The subject of dinosaurs appeals to the natural curiosity of young
students, as it blends together a mixture of fact and fantasy, much
like the study of medieval castles or whales. This project is designed
to offer students a rich environment of standards-based skills steeped
in fun technology-based activities. Students explore dinosaur-related
content as they find out about a recent dinosaur discovery, study
the characteristics of some better-known dinosaurs, classify dinosaurs
using a time line, craft questions to a dinosaur expert, and use
prior knowledge to answer fun and interesting questions about dinosaurs.
The project culminates with a writing activity, in which
older students craft what they've learned about dinosaurs within
a writing genre of their choice. As students work through the project,
they will contribute cumulatively to a K-W-L chart and individual
Although this project is appropriate for grades K8, certain
activities are geared toward more specific grade ranges. See Lesson
Planning Suggestions for tips on personalizing the content for
your classroom's needs.
Several assessment components are embedded in this lesson plan.
highlight activities that address specific target skills. Targeted
skills are listed in Learning Objectives, and an Activity
Assessment Rubric assesses student proficiency with the "Dinosaur
Scholastic's Online Activities are designed to support the teaching
of standards-based skills. While participating in the "Dinosaurs!"
project, students become proficient with several of these skills.
Each skill below is linked to its point of use in the Teacher's
the course of participating in the "Dinosaurs!" project, students
goals for scientific inquiry.
content-area reading skills, such as distinguishing between
real and make-believe.
a context for the study of dinosaurs.
technology to gain a basic understanding of dinosaur characteristics.
how the study of dinosaurs informs scientific knowledge.
technology as a mode of inquiry to access information from experts.
through writing accumulated knowledge of dinosaurs.
content-area reading skills, such as reading for detail.
Dinosaur Times (Grades
In this interactive timeline, students unearth the time of the dinosaurs.
"Click and drag" technology allows students to organize dinosaurs
into appropriate time periods. Information about the dinosaur will
pop up and aid as a clue for appropriate placement.
Note: This game requires Flash technology. If you don't currently
have the plug-in, download
it for free.
Ask a Dinosaur Expert
Meet paleontologist and marine archeologist Sue Hendrickson and read a transcript of her interview by students.
Dinosaur Picture Book (Grades K8)
Look at photos from The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and join us for our live interview of illustrator Brian Selznick on October 22, 121 ET.
Dinosaur Research Starter(Grades 58)
Start your research paper with our Dinosaur Research Starter. Grolier Online's encyclopedia articles allow students to get ideas for their topics and start reading articles right away.
Dinosaur Write (All Grades)
Incorporating at least three facts into a piece of writing, in a
genre other than nonfiction/research, students share what they have
learned. They can also publish their work online, read other students'
Real or Make-believe
Students test their knowledge of dinosaurs as they take a humorous,
interactive quiz. Players improve reading and comprehension skills
such as drawing conclusions, using picture clues, and distinguishing
between real and make-believe.
Dino Don's Dinosaur Quiz
Students challenge themselves with "Dino" Don's Dinosaur Quiz. This
interactive multiple-choice test provides answers to relevant questions
Students familiarize themselves with dinosaur anatomy by taking
part in an interactive dinosaur-assembly game. Students learn dinosaur
facts and create six different types of dinosaurs from their component
parts: head, body, tail, and legs. They can also create an imaginary
dinosaur of their own.
This interactive nonfiction photo story reveals a recent dinosaur
discovery. A team of scientists uncovers a previously unknown dinosaur,
one of the largest ones found to date. Students use simple technology
skills to learn how scientists unearth, assemble, and display the
Build Background (12 days)
Discuss what students already know about dinosaurs and explore what
they would like to learn further. Organize student input on a chalkboard,
or have small groups record responses with poster paper. If this
is done in small groups, the results should be discussed as a whole
class. Post a K-W-L chart of student questions on the wall. Contribute
to the poster throughout the life of the project.
What Do You Know About Dinosaurs? (13 days)
Have students play a game of "Real or Make-believe." You may wish
to fill out the K-W-L chart as you read and answer questions with
Once you've played the game, have students play again with a partner.
Collect a classroom library of dinosaur books from the library or
from the Scholastic Recommends book list. Suggest that students
create their own "Real or Make-believe" scenarios using some of
the books you have collected. Encourage students to write, draw,
or record their scenarios. You may wish to take dictation with pre-writers.
If you haven't done so already, have students add any relevant information
to the K-W-L chart. Begin a dinosaur portfolio to use as a reference
tool. Encourage students to contribute their work to the portfolio.
When Did Dinosaurs Live? (13 days)
In order to place dinosaurs in a historical context, discuss the
concept of a time line. Ask: Why are they important? How can they
help us learn? Then allow students to test what they know about
dinosaurs by participating in the time
line activity. Create a schedule for students to play the game
Then, as a class (or individually), create your own dinosaur time
line. As you continue through the project, add other dinosaurs in
their appropriate time periods. Make the time line on large sheets
of newsprint as a classroom mural! Ask students how a paper-drawn
time line is different from the online version. Encourage students
to add their time lines, if created individually, to their portfolios.
If you create the time line as a class, have students list how the
time line increased their knowledge about dinosaurs. Begin a dinosaur
portfolio, and include the list or dinosaur time line.
What Did Dinosaurs Look Like? (12 days)
Introduce the Build-a-Dinosaur activity. Explore the game with students
until they become comfortable with the technology. Then allow students
to create the six different dinosaurs.
