Dem Bones, Dem Bones

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Students will be able to apply grade level phonics and word analysis skills by distinguishing the differences between similarly spelled words by identifying the grapheme or sounds of the letters that differ.

Big Idea

Naming bones on the human skeleton helps students practice word matching skills using different techniques.


15 minutes

Gather the students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique.


Skeleton dance video link

Play the “Hokey Pokey” song and encourage all of the students to participate, or you could play the game “Simon Says” (If you play the game focus on major body parts rather than actions or fine features – this is to build the students knowledge about body parts and bones).

Once the song or game is over have the students take a seat on the rug. 


Show the students the cover of the book. Read the title of the book. “The title of this book is Dem Bones. If the book is called Dem Bones, what do you think this book is going to be about?” Select two or three students to express their predictions to the class (I only select two or three students to share their prediction so the rest of the class does not get bored and cause a disruption). Ask the students who answer to explain why they think their answer is right. For example, “Why do you think the book is about bones?”

Next, tell the students the person who wrote this story is Bob Barner. If he wrote the words what is he called?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and say “An author.” If no students are able to answer the question tell the students, “The person who writes the words in a book is called an author.” Repeat this process by saying, “Bob Barner also drew the pictures. If he drew the pictures what is he called?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and say, “The illustrator.” If no students are able to answer the question tell the students, “The person who draws the pictures in a book is called the illustrator.”

Now I go ahead and read the story to the students.

While reading the book I check in with the students by asking them to predict which bone they think will come next. In this book there is a clue to which bone is being focused on because it is red.

When the book is over ask the students to recall the order of the bones in the story. Walk them through the story very briefly by having them touch each bone as you skim through the pages.


15 minutes

Tell the students that they are now going to label a skeleton with six major bone labels.

Show the students the completed model first. Explain to the students that this is what their finished piece of work should look like. Point out the main features on the model like student name and neatly matched labels.

Now show the students the work sheet and set of words they are going to get. Explain to the students that they will need to cut the words apart and then use glue to match the correct bone label to the correct part of the skeleton. Point out the fact that some of the words have the same beginning letter and they will need to check carefully to determine which word is the correct label for the bone.

Model how to do this by actually cutting apart the words and then asking for a student volunteer to suggest what we could do to determine if this word is the correct label for a specific bone on the skeleton.

I select a student who I know will model the process of matching the graphemes - holding the word up against the label and match the letters one-to-one to determine if the word is the same or different.

Once the student has completed the process ask the students if there is another way I could check to see if this is the correct label.

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand. I usually get a high performing student who will say each letter sound in the word and then determine whether the word is a match or not. For example, a student saying “/s/ /k/ /u/ /l/ /l/’ will be able to determine the ending sound is not the same as “spine,” so even if they cannot put all the sounds together to make the word skull they will know the ending sound is not right.

If you do not get students who can assist you with modeling these two processes, then you will need to model both processes for the students. Modeling the process helps both your visual students - they will most likely match the graphemes; as well as your auditory students - they will most likely use phonetics.   

“Who can repeat back to me what you are going to do at this work station?”

I select a student who I know is going to give an accurate response because I do not want other students to become confused by incorrect information.

“Well done April; you told me you are going to cut apart the labels and glue them to match the correct bone on your skeleton.”

“Does anyone have any questions?” 

Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some skeleton fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity.

I set the time on the visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.

Student using the resources to match labels

Student checking the spelling of labels

Student using the resource for one-to-one letter correspondence

Student doing one-to-one letter matching 

Student example of matching the letters one-to-one 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, place your work in the correct bin and use walking feet to take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.”

Students know to place their work in either the “finished work” bin or the “under construction” bin. Work in the “under construction” bin can be completed later in the day when the student finds they have spare time to fill in.


Once the students are seated on their spot on the rug I tell them that their exit ticket for today is to point to and tell me one of the bones they know which makes up the human skeleton.  


“For today’s exit ticket you need to share with us one of the bones you know which makes up the human skeleton. When you have shared a bone with us you can use the hand sanitizer and get your snack.”

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on a bone together. 



10 minutes

Keep a copy of the student work for their portfolio and recording on the record whether the students was successful in correctly labeling the skeleton bones or not. Also note any observations you made while the student was working on the activity. 

Using the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objective of the assignment. The checklist also provides a way for me to share information with the student and their family about how they are doing in class. 

Skeleton Body Part Checklist

Another assessment would be to have students work on a similar task to see if they can transfer the skills from the lesson. I use the task of labeling facial features the very next day to see if they can transfer the skills over. When introducing this task I merely say, “Today you will be matching the correct words to label the features which make up our face. The resources to help you are on the table for your group to share.”

My final assessment is to have the students match a set or words. These words could be sight words or vocabulary words or a mixture of both.  


Another activity to do is to have an envelope labeled with the students name and inside the envelope is a skeleton cut into six parts. Have a piece of black paper for each student (I use a regular 9x12 piece of construction paper cut in half width wise – or hamburger). Tell the students they need to glue the skeleton pieces back together to make an x-ray of the human body.

Putting together the skeleton puzzle


Another activity I have used to have the students tear white paper into bone looking shapes and make their own skeleton on a piece of black construction paper. The tearing rather than cutting helps students develop their pincer grip for fine motor skills. Have picture examples, real or model examples of skeletons at the table for students to examine.


For math I have pretend bones (I cut of the white plastic lids and tubs of large yogurt containers or you could use the white foam sheets from a store like Joann’s or Michael’s) in the counting jars and the students count and record the number of bones into their math journals.


At the science center I have some bones I found on hikes along the beach or through the woods. Remember to bleach these bones first to kill off any bacteria.

Bones at the science center