Ahhh. It’s October.
This time of the year lends itself to SO many themes we can use to teach different skills and concepts. Candy, the skeletal system, pumpkins, and Fall. And SO many more! Two of my most favorite thematic units of study this time of the year are bats and spiders. I typically start the month of October using these two themes the first couple of weeks. Today I wanted to take a minute to share with you what the first couple of weeks of October might look like in my classroom.
Today we’ll start with bats! Tune-in tomorrow for Spider Week activities and ideas!
I always start out bat week using a schema chart. What do we think we already know about these nocturnal animals? What do we want to know? What new information did we learn? I keep the schema chart up throughout the week so that we can continue to add to our new learning while reading non-fiction text about these frightful little creatures. Using sticky notes helps me to rearrange information as needed.
Speaking of non-fiction text, I also love for students to create their own bat booklets. These little booklets are housed inside of a bat craft that the kids assemble prior to the writing activity. The booklets are easy enough for students to complete inependently, but could also be guided in a whole group or small group setting. These make for a great review/culminating activity to all of your bat week learning!
At this point in the year, we’ve usually just wrapped up learning about our 5 senses. I like to continue that learning using this theme as well. Kids love this 5 senses bat experiment and it’s a great tool for helping kids to make connections to their prior learning about the 5 senses. For many of our kids, it’s also an “A-HA!” moment, too. ” You mean animals have 5 senses also?!?!?!” It gets ’em every time 😉 Abby & I wrote this non-fiction Bat Senses book that focuses strictly on the 5 senses of a bat and it’s been such a great learning tool for our kids! And a great mentor text for this investigation!!
I try to incorporate as much vocabulary as I can, too. I want my kids to not only be exposed to “big” words, but to feel confident using them in both casual and academic conversations. There’s nothing wrong with setting high expectations for our kids. They will rise to it!!! And I always make sure to incorporate this vocabulary in my dialogue as well. Did you know that research suggests our kids need 6-12 exposures to a word before it becomes engrained in their memory? Not just saying a word 6-12 times, but actually exposure to the word through conversation, text, and vocabulary related activities. I love hearing my kids use this language to describe something they’ve learned or even in casual conversations with their classmates.
One of our vocabulary words we incorporate during bat week is “echolocation”. To give my kids more than just a verbal understanding of what that means, I demonstrate that for them, too. I love incorporating thematic vocabulary into science experiments and investigations as often as I can. This vocabulary word will also reappear in the winter when we learn about whales as well as in May when we study dolphins and sharks. I love that my kids are able to make connections to their learning throughout the year with different themes and hands-on investigations.
For this demonstration, kids get to see the sound waves being produced by placing my finger (bat) in a bowl of water. They can visually see the water ripple and watch the effect it has on the other creatures in the same area. It’s a really cool little demonstration that helps kids to see an abstract concept come to life.
Another whole group activity I love incorporating is a birds vs. bats comparison chart/venn diagram. There are some GREAT texts…both fiction and non-fiction…that would make great mentor texts for this activity. I typically incorporate this whole group comparison activity after reading Stellaluna and a bat and/or bird non-fiction text.
I follow-up with the writing craft as either a whole group activity OR something I might place in the writing center the following day. It just depends on the time we have. Over the years I’ve collected some really great thinking in written form with this activity. It’s always a class favorite! All you need for the craft is a brown paper lunch sack, googly eyes, a pink pom, and some brown construction paper. It’s really easy to assemble!!!
I always get a lot of questions about this activity each October. This is one of my favorites. I cut out a really simple bat template (found online!) and folded it to make three parts. I cut out three strips of paper to fit into those three sections of the bat template. The size changes every year because I really do just wing it, no pun intended 😉 The kids have to write about something that happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Because Stellaluna is our book of the week during Bat week, I typically will draw this activity out over a period of three days. They might write about the beginning of the story on a Monday or Tuesday, follow-up with the middle of the book on Wednesday or Thursday, and then complete their writing with the end of the book by Friday. If I have a class that needs extra support, this usually becomes a guided writing activity I incorporate into small group. We’ll work on our writing throughout the week and then adhere to the template and hang upside down for display.
Of course, we don’t just talk about bats in reading, writing, and science. I carry over this theme in EVERYTHING we do. I love incorporating themed activities into literacy and math centers as well. I want for my kids to be immersed in what we’re learning. I want them to see it everywhere! I think that in doing so it makes it more natural for kids to have opportunities to use the vocabulary in their conversations. It also helps to reinforce their learning and make things more engaging and hands-on, too!
For math, I LOVE talking about the wingspan of bat (wingspan is also one of our vocabulary words). We’ll choose a couple of bats and discuss the length of their wingspan. I’ll measure that out on butcher paper and then in a whole group setting, we’ll measure the length using non-standard units of measurement. We’ll compare the length with different bats and different objects in and around our school as well. Word problems that incorporate bats are always a big focus, too!
If you’re interested in incorporating some of these cross-curricular activities as well as investigations and experiments into your bat week lessons, you should check out The Science of October. Abby and I co-authored this resource and it’s jam packed FULL of hands-on activities, experiments, and resources…as well as 4 weeks worth of detailed lesson plans!!! It’s one of our most favorite resources.
We also love incorporating this graph during math.
During bat week I’ll survey my class to see if they think bats are cut or creepy. We’ll graph our thinking, analyze the data, and then answer a set of questions about the data. Then the kids assemble their own bat crafts and I use this to display their work. They LOVE seeing their work on the walls, don’t they?!
You can grab this bat graph freebie HERE:
Speaking of freebies, you can also grab THIS SET OF BAT THEMED LITERACY FREEBIES here:
I hope this helps you if you incorporate a bat week into your plans!