Last week we chatted all about BAT WEEK, so I figured it was only fitting to follow-up with some ideas for Spider Week! As I’ve said before, teaching foundational concepts and skills using these two creatures as the thematic vehicle for instruction is so very fitting for this time of the year. Especially on campuses where any talk of Halloween is forbidden. Bats and spiders are a little “spooky”…which fits right in with Halloween…but not scary (depending on your phobias 😉 I’m always asked about how I’m able to incorporate thematic teaching this time of the year while being sensitive to the understanding that Halloween just isn’t always an appropriate thematic focus and I always respond with, “bats and spiders!!!!”.
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite activities for Spider Week, shall we?!
These 8-legged arachnids are always SO much fun for the kids to learn about and so easy to incorporate into my lessons.
I usually start with this graph at the beginning of the week.
I think I enjoy this activity as much as the kids! It’s a great way to gauge their interests as well as to provide them with a little anticipation on what’s to come. I don’t have a template for these little construction paper spiders, but they’re really easy to make. I use the circle die cut for the bodies and then just cut small strips of construction paper. I also let the kids use our miniature googly eyes to adhere to the bodies. As you can see, the “graph” is simply a chalk-drawn web on black butcher paper. Once we graph our answers, I tell them that a fear of spiders is called, “arachnophobia”. I love empowering my kids with big vocabulary words and always beam with pride when they’re confident enough to use those words…correctly…in their everyday conversations.
Speaking of vocabulary, here’s a little culminating vocabulary activity my kids complete at the end of Spider Week. We review the vocabulary words learned and practiced throughout the week (the definitions and visuals are printed on the spiders). Then using the thematic vocabulary cards I keep displayed throughout the week, students will identify the matching word and write that on the back of the spider template and then adhere to the “web of words” with a brad. Not only is this a great tool for my visual learners, but it becomes an invaluable resource for my kids to use throughout the year as more and more vocabulary words are added to their notebooks!
Our week of spider fun always starts out with a schema chart. I create a giant spider out of butcher paper and to that we adhere our schema…what we think we know about spiders….using sticky notes. I love using sticky notes so that if we prove our schema wrong, we can simply remove it and move it over to “misconceptions”. Our new learning is added to a giant web that I draw on butcher paper. Easy peasy! Totally not necessary, but I love bringing things to life and making things visual to help with connections.
We read lots of non-fiction spider texts (whatever our library has on hand) to help us add to our “new learning”. We also create a little “Web of Wonders” where I’ll have my kids add the questions they hope to have answered during our week of spiders. This little web is simply drawn on chart paper and displayed on the white board. I keep it up all week (longer if necessary) and encourage my kids to write any questions they have about spiders and add them to the web of wonders whenever they want. A lot of these questions are written during our litercy block when kids are reading to self or even after a guided reading activity in small group. I LOVE the way they think!!!
Once we have the opportunity to read several non-fiction spider books, I have my kids complete these non-fiction spider booklets. First they create the spider craft to hold the booklet and then they simply complete the flip book and adhere it inside. This is a fun little hands-on visual that gives my kids the perfect opportunity for them to “show what they know” 🙂
During spider week, I’ll usually incorporate this thinking map and follow-up writing craftivity as well. We’ll discuss what spiders are, what they can do, and what they have. We’ll brainstorm words to place in each column and add them to our thinking map. Then we’ll use these words as a resource to complete the non-fiction writing activity. For this one, I simply had my students complete the sentence starters, “Spiders are ________. Spiders can _______. SPiders have ___________.” Then they assembled a spider craft that we used to display with their writing. Again, no formal template. I just cut a class set of circles (very poorly, I might add), strips of black paper, and voila! They did the eyes and the hand-drawn spider smiles 🙂
Depending on the abilities of your students, you could amp this writing piece up to be a lot more independent and not so guided.
One of the things I love SO much about thematic teaching is the opportunities it gives me to incorporate a wide variety of skills (both math and literacy). There are so many opportunities for cross-curricular instruction. Learning about spiders lends itself to discussing the concept of fact and opinion. This can be a tricky concept to understand, so I like to give my students as many opportunities as I can to practice their understanding.
In a whole group setting, I read aloud the fact and opinion sentences to my students. I prompt them to help me sort them into fact and fiction categories. After working together, we follow-up with independent reinforcement. Kids just cut out the sentences and sort them onto the matching part of the web (fact or fiction). This is a great way to assess their understanding of both fact & opinion & non-fiction reading comprehension.
Here’s another cross curricular activity I’m able to implement during Spider Week. This one is all about the VERBS!
