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Dinosaur Unit Ideas for Kindergarten and First Grade

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!

Ideas for a dinosaur unit in kindergarten and first grade. Making and studying fossils, digging for fossils, dinosaur centers, volcano, math, and more! #tejedastots

GETTING STARTED

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

Free dinosaur word wall. Read this blog post for ideas across all content areas plus a dinosaur math freebie.

FOSSIL STUDIES

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 studied the fossil picture and made inferences about the dinosaur- what it ate, where it lived, how it moved, etc. Fun part of our dinosaur study! #tejedastots
We studied the fossil picture and made inferences about the dinosaur- what it ate, where it lived, how it moved, etc. Fun part of our dinosaur study! #tejedastots

We also “excavated” fossils (chocolate chips) out of rock (cookie) using our advanced paleontologist tools- chisels and brushes (toothpick and paintbrush to clean)!

During our dinosaur unit, students got to be paleontologists and excavated chocolate chip "fossils" from cookie "rocks" using toothpick chisels and brushes! #tejedastots

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.

During our dinosaur study, students were paleontologists and got to make fossils, which we then studied at our writing center. #tejedastots

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.

Students were paleontologists and studied fossils. They made inferences and wrote about them. Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

On the back, they drew what they think it looked like when it was alive.

Students were paleontologists and studied fossils. They made inferences and wrote about them. Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

DINOSAUR DIG

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.

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss
Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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.

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

VOLCANO ERUPTION

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!

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Our fun even included erupting a volcano! Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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.

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Our fun even included erupting a volcano! Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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.

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Our fun even included erupting a volcano! Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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.

Students were paleontologists at our dino dig center! They made and studied fossils, then made inferences and wrote about them. They also measured dinosaurs and built dinosaur models. Our fun even included erupting a volcano! Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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

What's more motivating to read than a T-Rex dinosaur tent? Kids loved reading in here during our dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas on incorporating a dinosaur unit across all content areas.

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!

During our dinosaur unit, students dug for fossils, erupted volcanoes, and did dino-mite math! Part of our fun dinosaur unit. Read this blog post for more ideas! #tejedastoss

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!

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