Also, have students create an imaginary dinosaur by mixing the various
parts! Advanced students may wish to design a habitat, name their
dinosaur, and decide its size, scale, and eating habits in a descriptive
paragraph. Encourage students to add any relevant information to
the K-W-L chart and the dinosaur machine. Students may add their
creations to their portfolio at the end of the project.
Note: The Flash plug-in is required to play the Build-a-Dinosaur
game. If you don't have the free software, click here.
How Do We Find Out About Dinosaurs? (12 days)
Review with students the K-W-L chart. Ask: What have you learned
about dinosaurs that you didn't know previously? Ask students if
they know where our information about dinosaurs comes from. Write
responses on the chalkboard. Introduce the word paleontologist.
Write it on the board, too. Inform students that this is the name
of the person whose job it is to study and research about dinosaurs.
Discuss what a paleontologist does and where one works.
Next introduce students to a dinosaur expert, Sue Hendrickson. Print out the page for older students to read independently.
Read the story aloud with younger students.
After all students have read about Argentinosaurus, have them respond
to the following questions:
- If dinosaurs lived so long ago, how do we find out about them
- What fact made the discovery of Argentinosaurus so important?
- Use sequence of events to tell how a dinosaur skeleton ends
up in a museum? 35
- What was your favorite part of the story? K2
- Was the story real or make-believe? How do you know? K2
- Why is the study of paleontology important? What does it tell
Ask an Expert
After reading through the story, students can work on questions
for Ms. Hendrickson. They can look through the transcript of the live interview and see if their question was answered. Add questions to the K-W-L chart from day 1, as needed. Students can check back throughout the life of the project. Remind students also to add what they learned to the chart, as they read Sue's responses.
Write About It (34 days)
Tell students that they will use what they've learned about dinosaurs
to create a piece of writing. Have students include at least three
dinosaur facts. Remind them that their writing should be from a
genre different from a nonfiction/research paper. Have students
refer to the time line, Dinosaur Research Starter, Q & A with "Dino" Don, Argentinosaurus,
and previously learned facts to create their writing. Allow time
for independent research in the library, or use your classroom resource
If students need help with the writing process, have them visit
the Writing with Writers workshops
for a step-by-step plan on writing in an appropriate genre. If students are writing a research paper, start their research with the Dinosaur Research Starter. When
students are finished with their writing, allow them to publish
their work online. Have students contribute a copy of their
writings to their portfolio. Encourage them to add what they've
learned to the K-W-L chart and dinosaur time line.
Project Wrap-up (12 days)
All Grades Schedule individual interviews to go over students'
portfolios. Review the K-W-L chart with all students. Is there anything
that they've left out? What information about dinosaurs did they
find the most useful/interesting? Use the last few days to allow
students time to finish any outstanding projects.
Challenge students to test their dinosaur knowledge with "Dino"
Don's Dinosaur Quiz. You may wish
to have students form teams and use the Quiz to create their own
game show. Meet individually with students to share writing and
review the Writing rubric together.
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several
National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International
Reading Association (IRA) include:
- Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build
an understanding of themselves, and of the cultures of the United
States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to
the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal
- Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language
(e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively
with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- Students use a variety of technological and information resources
(e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather
and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative,
and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish
their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion,
and the exchange of information).
The Science Research Expedition helps students meet the standards
of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.
Science as Inquiry (Content Standard A)
All students should develop:
- Understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge (Grades
- Understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry (Grades K8)
- Understanding of the scientific enterprise (Grades K8)
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (Grades K8)
Life Science (Content Standard C)
All students should develop understanding of:
- Organisms and environments (Grades K4)
- Structure and function in living systems (Grades 58)
- Populations and ecosystems (Grades 58)
- Diversity and adaptations of organisms (Grades 58)
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Content Standard
All students should develop understanding of:
- Characteristics and changes in populations (Grades K4)
- Changes in environments (Grades K4)
- Science and technology in local challenges (Grades K4)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity,
and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with
peers, experts, and other audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information
from a variety of sources
Challenge students to make a dinosaur diorama. Using an old shoe
box and art materials, re-create a dinosaur time period.
Have students prepare a skit and imagine they are newscasters reporting
on the discovery of their favorite dinosaur. Have them write a list
of questions and interview a paleontologist about this dinosaur.
Have students create a postcard that has arrived from the Jurassic
period. What does it say? Who or what wrote it?
Invite students to write their favorite dinosaur a letter. What
questions would you ask? What would you like to know? You may wish
to dictate for pre-writers.
Challenge students to use estimation and measurement skills. In
the schoolyard or in the cafeteria, instruct them to measure out
the length of their favorite dinosaur. Younger students may use
counting bears and do the activity as a class or in pairs.
Challenge students to use place-value skills. How can they write
225 million, 55 million, etc?
Have students use classification/grouping/sorting skills. Sort and
graph the meat-eaters and plant-eaters. What else can they group?
Create a word web and study the word extinction with the
class. Ask: What does it mean? Why did it happen to the dinosaurs?
What would/wouldn't they need to survive today?
Encourage students to research lands where dinosaurs once lived.
Challenge them to find out where they have been discovered. What
the territory is like today and what was it like back then?
Have students make their own time line from birth to the present.
Invite students to create a dinosaur dig. Help them to bury chicken
bones, artifacts, etc. in sand and then dig them up and classify
them. As an alternative, you may wish to make bones/fossils out
of clay or paper mache.
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