Penguins are fascinating birds. Not only are they beautiful creatures, their lifestyle is so unique and interesting. There is a lot of value in sharing information about penguins with children. Conducting a non-fiction study of penguins and learning about their habitat, diet, appearance, and life cycle would excite and engage young minds. This post shares penguin activities for the primary classroom.
Whenever I teach my class about penguins, we begin by sharing what we know already about them. Usually children know some facts, but there is so much more to share with them. We ask “I wonder…” questions to get ourselves thinking about what we want to learn.
With each non-fiction and science topic we learn about, we use it as an opportunity to build our vocabulary. There are tons of new words to learn that will help children better understand the reading material we share. The many activities available in this unit will help your students build their vocabulary. For our penguin unit, I will fill a bookshelf of age appropriate non-fiction and fiction books. I have included a list of penguin books that are age-appropriate and provide great information for children below.
I will also print and post fact posters about penguins. Each fact poster provides the most important information about penguins. These have been written with children in mind. Meaning they are easy to understand. They introduce new vocabulary and provide the information needed to complete the activities in this penguin unit.
The posters feature eye-catching images of penguins in their natural habitat.
When learning about a new animal, I teach my students about its parts. We create a class anchor chart with a large penguin. We learn what each part is and how it helps penguins. For example, teaching students that penguins bodies are shaped and made for swimming.
We learn to draw penguins and label each part individually. I like to do a directed drawing of a penguin as a separate activity. Students will then be able to draw their own penguins to correspond to their writing this way.
We read a lot about penguins using the fact posters and non-fiction books in our class to learn penguin facts. We read each poster slowly, sentence by sentence and we decide as a class what type of fact it is. We use a large anchor chart to organize the facts we learn. We write facts under ‘Can, Eat, Have, Live, and Are’. For example, the sentence ‘Penguins have black backs and white fronts’ would go under the ‘Have’ category.
The reason for doing this activity is two-fold. Students are learning each fact one at a time as we discuss each one and place it in the category. Students are also learning how to distinguish different types of information and how to categorize that information.
Any study of penguins would not be complete without discussing their life cycle. It is one of the most interesting in the world. I use the example of the Emperor penguin to illustrate how they take precious care of an egg for a very long time. Students find it fascinating that the male is the one who takes care of the egg, while the female travels a long distance to find food. They are amazed that penguins can find each other in their densely populated and very cold habitats.
We spend a lot of time learning about the different stages of the penguin life cycle. We complete different activities to help. We create anchor charts and we use posters to present the information. There are two different types of mini-books that we use. We use a life cycle storybook to fill in missing words and draw each stage.
We record the information we learn about each stage of the Emperor penguin life cycle and write it in our mini-books.
You can download and print this life cycle mini-book for FREE today by clicking the image below!
All of the penguin activities for the primary classroom seen above and many more are available in All About Penguins Non-Fiction & Science (a 165 page unit).
As mentioned above, these are a mix of non-fiction and fiction picture books that I have read myself and used to support our study of penguins.
This is my recommended list of penguin books to fill your bookshelves for a study of penguins (Amazon affiliate links).
- The Emperor’s Egg by Martin Jenkins – The story of a male Emperor penguin and how he takes care of an egg.
- Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #18: Penguins & Antarctica by Mary Pope Osborne – This is a non-fiction companion book that answers the questions raised in Magic Tree House #40 – Eve of the Emperor Penguin.
- Magic Tree House #40 – Eve of the Emperor Penguin by Mary Pope Osborne – A fictional story where Jack and Annie travel to Antarctica where they discover and learn about Emperor penguins.
- Penguins by Emily Rose Townsend – A non-fiction book with photographs and text that introduce the characteristics and behaviors of penguins and their habitat.
- Penguins by Jill Esbaum – An Explore my World picture book where you will learn about the world of penguins and how they take care of their young.
- Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere! – Bob Barner – Your youngest readers will enjoy the simple, rhyming text as 17 species of penguins come together in this fictional story of a parade.
- Face to Face with Penguins by Yva Momatiuk, National Geographic Children’s Books – Penguins are examined and explained in the South Georgia Islands. Learn about their nesting habits, diet, family, and social lives in this non-fiction book.
- The Life Cycle of an Emperor Penguin by Bobbie Kalman – This non-fiction book lays out the details of an Emperor penguin’s life cycle, habitat, adaptation, and appearance. A great book to compliment your study of penguins.
- Scholastic Discover More: Penguins by Penelope Arlon – Discover how all 17 types of penguins sleep, eat, sleep, talk, and swim, as well as how they look after their eggs and chicks with this jam-packed non-fiction book that includes a digital book companion.
- Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham – An up-close look at the growth of a penguin chick from an egg to an adult.
- Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester – A tale of Tacky the Penguin and how he annoys his penguin friends, until his behavior scares of hunters.
- Penguins! by Gail Gibbons – A detailed books of facts about penguins, including their life cycle, habitat, physical characteristics, and behavior. The perfect book for any study of penguins!
- National Geographic Readers: Penguins by Anne Schreiber – A great little non-fiction book for children that has exciting facts, easy to understand text, and captivating photographs about penguins.
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