Exploring Life Cycles

Students study the life cycles of different plants and animals and the characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things, through multiple engaging informational texts and hands-on activities.

Unit Summary

As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit was revised in April 2021. See which texts and materials have changed as part of the revision in this guide to our Kindergarten text adjustments. If you are looking for the previous version of this unit, you can find it in our archives here.

In this science-based unit, students begin to build respect for and understanding of living things by studying the life cycles of different plants and animals. In the first bend of the unit, students continue their exploration of seasons by exploring what makes spring the season of growth and the different characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things. In the second part of the unit, students observe and learn about plants and what seeds need in order to grow into a plant. In the third part of the unit, students observe and learn about frogs and butterflies and the process in which tadpoles turn into frogs and caterpillars transform into butterflies. In the fourth part of the unit, students learn about birds and how birds grow and change inside of an egg. For each bend of the unit, it is incredibly important that students are able to participate in hands-on labs and activities that help them see and observe the life cycles in action; therefore, there are multiple project days within the unit. After the projects and labs have been set up, students should be pushed to predict, observe, record, and explain the changes that they notice. Throughout the unit, students should be challenged to think critically about how the life cycles of plants and animals are similar and different, and what all living things need in order to thrive and survive.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: It’s Spring! by Linda Glaser (National Geographic School Pub; 1 edition, 2010)    —  AD590L

  • Book: What’s Alive? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (HarperCollins; 1 edition, 1995)    —  430L

  • Book: How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan (HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD470L

  • Book: From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Legg (Children's Press(CT); American ed. Edition, 1998)    —  540L

  • Book: The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (Little Simon; Reprint edition, 2009)    —  500L

  • Book: Who Will Plant a Tree? by Jerry Pallotta (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010)  

  • Book: Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition, 2001)    —  AD459L

  • Book: From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Gerald Legg (Franklin Watts; American ed. Edition, 1998)    —  520L

  • Book: From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman (HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD520L

  • Book: Have you Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray (HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2017)    —  AD430L

  • Book: A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz (Jenkins, HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD630L

  • Book: From Egg to Chicken by Gerald Legg (Children's Press(CT), 1998)    —  560L

  • Book: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen and Jerry Pinkney (Morrow Junior Books; 1st edition, 1999)    —  AD820L

  • Book: Frogs by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House; Reprint edition, 1993)    —  AD600L

  • Book: From Tadpole to Frog by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2011)    —  520L

  • Book: Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt and Co)  

See Text Selection Rationale

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What do all living things need to survive?
  • How are life cycles of various organisms similar and different?

Writing Focus Areas

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Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Produce simple sentences orally and in writing.
  • Use the conjunctions “because” and “so” orally and in writing.
  • Use statements, questions, and exclamations orally or in writing.

In this unit, students continue to work on crafting sentences orally and in writing. Students explore using different sentence types and conjunctions to convey specific ideas and emotion.

Narrative Writing Focus Areas

  • Narrate a single event.
  • Tell what happens in the beginning, middle, and end.

In this unit, students use a combination of drawing and writing to write stories about the life cycle of a plant and a bird.

Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Name the topic they are writing about.
  • Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to include some information about the topic.

In this unit, students focus on using drawing, dictating, and writing to teach a reader about the stages in a frog and butterfly life cycle.

Vocabulary

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Text-based

burst cling hatch lay minerals molt nutrient peck plant produce puzzled shed sprout surround wiggle

Related Teacher Tools:

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • All living things need food, water, and air to survive.
  • A life cycle is a series of stages that a living thing passes through as it is born, grows, and dies.
  • Different organisms have different life cycles. Organisms grow differently.
    • Plants start as seeds. The seeds germinate and grow into a young plant. The plant then grows into a mature or adult plant. The adult plant grows seeds. The seeds travel to different places and the life cycle starts again.
    • A frog starts as an egg. The eggs turn into tadpoles. The tadpoles have gills that grow underwater. The tadpoles then grow legs and lungs. They become froglets. The froglets lose their tail and turn into an adult. The adult then lays its own eggs and the life cycle starts again.
    • A butterfly starts as an egg. A caterpillar grows out of the egg. The caterpillar then goes into a chrysalis. In the chrysalis, it grows a head, wings, and a body. Out of the chrysalis comes a butterfly. The butterfly later lays its own eggs and the life cycle starts again.
    • A bird starts as an egg. Inside the egg, it grows into a little bird. The little bird hatches out of the egg. The mother and father take care of the bird as it grows. The little chicks grow into adult birds, who later can have their own chicks.

Lesson Map

1

  • It’s Spring!

    RI.K.2

Explain how the little boy knows it’s spring.

2

  • What’s Alive?

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain how you can tell if something is alive and what all living things need to survive.

3

  • How a Seed Grows

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain how seeds change as they grow and what they need in order to change and grow.

4

  • From Seed to Sunflower

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.4

    RI.K.7

Explain how seeds change into sunflowers and what happens at each stage.

5

  • The Tiny Seed

    RL.K.3

Explain how the tiny seed survives.

6

  • Who Will Plant a Tree?

    RI.K.3

Explain how animals are an important part of a plant's life cycle.

7

2 days

Writing

    W.K.3

    W.K.5

    L.K.1

    L.K.2

Write a story about a seed that travels from one place to another.

8

  • Frogs pp. 1 – 21

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Retell key details about the stages in a frog’s life cycle.

9

  • From Tadpole to Frog

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.9

Identify additional details about each stage of a frog’s life cycle.

10

Writing

    W.K.2

    W.K.7

    W.K.8

    L.K.1

    L.K.2

Write an informational text to teach about a frog’s life cycle.

11

  • Waiting for Wings

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Predict the stages in a butterfly’s life cycle and what happens at each stage.

12

  • Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what Merian learned about butterflies and why this was important.

13

  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.9

Describe the stages in a butterfly’s life cycle and what happens at each stage.

14

Writing

    W.K.2

    W.K.7

    W.K.8

    L.K.1

    L.K.2

Write a book that teaches about each stage in a butterfly’s life cycle.

15

  • Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain why the nesting bird was not making any noise.

16

  • A Nest Full of Eggs pp. 1 – 23

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain what happens at each stage of a bird’s life cycle.

17

  • From Egg to Chicken

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.9

Describe the life cycle of a chicken.

18

2 days

Writing

    W.K.2

    W.K.3

    W.K.5

    L.K.1

Write a story about a baby bird hatching from an egg.

19

  • The Ugly Duckling pp. 1 – 12

    RL.K.2

    RL.K.3

Explain how the other animals treated the little duckling and how it made him feel.

20

  • The Ugly Duckling

    RL.K.2

    RL.K.3

Explain what the duckling learns about himself and what lessons we can learn from him.

21

Discussion

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.2

Discuss unit essential questions.

22

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.K.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.K.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.K.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.

  • L.K.6 — Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.K.2 — With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

  • RI.K.3 — With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

  • RI.K.4 — With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

  • RI.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).

  • RI.K.9 — With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.K.2 — With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

  • RL.K.3 — With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.K.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.K.2 — Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

Writing Standards
  • W.K.2 — Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

  • W.K.3 — Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.

  • W.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.

  • W.K.7 — Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

  • W.K.8 — With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Spiral Standards

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L.K.5

RI.K.1

RI.K.10

RL.K.1

RL.K.10

SL.1.1

SL.K.3

SL.K.5

SL.K.6