Dinosaur UNIT

I.                  OVERVIEW: 

A.  This unit is designed to introduce students to a wide variety of information about dinosaurs.  The dinosaur theme will be incorporated into a cross-section of curriculum areas over several weeks.  The culminating event will incorporate information learned into a play to be performed by the students.

B.  Most students find dinosaurs interesting, and have a curiosity about these creatures.  There are many myths and misconceptions that will also be explored as a part of this unit.

C.  Grade Level:          2nd grade

Length:              2 ˝ weeks: approximately 1 hour/day

D. New York State Learning Standards:  

English Language Arts:

Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding.

Key Idea 1: Listening and reading to acquire information and understanding involves collecting data, facts, and ideas; discovering relationships, concepts, and generalizations and using knowledge from oral, written and electronic sources.

Key Idea 2: Speaking and writing to acquire and transmit information requires asking proving and clarifying questions, interpreting information in one’s own words, applying information from n e contest to another, and presenting the information and interpretation clearly, concisely, and comprehensibly.

Standard 2: Language for Literary Response and Expression.

Key Idea 1:  Listening and reading for literary response involves comprehending, interpreting, and critiquing imaginative texts in every medium, drawing on personal experiences and knowledge to understand the text, and recognizing the social, historical and cultural features of the text.

Key Idea 2: Speaking and writing for literary response involves presenting interpretations, analyses, and reactions to the content and language of a text.  Speaking and writing for literary expression involves producing imaginative texts that use language and text structures that are inventive and often multilayered.


Standard 4: The Living Environment.

Key Idea 3: Individual organisms and species change over time.

The Arts:

                   Standard 1: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts.

Key Idea 1- Theatre:  Students will create and perform theatre pieces as well as improvisational drama.  They will understand and use the basic elements of theatre in their characterizations, improvisations, and play writing.  Students will engage in individual and group theatrical and theatre-related tasks, and will describe the various roles and means of creating, performing, and producing theatre.

Key Idea 1 – Visual Arts: Students will make woks of art that explore different kinds of subject matter, topics, themes, and metaphors.  Students will understand and use sensory elements, organizational principles and expressive images to communicate their own ideas, in works of art.  Students will use a variety of art materials, processes, mediums, and techniques, and use appropriate technologies for creating and exhibit visual art works.

II.              OBJECTIVES:

A.  English Language Arts:

-Students will be asked to call upon their prior knowledge about dinosaurs to encourage their interest and participation in the activities.

-Through the use of literature related to dinosaurs, students will make inferences and predictions about the stories.

-Students will develop an understanding of realistic stories vs. fantasy stories.

-Through a variety of writing exercises, students will have the opportunity to use research skills and imaginative skills to develop their own stories. 


B.  Science:


-Students will learn about several types of dinosaurs (what they ate, their habitat and other interesting facts).


-Students will learn about fossils, and the fact that scientists have inferred the size and shape of dinosaurs from fossilized bones.

-Students will understand how paleontologists dig up fossils, as they will have the opportunity to use different tools to dig for their own fossils.


-Students will develop an understanding of the time/space relationship related to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.


-Students will develop an understanding of the theories related to the extinction of the dinosaurs.



C.  Learning Standards for the Arts:


-Students will create dinosaur projects that will be displayed in the room, in the hall and on bulletin boards.


-Students will draw a “fantasy dinosaur” hatching from a colorful egg that they will create.  This activity will be in conjunction with a writing activity.

  -Students will participate in the creation of the  costumes for a theatrical performance related to dinosaurs.


-Students will sing a variety of songs in their dinosaur play.


III.          APPROACH:

Many approaches will be utilized as part of this unit including the following:

1.    Pupil input, discussion, comments and questions.

2.    Materials brought from outside school such as: fossils; clay for making fossils; play doh for playtime; dinosaur figurines for display and play; and dinosaur coloring books/riddles/dot to dot worksheets.

3.    A display of dinosaur books.

4.    Various displays of art work in the hallway, and in the room (including bulletin boards).

5.    Dinosaur movies and dinosaur music that is sung on a regular basis (great teaching tool!).


IV.           BODY:

During the unit, students will receive dinosaur riddles and various puzzles and dot to dots on their desks every morning.


Lesson Plans for Week 1:


Day 1:

Science: ˝ hour

Utilizing the 2nd grade science book (Science by Silver Burdett & Ginn), we will begin reading the chapter entitled “Animals of Long Ago.”     Time frame: 15 min.


We will then have a discussion about the kinds of dinosaurs they are familiar with.     Time frame: 5 min.


