Scientists Observe: Wiggly Worms Day 2

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SWBAT describe the connection between stages of the mealworm life cycle.

Big Idea

Did you survive Day 1 of wiggly mealworms in your classroom? Now that your students have observed them, let's fill in the details with texts.

Instructional Notes

In the previous lesson, students observed mealworms and practiced recording strategies as they drew and wrote to communicate what they learned.

Today, I first take them back to our essential question, How do animals meet their needs to survive?  This is an anchor chart that I will keep posted throughout the school year.  It helps students understand the big ideas connected to the NGSS Life Science standards-- that animals have external parts and behaviors that help them survive.

Specifically, I want them to think about behaviors and body parts we saw with the mealworm that helped it survive.  For example, it was eating to survive and grow, or it was crawling on legs to get away from me!

Next, I provide students with texts giving more information about the mealworm life cycle.  There are some big understandings to come out of this-- mealworms are offspring (babies), babies are somewhat but not exactly like their parents (NGSS 1-LS3-1), and life cycles are patterns we can observe in nature (NGSS Crosscutting Concept).

Finally, I give students time to see the mealworms again today.  Have they changed since the previous day?  Can they count 13 body sections and 6 legs?

Although this unit has just about come to a close, the mealworms are going to have a home in my classroom Science Center area until they complete their life cycle and become darkling beetles.  And, since we have established routines for accurately drawing, describing, and writing to communicate in our Science Journals, I trust that my students can independently watch and record during center time from here on out!


  • Essential Questions Anchor Charts or digitally displayed: What does a scientist do?  How do animals meet their needs to survive?
  • Mealworms
  • Hand lenses
  • Enchanted text about mealworms
  • Guided reading text about mealworms
  • Mealworm Life Cycle Wheel, on


5 minutes

I start today with discussions, relating our mealworm experience back to our essential questions.

Were we scientists yesterday?  What did we do yesterday that scientists do?

I love for my students to turn-and-talk, and then I call on a few students to share.  While they are talking, I listen in to see whose ideas might help take our conversation a little further or who might need me to point them to the Essential Question Anchor Chart: What does a scientist do? This anchor chart is important so that students connect our activities to the Science and Engineering Practices, so that they begin to see that indeed, they are scientists!  We add to this chart throughout the unit, and it will remain posted in the classroom throughout the school year.  If you are looking for a good book to read aloud in order to start this anchor chart, try What Is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn.

Discussion is so important!  It gives *all* students the chance to process the question, get their ideas together, and practice listening and speaking skills.  Discussion also works wonders for your shy students!  I am listening to hear if students are connecting to the vocabulary from our What does a scientist do? Anchor Chart, like observe and measure.  If there isn't a lot of excited discussion, that's a clue to me that I need to build a bit more background knowledge about the Science Practices.  

We've been talking a lot about how external parts on animals help them meet their needs to survive.  What external parts did you see on the mealworms?  How do you think some of those parts help them?

Students will turn-and-talk, and then I call on a few friends to share.  Then, I add mealworm examples to the How do animals meet their needs for survival? anchor chart.


20 minutes

In the main lesson today, I want students to understand the pattern of the mealworm life cycle.   I start by displaying a life cycle diagram of the mealworm.  (This diagram comes from a website with more complex diagrams of the mealworm body as well.)

I start by reading the title and labels on the diagram.  Then, I ask students what is going on-- what is this diagram showing?  I expect them to be able to use the text feature to describe each step.  I follow the arrows with my finger as I read the labels in order.  By asking this open-ended question, I am moving students towards Science Practice #8, which includes "Read grade-appropriate texts and/or use media to obtain scientific and/or technical information to determine patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s), and Describe how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) support a scientific or engineering idea."

In the middle is the title, Mealworm Beetle Life Cycle, to tell you what animal you are seeing.  First, there is an egg.  Here's the word larva, then pupa (this one gets giggles), then the word adult.  Friends, what is going on here?  What does this all mean?  

Next, I ask questions that will help them better understand a life cycle diagram and why authors include them in nonfiction text.

How do the arrows help us understand the diagram?  Why do you think the author added illustrations for each stage?  Can we use the diagram to tell the life cycle?

Students will turn-and-talk in order to restate the key details to one another.  I provide temporal words (first, next, then, last) to help them.  I keep an ear out for any friends who are having trouble making the connections as a sequence of events that repeat.  

After understanding the life cycle, I facilitate a shared reading of a text for students to learn additional details.  There are some content-specific vocabulary words in the Enchanted Learning text, such as metamorphosis and exoskeleton!   Science-specific vocabulary words are very important to introduce and explain in context with examples.

Then, I display a YouTube video of the Darkling Beetle Life Cycle.  I feel like videos really help students visualize each piece and understand how one leads to another.

Lastly, students will create a life cycle diagram in their Science Journals (I use marbled composition notebooks for each student).  There's a great wheel version on, so check that out too!  While students are working, I walk around to students who were struggling with the idea that this is a pattern that repeats.  I work with them to restate the cycle, point to the stages, and follow the arrow with their finger.


5 minutes

In this lesson, students learned some stats, like mealworms have 13 body sections and six legs. I want students to observe the mealworms today and really look closely for external parts. I give them the option of recording a new diagram of a mealworm in their Science Journals too.

Now that we have learned more about the mealworm, I want you to turn in your journals to where you recorded your mealworm diagram.  Now we know mealworms have 13 body sections and 6 legs all up near the front.  Look at your diagram.  Have you included these?  Do you need to change or add to your diagram?

Today I will put the mealworms back out on your tables.  Take a few minutes to observe them today and either update your drawing or make a new, more accurate drawing.  Make sure you have labeled the mealworm's external parts.  Remember, we learned that insects all have 6 legs.  That's one way we know the mealworm is an insect-- a beetle-to-be!  Over the next few weeks, we'll watch and wait for them to turn into pupae.

While students complete their drawings, I circulate to provide assistance wherever necessary.  Lastly, I play a transition song to facilitate clean-up.