HomeJean Marzollo, author of I SPY

The New Kindergarten

Chapter Ten

Theme: Dinosaurs

Any month in the middle of the school year lends itself well to the exploration of dinosaurs as a topic. In this book we shall treat the topic as if it were being explored in March. Many teachers use the topic wind for a March theme, which is also fine. Such teachers should go ahead to the next chapter, which is about weather and covers both wind and the more usual April topic, rain. Some teachers find it interesting to study dinosaurs before or after the topic of spring holidays, such as Easter and Passover, because both holidays have eggs as a feature. Since dinosaurs were hatched from eggs, the topic of dinosaur eggs and Easter eggs can be related.


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Language Arts: Oral Language

Real or Make-Believe?

Ask the children to bring to school dinosaur and/or monster models and toys. At Show 'N Tell have each child show his model. Ask "Is it real or make-believe?" Elicit through discussion the facts that:

1. dinosaurs are real, but there are no more left;
2. we say they are "extinct,"
3. dinosaurs lived long, long ago,
4. dinosaurs lived on earth before people, and
5. monsters are make-believe.

Ask the children to divide the dinosaur and monster toys into two groups, real and make-believe. Have them work in small groups making dioramas for the toys. (Dioramas are scenes made of small objects in boxes.) Provide interesting materials for making the dioramas: art materials and various junk materials, such as yarn, ribbon, glitter, clay, twigs, stones, leaves, and sand. Ask the children who are making dioramas for dinosaurs to make the scenes real; ask the children who are making dioramas for monsters to make them make-believe. Encourage discussion as the children make their dioramas. When the children are finished, have them tell stories about their animals and scenes.


dinosaurs and monster dioramas


Language Arts: Listening

Spanish Words

Review the names of body parts, pretending you are dinosaurs and saying them aloud. Explain that different people around the world speak different languages and have different names for body parts. Say the Spanish names for body parts, asking the children to repeat them after you. Have the children share words they know in other languages. Make a tape of familiar English words and their equivalents in other languages.

Dinosaur Fact Books

As the children learn facts about dinosaurs, help them record the facts in dinosaur fact books. Explain that a "fact" is something true, and give examples of facts, such as: Johnny has red hair, and the school bus is yellow. To make the books, write, or have the children write, one fact per page. After discussion, decide what the dinosaur fact for the day is and write it on an experience chart. (Keep the facts simple.) If you like, put the chart in the writing center for the children to copy when it's their turn to be in the center. If the children use invented spelling on their pages, add a note to parents at the back of the book, explaining how invented spelling is children's natural, first attempt at writing and should not be corrected, but rather welcomed and enjoyed for what it is - a beginning attempt to express oneself through the written word. Have the children illustrate their pages and save them in folders. Do not hurry this project; perhaps the children can make one page per day. When they are finished studying dinosaurs, they can make covers for their books from construction paper and assemble the books. Bind the books either with staples or by punching holes in them and fastening them together with yarn or brass fasteners.

Some facts you might want to include in the dinosaur fact books are:

Some dinosaurs ate meat.
Some dinosaurs ate plants.
Some dinosaurs ate both.
Tyrannosaurus rex ate meat
He had sharp teeth.
Brontosaurus ate plants.
He had teeth like pegs.
Dinosaurs lived long ago.
They were reptiles.
Snakes and turtles are reptiles too.
Dinosaurs hatched from eggs.
Some dinosaurs were big.
Some dinosaurs were small.
Some walked.
Some flew.
Some swam.
There are no more dinosaurs.

Language Arts: Reading

Scientific Dinosaur Names

Dinosaur names are interesting to learn. Some of them have meanings the children might like to learn. Explain that saurus means "lizard." Show the children pictures of lizards, explaining that lizards live today, but that some scientists think dinosaurs were a type of lizard that lived long ago. (Other scientists think dinosaurs may have been a type of bird; nevertheless, the names of some dinosaurs have "lizard" in them.)

Tyrannosaurus rex ("tyrant lizard") - Explain that a tyrant is a mean boss who always has to be obeyed.

Stegosaurus ("plated lizard") - Make a big one on brown paper by taping green paper plates overlapping each other to form the dinosaur's plates.

Triceratops ("three-horned face")-Count the horns on his face.

Silly Dinosaur Names

Ask the children to invent silly dinosaur names, such as tree lizard (Tree-o-saurus) and pig lizard (Piggy-o-saurus). Have them draw pictures to illustrate their silly dinosaurs. Display the pictures on a bulletin board under the title "Our Silly Dinosaurs."

