Meet Willie the Water Snail

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SWBAT identify a water snail and the parts of a water snail by creating a diagram.

Big Idea

Many young children have never seen a live water snail. This lesson introduces the kids to what a water snail is and how they get from place to place.


5 minutes

To begin this lesson, I gather the kids on the floor and ask them to think about what they remember from meeting the land snail in the previous lesson.

I give them 20 seconds to silently think to themselves. I then call on volunteers to share what they remember learning from the previous lesson

As the kids share I record their contributions on chart paper that I leave up for the duration of the lesson. I do this so the kids who have no background experience or struggle to remember what was taught in the previous lesson, could access and use the background knowledge of their peers. This is also helpful for supporting ELL students.


10 minutes

I begin this lesson by reading the children's book, In One Tidepool: Crabs, Snails and Salty Tails, by Anthony D. Fredericks.

I stop the reading at key points to let the kids discuss what they notice about the snail in the text. I ask these questions:

  • How do you think the snail is different from the land snails we've learned about?
  • How do you think the snail breathes in the water?
  • Why do you think the water snails shell is shaped differently than the land snail?
  • What do you think the water snail eats?

These discussions lead into the observation of the snails.

To discuss these questions, I pose the question, have the kids think to themselves quietly for approximately 20 seconds or so. I then have them share their ideas with their floor partners who are prearranged by me. To choose partners for the kids, I group my kids into four academic achievement groups: high, med-high, med-low and low. I pair the kids NO more than two academic levels apart. That means high with med-low and med-high with low.

After the kids share their thoughts with their floor partners, I choose three kids to share their discussion with the whole class. I use a can with name sticks in it to randomly draw names.


15 minutes

I have the kids remain seated on the floor. I tell them the guidelines and procedure:

I have a dozen small land snails in a clear terrarium in my classroom. I put one snail and a clip of water plant in a clear cup and place one on each of my six tables as I give the kids the rules and procedures for the investigation. This means I am delivering snails to tables as I talk to the kids while they are still seated on the floor. I also have my helper of the day place a magnifying glass where each student sits at each table while I pass out snails.

  1. Rules:

    • stay in seat
    • keep hands in lap until asked to use them
    • be very quiet at your seats
    • always look at the snails, but never touch them


    • you will sit at your seat and use the magnifying glass to look closely at your snail without touching the cup
    • you will look at your snail to determine how your snail moves, eats, breathes. When I come to your table so you can ask me questions about your snail
    • you will talk to your table friends about what you see the snail doing and how it is doing it

    I then dismiss one table at a time to go to their seats to observe their snails. I give the kids 6-8 minutes to observe the snails. The time depends on how long it takes to prepare them. I set a timer - I use my iPhone. Once timer goes off, I instruct the kids to give their magnifying glasses to their table leader who in turn gives it to my helper of the day.

    I call one table at a time to come back to the floor to sit like scientists so we can find out what they observed.


5 minutes

Once the kids are gathered on the floor, I go over the anatomy of a water snail with them using my ActivBoard. If you do not have an SmartBoard or an ActivBoard, you can use the pdf found in the resources and have a poster made. It is inexpensive to do this at an office supply store.

Before explaining and reviewing information on the chart, I first have the kids tell me what they observed. While they share out what they experienced, I record the information on chart paper. I hang it up at the end of the lesson next to the chart we created in the previous lesson about the land snail. This helps support my developmentally delayed students as well as my ELL students in this lesson and the next.

I ask the kids to think silently to themselves about what they observed while watching the water snails. I then have the kids turn to their floor partners and tell each other what they noticed about the water snail. Each student gets 20 seconds to share with their partner. That means the timer is set twice.

Once both partners have had a chance to share, I then pull random names from a name stick can to share with the whole class what they talked about. It is with this portion of this section that I record information on chart paper. I only record each piece of information once on the chart paper, so if a pair of students repeats what another group said, I do not record it a second time. Instead, I just place a check mark next to the information to acknowledge that their thoughts were heard and understood. This validates their contribution.

Why the partners and sharing this way?

Partnering students helps develop a variety of skills such as critical thinking, stating with evidence and language development. When I partner an academically strong student with a student who has specific learning challenges, all my students benefit. My ELLs develop language skills faster, my developmentally delayed kids learn to communicate faster and more efficiently and my highest achieving students develop stronger social skills. I am very deliberate in how I choose partners for my students. 


5 minutes

I keep the kids gathered on the floor and extend the learning to other animals that live in water, but are not fish or frogs.

I ask the kids to think of other animals that live in water that are not fish or frogs and we see what kind of list we can make. I write this list on a white board because I do not post it or use it in the future. The purpose of this list is simply to acknowledge that not every animal that lives in water has to be a fish or a frog which is often what they think. This allows them to think outside the "box."


10 minutes

To evaluate this lesson, I ask the kids to draw and label a water snail in its habitat. As they are doing this, I roam the room to make sure that they are including a water plant which helps the snail breathe. I also ask them random questions about the water snails and/or the plant.

Possible questions:

How does the water snail move?

How does the water snail eat?

How do you think the snails breathe?

Where are some places a water snail might live? (I am looking for specific names like ponds, rivers, lakes, oceans, springs, etc.)

Once the kids finish their model of the water snail with habitat, I have them come from the tables to the floor and I randomly choose five kids to stand and share with the rest of the class what they drew and why. I choose the kids by using the name stick can.

I encourage the listeners to ask the presenter questions about what they drew and questions about water snails. This keeps the kids accountable for learning. If a student does not know an answer to a question, they first ask for peer support then they ask me if know one has the answer.

If your students are not yet ready to draw and label their own diagrams, I have included a cut and paste diagram in the resources of this section.


5 minutes

The extension of this activity is to talk about, of all things, Gary from Spongebob Square Pants! The kids immediately pay attention and participate to the best of each of their abilities.

I ask the kids what they know about Patrick and to identify the things the character demonstrates that are real for water snails and what is not. Do this helps support the kids in differentiating from fantasy and reality, which is really hard to do when you're five!