We discuss what a verb is first and foremost. A fancy word for “action”. Something you can do. We discuss verbs and brainstorm a list of words that spiders can DO. To reinforce this concept, we discuss what verbs are and what they aren’t by comparing them to and sorting them apart from nouns and adjectives. I start with a little round of “Arachnids in Action”. My kids are the arachnids and they have to perform the actions being spoken. To take it a step futher. I’ll roll out a ball of white yarn all across the carpet to resemble a web. I’ll have my little arachnids stand on top of the web and we’ll start acting. I’ll call out a variety of words….a mix of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. If they hear a verb, they have to perform the action. If they hear a noun or adjective, they stand still.
Each time I call out a word, I have them justify their thinking. For example, if I call out the word, “FANG”, they have to tell my WHY that word is NOT a verb and then tell me what it is. If I call out the word, “SPIN”, they have to perform the action and then tell me WHY that word is a verb. Encouraging them to justify their thinking not only helps me to gague their understanding, but it helps to reinforce learning.
Incorporating thematic concepts into your instruction doesn’t require a ton of effort. I’ve found that it really does help kids to create lasting connections and understanding. I love any opportunity I can get to bring in “real life” type items to help make learning more exciting and authentic.
Fake spider webs are being sold by the bagfuls this time of year, so I always make sure to pick up a few of them to use in different activities in the classroom. They make a great addition to your sensory bins and just a fun all around little something “extra” to bring learning to life.
For this activity, I adhered the webbing to a piece of poster board (basically just draped it over the corners and secured with tape). Then I did a quick clipart search for a variety of pictures, printed & cut them out, then stuck them inside the web. I divided my class into two teams, A & B. I called out a word and then the first players from both teams had to race to the web and remove the picture that rhymed with the word I said. SO, if I called out the word “bee”, they’d race to the web and remove a picture of a “tree”. Whoever is the first to remove the correct picture gets to keep it and go to the back of their line. The team with the MOST pictures at the end of the game, wins. So easy and SO.MUCH.FUN.
And really, this is an idea you could incorporate with ANY skill. Just think outside of the box….er, web 😉
As you can see, this webbing also makes a for a great display, too! Before I put all these spiders out to display, I first read the book, The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle and then followed-up with a text-to-self writing craftivity. Basically, I prompted my kids to write about what they were very busy learning and doing in first grade. Their responses were so darling. Then they took their writing and adhered it to a spider template and then I displayed them on webbing I adhered to my classroom door. Again, no template, but all you need is a big circle, a smaller writing circle to fit inside the big one, and then strips of paper.
I’ve always found that it’s easiest for me to quickly incorporate whatever theme we’re working on into my independent math and literacy centers. This just gives kids another opportunity to have a hands-on connection to the thematic content and manipulate it in a variety of ways through various cross-curricular activities.
And let’s not forget about investigations and experiments!!!! This one here is one of my favorites.
One question I always get each year we study spiders is, “If webs stick to us…and different insects get caught in webs…why don’t spiders get stuck in their webs, too?” Good question, kids! I always wondered the same.
First we start by watching this quick 3.5 minute video.
There are several different reasons spiders don’t stick to their own webs, but for the sake of this investigation, we focus on one. SOME spiders produce an oil-like coating that keeps them from getting stuck. This is a fun investigation and really simple to incorporate, so we get our fingers dirty and get a firsthand experience with this concept.
Here we use scotch tape as the sticky surface of the web. I use double sided tape to drape over a paper plate. In fact, kids are perfectly capable of this task, so you can make them responsible for it if you choose. We talk about the stickiness of a spider web and I have my kids run a finger over a section of the web (tape). How did that feel? Was it easy to move your finger across the tape? What happened? What conclusions can you draw from this?
Then I have them dip their pinkies…gently!!!!…into a little vegetable oil. This represents the oil-like coating some spiders are said to secrete. I then prompt them to run their finger across the tape. What happened? How did this time compare from the last time you ran your finger across the tape? What does that tell you about spiders and their webs? What does this tell you about their prey? Etc.
This investigation….while simple…is always really effective and helps to bring an otherwise abstract concept to life.
A couple of other investigations we do during spider week include learning how spiders break down their prey to eat…ahem, DRINK…and how they shed, or molt. They LOVE these experiments!!!! You can find them in HERE if complete with instructions and corresponding investigation logs.
And here’s one that I recently saw this week. I absolutely LOVE this. Honestly, this isn’t necessarily a spider experiment. It can really be done with any theme. I just think it would be pretty cool to do on a Sci-Fri…maybe even during recess?! SO.MUCH.FUN.
You can find all the instructions HERE at Keeper of the Cheerios. How cool is this?!
WHEW!!!! That’s A LOT!
I think there’s enough content for both spiders and bats to keep your kids busy learning throughout the entire month of October and then some!!! What are some of your favorite spider week activities?! I’d love to hear!