Social Studies

Long, Long Ago

Decorate the classroom with posters of dinosaurs, children's paintings of dinosaurs, dinosaur toys and models, and picture books about dinosaurs. Say to the children, "Let's pretend we could make a magic time machine that would take us back through time to the land of dinosaurs. The time machine will make us invisible so we could walk near dinosaurs and look at them and they would never see us. How shall we make this time machine? We need to make it big enough for all of us to fit inside." Have the children think of how to make it. Perhaps you can put the chairs in rows together like seats on a plane, or perhaps you can put blocks around the rug to make that the time machine. After you have made it, have the children "get in it." Pretend to work the controls and say a magic phrase, such as "Time machine, take us to the land of dinosaurs and make us invisible. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 blast off!" Elicit imaginative discussion about flying through space and time, and about landing in dinosaur land. Have the "invisible" children get out of the time machine and look at the dinosaur pictures in the room, pretending that they are real. Have the children describe the dinosaurs-how they look, smell, feel, and sound.

Afterward, have them board the time machine again and fly back to modern day in the classroom to end the fantasy. Have the children write stories about their magic journey through time.

Social Studies


Explain that paleontologists are dinosaur specialists. They dig in the ground to find dinosaur fossils the shape of dinosaur bones. They bring the bones they find to museums and put them together to make dinosaur statues. Have the children pretend they are paleontologists digging for dinosaur bones. Hide in a sandbox the parts of a dinosaur skeleton model. If you don't have one, improvise dinosaur bones with Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, and toothpicks. Have the children dig up the bones and put them carefully in a box or pickup truck to take to the "dinosaur museum." Have them record their findings with drawings and/or a dinosaur bones graph.

Museum Keepers

Make a dinosaur museum in the classroom. Have the children pretend they are museum workers and put together the bones that were dug up in the sandbox. If you have parts of a dinosaur model, have them put that together. If you have Popsicle sticks and toothpicks, have them paste those onto dark paper to make skeleton pictures. Count and record the bones in the skeletons.


What Happened to the Dinosaurs?

Explain that scientists don't really know why all the dinosaurs died long, long ago. They study the dinosaur bones/fossils they find and the earth where they find them for clues to the mystery of dinosaurs. The scientists have "theories" (unproven ideas) about why the dinosaurs died. Two theories are (1) a huge meteorite (rock) crashed into the earth, causing a huge explosion that put so much dust in the air that sunshine couldn't shine through it and the earth grew too cold for the dinosaurs and (2) the dinosaurs ran out of food to eat. Have the children make up theories of their own - to explain why all the dinosaurs died. Take down their dictation.

When the dinosaurs died, they were buried with mud and volcanic lava. Lava is the melted rock that flows out of the volcanoes. Make a volcano in class, and have the "lava" flow over some dinosaur toys to show how they were buried. To make the volcano, fill a baking pan with wet sand, shaping the sand into a mountain around a large, empty clean orange juice can. Put 1/4 cup baking soda into the can. In a measuring cup mix 1 cup water, 3/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup dishwashing liquid, and 8 drops of red food coloring. Pour this mixture into the "volcano" and watch the "lava" flow!


making a volcano


Fossils and Rocks

CONCEPTS TO DISCUSS: Dinosaurs lived long, long ago, before there were any people. When the dinosaurs died, their bodies were buried in mud. Over time, the dinosaur bones turned into a special kind of stone called "fossils." People dug in the earth and found the fossils.

Help the children make "fossil" handprints in class. Have each child fill a paper plate with wet sand. Then have the children press a handprint into the sand. Help the children fill the indentation with plaster of Paris made according to directions on the package. Let a little plaster of Paris run over the edge. Lay Popsicle sticks on the plaster of Paris for extra strength. When the "fossils" are dry, lift and brush the sand away. Display the handprints in a class "Fossil Museum."


How Big?

Tell the children that the footprint of a Tyrannosaurus rex was three feet long and three feet wide at the widest part. Show them a yardstick, explaining that a yardstick is three feet long. Lay the yardstick on a big piece of butcher paper and mark off a space three feet long and three feet wide. Draw a footprint to cover the space. Cut it out and put it on the bulletin board. Have the children trace their footprints on construction paper and cut them out. Tape them to the dinosaur footprint, counting how many of their footprints fit in the dinosaur footprint.

Tell the children that Diplodocus was ninety feet long. Show the children a tape measure and use it to measure a length ninety feet long in the hallway or outside on the playground. Have the children lie down end to end to see how many of them are needed to form a line as long as Diplodocus.

How Little?

Tell the children that not all dinosaurs were big. Use a ruler, yardstick, or unit blocks to measure the size of a Procompsognathus dinosaur (3 feet or 1 yard long). Compare this size with the size of children and familiar classroom objects, asking: "What do we have in the room that is as big (or as small) as a Procompsognathus dinosaur?"

