The Wonders of the Rain Forest

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The SWBAT tell about 3 plants and 3 animals that live in the rain forest.

Big Idea

The rain forest has a plethora of life that is unlike any other habitat!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

The children will gather and record information on a classification organizer about plant and animal life in the rain forest after listening to the teacher read a book about it.  Then they will use their knowledge to create a page in their interactive science notebook.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

Students will learn about the plant and animal life in the rain forest. They will gather this information from listening to a book which will help them to make observations that will be used to make comparisons of the four different habitats, which is part of planning and carrying out investigations.  This lesson is directly connected to the nature of science since students will be looking for patterns and order by classifying animals when making observations about the rain forest.  As a result of their learning, they will conclude that there are many different kinds of things in the world and they exist in many different places on land and in water.  

At the end of the unit, the children will use information gathered from this lesson (and others) to create a habitat diorama and write a research report.  This will give them a base knowledge for that project.  


ANY book about the rain forests that shows a variety of plant and animal life.  These are so many great books out there.  I bet your library is stocked with some great ones. Here is one of my recommendations:

Scholastic Discover More Rainforest ($11 on  If you buy this book you get a bonus-- a link to a digital book about monkeys.  

Rain Forest Note Taking Chart 2 sizes--1 per student; I've included 2 different sizes, the smaller one is for a notebook

rain forest folded pockets--1 per student

index cards cut to 3 x 3 1/2 inches to fit into pocket- 1 per child

Rain Forest Teacher Background--just for your information

Special note:  I usually spend an extra day or two reading books to help the children learn as much as they can about the rain forest.  During this time, they continue to keep notes on their chart.  This additional knowledge will promote a deeper understanding of rain forest plant and animal life so they can back up their thinking with logical thoughts and be able to make comparisons.

Here are two books that I recommend for additional reading:

  1. DK Eye Wonder Rain Forest Book
  2. DK Eyewitness Jungle book
  3. Amazing Animals of the Rainforest Book 
  4. or the most beautifully photographed images in a book I have ever seen--Rainforest- a Photographic Journey by Thomas Marent.  You can buy this book used for $4 off of


10 minutes

I like starting our studies of the different habitats with the one of the most biodiverse, the rain forest.  It makes an interesting starting point since it is diverse and then when they study habitats that are not, it gives them a reference point and helps them understand what constitutes biodiversity.   

I start off by intriguing the children with a few questions.

Did you know there is a lizard that walks on water?

Or a frog that is poison?

An ant the size of your finger?

A bat that can fish?

A frog that has skin that is completely transparent?

A bug with the shape of a peanut?

All of these animals are found in the rain forest.  We are going to listen to some information about this lush place on our planet.  My goal for watching the video is for you to learn about the plants and animals that live there so we can compare this habitat to the other ones that we will be studying. How do you think we could keep track of the type of life that we learn about?  What could we do?  What do you think a biologist would do to solve this problem?  

One girl suggests that we could keep a list of all of the plants and animals.  I encourage her to explain their thinking further.  I want her to come to the idea that we should put the list into categories.

The rain forest has thousands of different animal and plant species.  If we kept a list, it could be very long.  If you were a biologist how would you organize your list?  

Someone comes up with the idea of putting them into categories.  I continue to probe the class and evidentually they make the connection that we could put the animals into categories.

What categories should we use?  

A little girl assertively tells we should use the animals categories that we just studied about--reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals.  Of course plants will be its own category.  I ask others what they think of that idea.  

What do you think of that idea?  Do you agree or disagree and why?

I want each person to start forming their own opinion since this unit is going to become a stepping stone for making scientific claims, proving it with evidence and then supporting reasoning that we will be doing in the future.

Using your suggestion of putting the animals in categories, how do you think we could keep track of our data?

They eventually come up with the idea of keeping track of the animal names on a chart.  I wanted to lead them in this direction since I have a chart ready for them :) .  Here is a note taking chart complete with the animal classification names on it.  You can choose which sized-version you would like to use.  I was noticing that the children were having trouble making connections between the concepts taught.  This chart is very helpful since it helps the children categorize their notes and gets them thinking like a scientist.  (Click here for an explanation of why I use graphic organizers with the students).


45 minutes

This rain forest book is the perfect starting point for them to explore the rain forest.  It shows where rain forests are located, tells what they are, shows the different layers, and both the plants and animals living  there.  Plus it is entertaining and keeps the interests of the children.  The goal of this part of the activity is to give the children a solid content base of what makes up a rain forest since the standard is to compare the life in different habitats.

We are going to take a pretend trip to the rain forest.  As junior biologists, I would like you to keep track of all the plants and animals that you encounter on this note taking chart by writing the names in each of the categories.  Take a look at the chart and read the headings.  What are the headings?  Why do you think I wrote the names of animals groups on this paper?

You are going to be learning about lots of them today.  Try to write down the names of three from each category.  Try your best to spell what you can, but don't worry if you don't know the proper spelling.   

After I am done reading the book we discuss and talk about some of the plants and animals they found interesting.  I want to keep reminding them of how biodiverse this habitat is.  

Then the children will watch a video on youtube called Virtual Field Trip--Amazon Rainforest (9 min), or Amazing Animals (12 min), or the first 18 minutes of Animal Atlas (22 min total)  During the video, the children will take additional notes on their organizer (see student sample).

Most of this lesson showcases the students recording observations to describe patterns and relationships in the natural world, which is a foundational NGSS standard.


10 minutes

I ask the children to look at their chart and pick out their favorite fact from the either the movie or from the book.  This helps them evaluate and analyze their notes to see what they like best.  Here is a usually quiet student who seems thrilled to be telling me his favorite fact that he learned.  If inspired, even our shyest students can add to the conversation.  The immense biodiversity of the rain forest is that inspiration.  Learning about it is amazing and the kids eat up every second of it!  I was also thrilled that a child linked their thinking to a previous unit, pollination, with a bit of coaching.

To add to their interactive science journals, I have them make a rain forest folded pocket.  The children should draw and color a picture that depicts life in the rain forest.  Then on an index card they can write down the most interesting thing that they learned along with a short explanation.  To make the pocket, follow the instructions on this page.  

Then they can glue the smaller sized animal classification graphic organizer on the left side and the pocket they just made right under it (see finished notebook page).  This leaves the right side for the next activity, Rain Forest Gems of Biodiversity.  When finished, it creates a double-spread of information.

We end the session with a cute song about the rain forest.

NOTE:  If you are not making science journals, make sure to SAVE the notes they took from today for this lesson.