade dinosaur unit! Make sure to scroll down for your dino-mite freebie too!
We started our dinosaur unit with a KWL chart to see what the students already knew, any misconceptions, and get a feel for what they were interested in learning. Then, we read some books and websites to learn more. My favorite sites for non-fiction learning are Pebble Go and Brain Pop Jr. If your school has a Reading A to Z subscription, they also have great dinosaur books you can project onto your screen. We made a word wall to refer to throughout the unit. This was a freebie from Herding Cats in Kindergarten on TpT. Grab it here: Dinosaur Word Wall
Next, we learned about fossils and how paleontologists study them to learn about the past. We looked at pictures and wrote our ideas about the dinosaurs- carnivores vs herbivores, how it moved, where it lived, etc.
We also “excavated” fossils (chocolate chips) out of rock (cookie) using our advanced paleontologist tools- chisels and brushes (toothpick and paintbrush to clean)!
After learning about fossils, we made our own using a simple dough recipe found on makelifelovely.com. She includes step-by-step pictures I found really helpful. The students loved experimenting with different kinds of prints using toy dinosaurs and plastic plants and bugs.
I also used the dough to make a big dinosaur egg by stuffing a toy dinosaur inside. This took about a week to completely dry, since I couldn’t bake it with the plastic dinosaur inside!
We used these fossils at our writing center the following week! Students were “paleontologists” and studied them, writing what they could tell about the animal/ plant. I place these questions at the table as a guide.
On the back, they drew what they think it looked like when it was alive.
We also used some of our home-made fossils in our dinosaur dig site, which was a huge hit! Here is a closer look at our sections.
First, students got a paleontologist’s checklist to keep track of what they did. Look at this cutie suited up and ready to go!
Here’s a close-up of the checklist.
Students used shovels to find fossils and match them to picture info cards. I got this fossil kit from Amazon and although the text was too hard for the students, the pictures were great and perfect for matching. Of course, we added our own fossils in there too.
What’s a dinosaur unit without a volcano eruption, right? I was a little anxious about this addition to our corner, but I let that go and I’m glad I did. Students followed my little directions poster and did everything themselves. Yes, it was a hot mess, but so worth it seeing their faces light up with every eruption!
On their paleontologist’s checklist, they also had to measure their dino’s weight and length. We used toy dinosaurs, a scale, and cubes for weight, and cool dino egg rulers for length. The rulers and dino dig signs are from Pocket of Preschool’s Dinosaur theme pack. Her ideas are perfect for incorporating play and I modified them to fit my kindergartner’s needs.
There was also a skeleton-building area. Here, students read facts about each dinosaur and explored ways to build the skeletons with Q-tips and popsicle sticks. I added pipe cleaners to this station later on, after a student request.
DINOSAUR UNIT CENTERS
My students loved designing farm blueprints so much during our farm unit, that I had them design their own Dino-land too. They worked in groups to plan out where everything would go, using the key to color-code, and adding their own ideas to their Dino-lands.
This activity incorporates so many important skills: problem-solving, math, collaboration. It’s one of my favorite activities, for sure.
Build it & Write- Kids just love this center because they get to build their picture before having to write! I have them for all themes throughout the year. Take a look at the bundle here: Build it & Write Yearlong Bundle
You can imagine their enthusiasm for reading in our dinosaur tent! I got it for less than $15 from Amazon and it folds and pops up in 2 seconds. Here is an affiliate link: Dinosaur tent
Dinosaur Unit Math
Of course, dino-mite math is super fun and we used toy dinosaurs to act out word problems and write number sentences. Here is a little freebie for you! We projected this scene on the board and told math stories about it. We wrote addition and subtraction number sentences to go with it, then drew our own scenes on the back and had partners write number sentences for it. These were a little tricky in kindergarten and I think next time, I’ll do a little more guiding with the make-your-own pictures!
Grab your freebie below!
Kids also counted “dinosaur eggs” and sorted plant leaves. The eggs were left over from our farm unit. So was our flower word-building center, so we recycled it using a different background!
We also loved reading fiction dinosaur books. Some of our favorites are:
- Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Charlie Freedman- perfect way to introduce extinction with humor (dinosaurs fight over underwear and end up wiping themselves out), then have a discussion about what really happened!
- Chalk by Bill Thomson- this is a wordless book about kids who find chalk at a park. When they draw something, it comes to life. You can imagine the shock when they draw a T-Rex!
- Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I? Please!? by Lois Grambling- this tied in perfectly with our opinion writing unit of study, as the main character gave his mom lots of reasons he should have a stego pet.
This was such a great unit and the kids enjoyed all of the activities we did. I’m sure there was a lot more we could’ve done and I’d love to hear your ideas! Comment below with them and share this post with someone who may also like it!