Acting Like Amphibians!

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SWBAT describe the basic needs and features of amphibians at different life stages.

Big Idea

Amphibians are born in water and change from gills to lungs!


In this lesson, students learn about the basic needs of amphibians which supports Essential Standards 1.L.1.1 and 1.L.2.2. For each lesson, I post both the lesson objective from the Essential Standards and a guiding question. Click here to find out why I teach the Essential Standards for science. The guiding question helps students to understand the purpose behind the lesson and to connect to prior knowledge. I have found it helpful because it also keeps me focused on the objectives for the day. When I first introduce the lesson to the students, I write at the top of the board, 'What are the basic needs of amphibians? How do their basic needs change during their life cycle?'


*Internet access for videos

*Science Journals

*Life Cycle Basic Needs page, 1 per student, copied 2 sided

*Amphibian Assignments (This has 12 life cycle stages - copy twice for 24 students)

*Non-fiction books, magazines, articles, etc. about each amphibian (frogs, toads, and salamanders)


Warm Up

10 minutes

Watching Toads

My students are completely engrossed with watching the fire belly toads we have as classroom pets when they eat. As this only happens once every week or so, I start this lesson off with a quick video of bullfrogs eating because I know that will get their attention!

Then, I show this video about a blue tongued skink named Floyd who lives at the San Diego Zoo.

When we have watched both, I start a conversation about amphibians by asking, "What are amphibians? What makes an animal belong to the class of amphibians?" Engaging students in this dialogue activates their prior knowledge of the 6 animal classes and what we have already learned about each class having distinct features. Also, this conversation supports Science and Engineering Practice 4 because students are analyzing the information from the videos to answer questions.


30 minutes

Amphibians go through a metamorphosis unlike any other animal class, with the exception of arthropods such as butterflies. To emphasize that this is one of the unique features of this class of animals, today we are going to infuse a little drama into our lesson! I say,

"Boys and girls, amphibians are a very special class of animals that go through a dramatic change in their lives. We are going to act out some of those changes today! Your job is to think about where or how an amphibian at each stage in the life cycle would satisfy its basic needs".

Each student randomly chooses a piece of paper that has the amphibian and life stage written on it. Students use a reference picture and books about their amphibian to draw their assigned stage of the life cycle.

For example, for frogs & toads:

2 students will be eggs

2 students will be tadpoles

2 students will be tadpoles with legs and tails

2 students will be frogs

The reason that I am focusing on different stages of the life cycles with basic needs is because my students have expressed much interest in life cycles, particularly with the firebelly toads, and also because the basic needs change depending on the stage of the life cycle. Although it is not technically in my standards to teach the life cycle I think it is an important realization that basic needs, like food and shelter, are different depending on the age of an animal.

I give students about 5 minutes to draw their life stage, using books and magazines to guide their research. Watch the students at work in this video! Then I say,

"Now that you have drawn the life stage of your amphibian, you are going to write on the back of your picture each of the basic needs so you won't forget when we are acting out the life cycle. If you need help, look at your books, ask each other, and I will come around and help, too. You have 5 minutes to write the basic needs of your stage of the life cycle".

As students work, I particularly support my lower level readers and writers because they are going to need to depend more on remembering how their life stage meets its basic needs. It is also important that students know that the basic need of air changes for amphibians, because as infants they have gills like fish and then they develop lungs and breathe out of their mouths. I remind students of this as we work to make sure they have accurate information to share with the class. Conversation between students is really important during this activity, because students share their background knowledge and learn from each other. Watch as students share what they know! 

After about 5 minutes, I say,

"Now we are ready to present our life cycles and basic needs".

To help students organize themselves in the sequence of the life cycle, I have 4 index cards with the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 written and I put them on the floor to give students direction and I show students how to line up in the order of the life cycle. Then, one group at a time, we go through each life stage and the students talk about how they satisfy their needs at that stage.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

After our mini-drama and since we are really familiar with basic needs of animals at this point after talking about them for several lessons, we review through conversation what the basic needs of amphibians are and how they satisfy them. Then I say,

"Turn to a partner and tell them one really neat thing you learned about amphibians today!"

Communicating information addressed Science and Engineering Practice 8. I also like to end with students sharing one exciting or interesting thing because that will be what they remember when they get home to share with mom and dad!