One-to-One Correspondence

Give the children toothpicks and Styrofoam peanuts (the kind used for packing material), and ask them to make small model dinosaur skeletons. Have them stand their skeletons in clay on cardboard. Display the skeletons in a class dinosaur museum. Count the bones in each skeleton. Help the children represent the skeletons more abstractly by drawing them with chalk on dark paper. Have them paste more Styrofoam peanuts on the drawings, using the skill of one- to-one correspondence to make the drawing match the skeleton model.


Dinosaur Eggs

Explain to the children that Brontosaurus hatched from an egg about 10 inches long. Blow up a balloon that size, and ask the children to help you make it into a make believe papier-mache Brontosaurus egg. (You may want to blow up several balloons and make several eggs, or even one per child to take home.) To make the eggs, have the children dip one-by-six-inch strips of newspaper into a flour-and-water mixture the consistency of thick gravy. Show them how to run the strips of paper between their fingers to remove the excess water and then how to lay the strips on the balloon. Cover the balloon completely with several layers of newspaper strips. Dry completely and paint any color the children choose for a dinosaur egg. (Explain that since people didn't live when dinosaurs lived, no one knows what color their eggs were.) Make a nest in a box with clay, straw, yarn, string, paper scraps, and glue for the dinosaur egg, and write stories about the egg, perhaps about the egg hatching into a make-believe dinosaur that becomes the class pet.

Rock Paperweights

Collect rocks to use for paperweights. Paint them to look like dinosaur faces.

Polishing Rocks

Use an electric rock tumbler to enable children to change rough rocks into polished "gems." The polishing is done in various stages that are interesting for children to predict and later sequence with pictures or photographs.

Making a Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus had bony plates on his spine. Make a Stegosaurus in class by taping construction paper cones to the tops of boxes or bags. Cut eyeholes in the boxes or bags. Give each child a box or bag to put on. Have them hold onto each other to make the Stegosaurus. Hang a strip of paper with more cones off the last box to make a tail.


Dinosaur Dance

Have the children pretend they are baby dinosaurs inside dinosaur eggs. Establish the make-believe eggs on the floor in a big area, one for each child, with hoops, chalk, yarn, or circles made with blocks. Ask the children to get in their "eggs" and curl up like baby dinosaurs. Then play "Night on Bald Mountain" by Moussorgsky or some other mood music suitable for dinosaurs. Ask the children to pretend they are hatching from their dinosaur eggs and learning to see the world and walk around in it. Ask them to move to the music. To end the musical fantasy, ask the children to pretend they are in a movie and that now you are running the music backward. Have them crawl back into their eggs and go to sleep.

Dinosaur Songs

Adapt familiar songs to make them dinosaur songs. Perhaps the children will have some ideas for doing this. In the meantime, here are some you can suggest:

(To the tune of "One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians")

One little, two little, three little dinosaurs,
Four little, five little, six little dinosaurs,
Seven little, eight little, nine little dinosaurs,
Ten little dinosaur eggs.

Name different dinosaurs you've studied and imitate them.

(To the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush")

This is the way I get around,
Get around, get around,
This is the way I get around,
Early in the morning.

This is the way I eat my food,
Eat my food, eat my food,
This is the way I eat my food,
Early in the morning.

Physical Education

Dinosaur Games

Adapt familiar games so that they are dinosaur games. The children may have ideas for adapting other games; encourage their creativity.

Hot·O·Saurus. Play like Hot Potato but pass around a small dinosaur toy.

Pin the Head on the Tyrannosaurus rex. Play like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but use a poster or child's painting of a Tyrannosaurus.

Dinosaur Swamp Toss. Toss small unbreakable plastic dinosaurs into a box.

Duck, Duck, Dinosaur. Play like Duck, Duck, Goose.

Physical Education

Stone (or Fossil)

Establish a start and finish line. All the players line up at the start line except one who is the Stone (or Fossil). The Stone crouches between the start and the finish lines. When you say "Go," the players at the start line tiptoe toward the finish line. At any point, you can call, "The Stone is alive! Run!" At this point, everyone runs to the finish line or back to the start line, and the Stone tries to tag players. If a player is tagged by the Stone before reaching either line, this player becomes a Stone too. Players who reach the finish line rest and watch the rest of the game. To play noncompetitively (appropriate for kindergarten), the last player to be made a Stone becomes the next one to yell "The Stone is alive! Run!" in the next round.


Based on the book THE NEW KINDERGARTEN: Full Day, Child Centered, Academic
A book for teachers, administrators, practice teachers, teacher's aides, and parents
Text © Jean Marzollo, Illustrations © Irene Trivas

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