Children will sing the “Dinosaur Toes” song.  This song was written by Lindsay Nesheim, and has a book and cassette tape to go along with it.

                                   Time frame: 10 min.


Day 2:

Art: 10 minutes

Students will start making a dinosaur folder to use for the materials they will receive as part of the unit.  They will color a dinosaur picture and attach it to the front of a large piece of construction paper (folded into a folder).

English Language Arts: Reading: ˝ hour


Prior to reading the book entitled “Patrick’s Dinosaurs” by Carol Carrick, students will be introduced to the lesson by brainstorming what they know about dinosaurs (K-W-L).


The information that students come up with will be posted throughout the unit.  As children learn more and more, the information they initially came up with will be adjusted as necessary.


Science: 35 minutes

We will continue to read in the Science textbook.  The portion of the textbook we will be reading gives information about both the plant-eating dinosaurs and the meat-eating dinosaurs.

                              Time frame: 15 min.


As a follow up to what children read in the science textbook, they will make a model of a dinosaur head, and will have the option of creating either a meat-eating dinosaur or a plant-eating dinosaur.  The objective of this lesson is to help them understand that scientists have inferred what dinosaurs ate from the shape of their teeth.  This activity is from Harcourt Brace’s “Science Museum: Unit E Dinosaur Museum.”  In addition, the following information from the same source will be provided to the students:


Science Background


Most dinosaurs were plant eaters.  Those that were low to the ground, such as Stegosaurus, ate ground –level plants.  The giant sauropods, including Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, and Apatosaurus, used their long necks to reach treetop greenery.

Fewer dinosaurs were meat eaters.  Meat eaters included the little Compsognathus, the fierce Allosaurus, and the king of them all, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Surprisingly, the meat eaters were not the biggest dinosaurs.  That distinction belonged to the plant-eating sauropods.

Science/Art Activity:  A Toothy Grin


Materials needed:     Pattern sheets (Click here)


                    Paper fastener


                    Crayons or markers for coloring

                    Colored paper to be used for the

                         dinosaur’s eye (or the eye can

                         be colored).



1.    Students color the dinosaur head and jaw, making the dinosaur as interesting as possible.  An eye can either be drawn on, or one can be cut out of construction paper.

2.    The head and jaw are cut out.

3.    The student chooses either a plant-eating dinosaur, or a meat-eating dinosaur’s teeth and glues the teeth to the backside of the dinosaur model (the side that isn’t colored).

4.    Fasten the head and jaw together.

5.    Display the interesting dinosaur creations!

Time frame: 20-30 min.

Day 3:

English Language Arts: Reading & The Arts: ˝ hour

Students will begin practicing the songs and the echo reading activity that will be used in the theatrical performance.

Day 4:

English Language Arts & The Arts: 1 hour

The book entitled “What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs” will be read to the students.  Students will be encouraged to make comments about the book, including what the text and pictures in the book seem to convey.

                              Time frame: 15 min.


Students will brainstorm a list of dinosaur-related

vocabulary words.  Each student will make a dinosaur

shaped book out of construction paper which will be

called a “Dinosaur Dictionary.”  Students will list the

vocabulary words they have come up with in their booklet.

These words can be accessed when they begin the writing activities that are a part of the unit.

                              Time frame: 25 min.


Students will continue to practice the songs for their performance.  They will also practice reading the choral reading and the echo reading that they will be performing.   

Time frame: 20 min.



Students will watch the video entitled “What Ever Happened to the Dinosaurs?” (1992) Western Publishing Company, Inc. Racine, Wisconsin.


Running time: 31 minutes

There will be a discussion about the various theories presented when the video is complete.

                              Time frame: 10 min.


Day 5


English Language Arts: Reading & Writing: 1 hour


The story “What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs?” that was read on day 4 will be reviewed.  The concept of Fantasy vs. Realism will be reviewed with the students:


     Realistic stories describe characters and settings that could happen in real life.  Fantasy stories have characters and/or settings that could never happen in real life.  The characters in a fantasy say and do things that real people or animals never do.  Children will be asked to determine whether the story “What Happened to Patrick’s Dinosaurs?” is a realistic or a fantasy story.  Once they determine that it is a fantasy story, they will need to give some reasons why they came to that conclusion.


Students will be shown several sentence strips with real and fantasy dinosaur information on them.  For example: 


Some dinosaurs were meat-eaters.

Dinosaurs wore glasses.

Some dinosaurs had sharp teeth.

Dinosaurs drove convertible cars.

Dinosaurs loved to bowl.

Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.


Once students have determined whether the sentence strips are realistic or fantasy, the strips will be put on a bulletin board underneath a picture of either a real or fantasy dinosaur.


