Life is a Cycle

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Students will be able to identify the main topic and retell key details.

Big Idea

An accordion book is a fun tool for students to use when retelling a life cycle.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I open up the screen on the SMARTBoard.

On the SMARTBoard I have already loaded the PebbleGo website.

This website has many resources on numerous topics but it is a paid subscription site. Our school subscribes to the site so we have access to many research opportunities for our students. The site can be used either to introduce students to a topic, which is what I am doing today, or used to support instruction.

After clicking on Animals, click on Animal Habitats, then click on Polar Animals and finally click on Emperor Penguins.

“Boys and girls, today we are going to look at a special animal which lives only at the South Pole. Can anyone guess which animal that might be?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to respond.

“That’s right Ava it is the penguin. We are going to listen to a narrator tell us all about the Emperor penguin. I will use the fair sticks to help select students who are being responsible citizens to take turns clicking the pages and the vocabulary words.”

“You will need to use your listening ears and observing eyes to pick up on all the facts we are about to see and hear.”

Once we have listened to each of the little informative sections I turn off the SMARTBoard and ask the students, “Who can tell me one fact about the Emperor penguin we just heard about or saw?”

I will select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to answer the question.

“Yes Finnley, I heard the narrator tell us the penguins feed their chicks by throwing up into their mouth. Later on in our story we will discuss the scientific term for that method of feeding. Anyone else hear any other facts?”

I will continue on this line of questioning until I have covered the main forms of adaptation we saw on the informative Pebble Go page.

“Great observing and listening team; now I would like you all to stand up stretch as high as you can go, bend down low and touch your toes, now touch your left elbow to your right knee, touch your right elbow to your left knee, turn around three times and sit back down on your spot.”


 I use the PebbleGo website to give my students some insight into the Emperor penguins life. This will help the students by giving them some background knowledge which they will be able to draw upon while we are reading the book for the focus lesson. 


50 minutes

“This book is called The Emperor’s Egg, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Jane Chapman.”

“While I am reading this book I would like you to pay close attention to the order of the story as this will help you later on when we go to integrated work stations.”


During reading we discuss vocabulary words as they come up in the text and we review terms we already know. We discuss how the book uses the term, “…a thick layer of fat…” which we know from our adaptations lesson to be called blubber. I tell the students that “… throwing up in the chick’s mouth…” is actually regurgitation. The students usually think this is highly gross and makes for a lively discussion. We discuss and practice what it means to “huddle” and how this is a behavioral adaptation.


After reading I hand each child a partially blown up balloon with a bit of rice in it to add weight. We practice walking around the classroom like we were a male Emperor penguin with an egg on our feet. The students find this great fun.


Once everyone has had a couple of tries at getting to walk with an “egg” on their feet we gather back on the rug and I tell the students what they will be doing at integrated work stations today.

“Boys and girls at one of the work stations you will find three pieces of paper (I hold up a sample of each paper). The long blue strip you will fold like a fan just like this (I model the process talking my way through it as I go).”

“Now that I have a fan folded book I am going to take the sheet with the penguin pictures on it. The first one is easy because it will be the cover to my book. The next four pictures I will have to decide which order they go in to represent the penguin life style.”

“Once I have the pictures in the correct order I am going to take the final strip of paper and match the words to the correct picture.”

For my lower performing students I have numbers written on the pictures and the word strips. All they will need to do is put the numbers in order and the life cycle will be in order.

Some of my students will have to put the pictures in order and the word strip will have numbers on it so they know which order the words go in.

My higher performing students will have no numbers at all to guide their thought process. They will have to decide which order the pictures go in and then read the captions to know which caption goes with which picture.  

“When you are all done you should be able to tell your audience the correct order of a penguin life cycle.”

“Now what are some resources I could use to help me get the book in order?”

I select enough students to respond to this question to cover the resources available.

“Those were all great suggestions of resources. I can use the text we heard during our lesson, I could use the books in book area, and I can ask a friend.”

“I am going to let you know Mrs. Clapp will be using a checklist to go over your work. I will be looking for your name, whether the pictures are in order, do the words match the picture and is the work neat and tidy.”

“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 let’s go have some penguin lifecycle 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 15-20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 



Retelling explanation



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, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student work sample of cover     Student work sample of completed order     Student work sample of cover 2     Closer view of student sample first two stages     Closer view of student sample second two stages 

Once the students are seated I tell them their exit slip for today is to tell me one detail they recall from our penguin lifecycle lesson today.

“Your exit slip to get your snack today is to tell me one detail from our lesson. You can either tell me a fact you heard about the penguin or you can give me one of the stages in the penguin’s life cycle.”

After a student has told me the detail they recall they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. 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 together on coming up with a detail. 

I like to use the exit ticket process as a quick assessment into whether a student was able to grasp the concept of the lesson through the activity or if I need to go into further discussions. If I need to reteach the topic I would choose to do it in a small group setting (reading work stations is a good time) with just the students who were having difficulty making the connections.  


For this assignment I will use the Life Cycle of a Penguin checklist to go over the students work to make sure they met the objectives set for the assignment. Once I have completed the checklist, I attach it to the students work and place it in their collection portfolio.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objectives of the lesson. I am looking to see if the student is able to accurately follow the directions for the assignment which means they will meet the overall objective for the lesson. Did the student write their name on their work? Did the student put the life cycle pictures in order? Did the student match the correct description to the correct picture? Is the students work neat and tidy?

Using checklists helps me to stay focused on what I am looking for in the student work and maintain a fair view of each student abilities. The checklists are also a good way to convey information to the student’s parents about how they are doing in the classroom during work time. 


Students participate in an oil and water experiment. We use water droplets on our hands with and without oil to show how the penguins use oil to keep their feathers water repellent. Keeping the water off penguin feathers helps prevent them from freezing to death.

 Penguin feathers - Oil and water experiment     Penguin feathers - Oil and water experiment     Penguin feathers - oil and water experiment

Students participate in a “Will it roll?” experiment. First we watch an egg roll down the ramp and discuss how an ovoid does not roll in a straight line. Then the students’ predict if other items will roll down a ramp. They record their predictions in their science journals and then test their predictions. The results are recorded in their journal.


The students use an egg to make an artistic creation. They dip the eggs in cool colors such as purple, blue, and green. We discuss how we learned these are cool colors and they represent the cold weather of the South Pole. Next they place the egg on a tray where an egg shaped paper has been placed. They tip the tray back and forth gently and we observe how an ovoid shape rolls.


Watch the story on the SMARTBoard later on in the day.