Students will then create their own real/fantasy sentence strips to add to the bulletin board.

                              Time frame: ˝ hour



Students will be introduced to the meaning of the word dinosaur (Terrible Lizard).  This information will be added to their “Dinosaur Dictionary.”  The fantasy dinosaur on the bulletin board will be named (its name is “Snorkelasaurus”, as it is dressed for the beach, and using a snorkel…teachers can create any fantasy dinosaur they’d like).  As part of the writing activity, students will be given a four-block writing template.  Students will need to create their own fantasy dinosaur (fantasy “saurus”)…such as stripeasaurus, spotasaurus, etc.  As part of the writing activity, students will provide a variety of details about their fantasy dinosaur.


Students will begin their story with the sentence:

My make-believe dinosaur is called a ________ saurus.

(Students fill in the blank before “saurus”)

Click here for samples

Students will then write two sentences per block that

will provide more detailed information about their

dinosaur.  This process will take several days.


What my dinosaur looks like:










The size of my dinosaur:










What my dinosaur eats:











Where my dinosaur lives:













                         Time frame: ˝ hour

Science: DIGGING DINOSAURS:   30-40 min.

I.                    OBJECTIVES

To provide information about fossils, and to demonstrate how paleontologists work to dig up fossils.

II.                  APPROACH

A brief discussion about fossils and paleontologists will be the initial motivator.  Students will learn a song about fossils to help “set the stage” for the science activity.


III.                BODY


Part 1:  An explanation of the kinds of fossils will be given to children:


The highlighted words will be added to the student’s Dinosaur Dictionary.


Fossil imprint:  Shows what is left when a plant or animal is pressed against something, a process that works like a rubber stamp.

Fossil remains: The actual parts of a plant or animal that have hardened.

Why are fossils important?: They provide clues about animals that lived on the earth long ago.

Do all plants and animals become fossils?: No…most plants and animals decompose and break down (disintegrate) into the soil.

Digging Dinosaur Bones (fossil remains): The activity we’ll practice today.  The dinosaur bones are not connected when they are dug up.  They are usually scattered.  So scientists must put the bones together…like a puzzle. 

Paleontologist:  Is a scientist who learns about the past by digging up and studying fossils.


Part 2: Children will listen to and learn the song “Fossils and Footprints”, which is one of the songs the children will be singing in our Dinosaur play.

Part 3:  Dissecting a chocolate chunk cookie:


Students will be like paleontologists, and must dissect the cookie without breaking the chunks of chocolate…pretending the chocolate chunks are the scattered dinosaur bones.  The students will count the number of chunks they find.


Part 4: The number of chunks each student finds will be graphed.



The conclusion will be the graphing activity.  Evaluation will involve checking for understanding during the lesson.


V.                AV/MATERIALS


Cassette player for the music.


For the chocolate chunk dissecting activity, children will need:


v    a paper plate (to put cookie on)

v    a chocolate chip or chocolate chunk cookie (store-bought cookies with larger chips work best.  Be sure the cookies are not too soft)

v    a toothpick and a paint brush (to carefully remove the chips/chunks)

v    When the activity is finished, children can be given an intact cookie to eat!


Lesson Plans for Week 2:

Day 6:


English Language Arts:



The book entitled “Can You Say Pterodactyl?” will be read.  This book can be accessed on the Internet (for subscribers) by going to www.readinga-z.com.


Some of the myths about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals will be discussed. 


The Pterodactyl (meaning “winged finger”) was actually a flying prehistoric reptile, and not a dinosaur! 


Students will receive a handout for their dinosaur unit folder, which contains information about many other myths.  Those myths will be reviewed.  Information for this part of the lesson was obtained from the Internet at:




A Venn Diagram will be used to compare the pterodactyl with the duck and the wren, which are the birds mentioned in the story.

Time frame: 30 min.




Students will continue writing about their make-believe

dinosaurs using the four-block writing template.

Time frame: 30 min.


The Arts:


Please note that the activity below will take place throughout the remainder of the unit.  Students will have the opportunity to practice the play on the stage for 3 or 4 days prior to the performance:


Students will continue to practice the play and learn new songs each day for approximately 15-30 minutes per day.


Students will have the opportunity to make their own clay fossils.  Materials needed include:


v    Play clay: The recipe below produces clay that can be used over and over again and it will remain pliant for weeks.  Some of the clay is kept in the room for students to use for sculpting dinosaurs.  Some will be used to make the fossils in this activity, and will be allowed to dry.  Drying time is 3-5 days.



-1 cup flour

-1 cup water

-1/2 cup salt

-1 teaspoon vegetable oil

-1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

-Food coloring (optional)


Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture holds together (keep mixing or it will stick to the bottom of the pan).  When the clay is cool enough to touch, it can be kneaded on a floured board.


Storage: Stored in an airtight container, this dough will last—refrigerated or unrefrigerated—for two to four weeks.


v    Small plastic dinosaurs

v    Small paper plates


Each student is given some clay on a small paper plate (the clay was made ahead of time by the teacher).  Dinosaur figures are gently pressed into the clay to form an impression.  The fossils dry for several days in the classroom before students take them home.

Time frame: 15-20 min.


          Day 7:


          English Language Arts: Reading & Writing




Students will partner read: “Can You Say Pterodactyl?”


When finished reading, each child will make a flip chart out

of a large piece of construction paper.  There will be 5 cuts in

the paper with the letters  ar   er   ir   or   ur  on the front.

Students must look through the book and find words that

have this combination of letters in them.  Those words will

be written underneath the letters (for example, for the word

dinosaur, the section with the letters ur will flip up and the student will write the word dinosaur there).









































                              Time frame: ˝ hour




Students will continue writing about their make-believe dinosaurs.  Some students will be ready to write their final copy.

Time frame: ˝ hour




              Students will receive a variety of materials including:

v    Skin Tight Handout:  Information about dinosaur skin color.  Students will be able to color two dinosaurs.

v    “What Happened”:  A poem for the students to read.

v    Prehistoric Animals Word Search

Time frame: 20 min.

               Day 8:




The book entitled “The Tinosaur” will be read to the   students.  This book is available to subscribers of Reading a-z.  Available on the Internet at:



After the book is read, the students will brainstorm a list of things from the story that indicate fact, and a list of things that indicate fantasy.


                              Time frame: 25 min.



Students will continue with their fantasy dinosaur story. 


Those students who have completed the written portion of their story will begin a drawing of their fantasy dinosaur, using construction paper and crayons. 

Time frame: 35 min.


Day 9:


Students will continue to complete their fantasy dinosaur pictures.  Then they will make a colorful egg using construction paper and crayons.  Their fantasy dinosaur will hatch out of the egg.  The egg should be colored first and then cut in the middle in a zigzag pattern.  A fastener is placed on one side of the egg, and the fantasy dinosaur is glued to the back of the egg as if it is hatching.

                                   Time frame: ˝ hour


Day 10:


English Language Arts:


Students will partner read “The Tinosaur.”  They will list the following words (senses):     Feel, Hear, Taste, Smell, and Touch on s sheet of paper or in a flipbook.  They will need to imagine they are in the story, and write down how their senses would be impacted.



For the science activity, the students will help make:


“Dinosaur Delight” (Dirt Dessert)



v    Oreo cookies

v    Cool Whip or instant chocolate pudding

v    Gummy Dinosaurs



v    Crush Oreos and mix with Cool Whip or

          chocolate pudding.

v    Place some gummy dinosaurs in the bottom

          of a plastic cup, and add the “dirt” on top.

v    Children can be like paleontologists and dig

          for the dinosaurs in the bottom of the cup

                                   Time frame: 30 min.


Lesson Plans for Week 3:

Days 1-3

English Language Arts: Writing

Students will be given a form to follow that will enable them to research a specific type of dinosaur they are interested in.  Students may use a number of resources including: the Internet; handouts they have received throughout the unit; posters displayed in the room; reference guides; and other books available in the library or the classroom.

                                   Time frame: 1 hour


Another writing activity will involve creating a classroom book of all the fantasy dinosaur stories that the students have created.


This will be the week that the students will get lots of time to practice their performance as well!!

The play and songs appear at the end of the unit.



One evaluation technique will involve making corrections to the students’ original brainstorming list (about their knowledge of dinosaurs).  This will be an ongoing activity throughout the unit.


After introducing a new concept, I will check for understanding, and clear up any misinformation students seem to have.


The final writing activity about a specific dinosaur will offer an opportunity to be sure the students have been careful about their research…by giving accurate information.


Those students who have materials from home that will enhance learning will be encouraged to share them.  Their enthusiasm will hopefully help to meet the objectives of the unit as well.





Brandenberg, Aliki (1969). My Visit to the Dinosaurs. New

     York. Thomas Y. Crowell Company.


Carmine, Mary (1990). Daniel’s Dinosaurs. New York.

     Scholastic Inc.


Carrick, Carol (1983).  Patrick’s Dinosaurs. New York.

     Clarion Books/Ticknor & Fields.


Dimond, Jasper (1984). Dinosaurs.  New Jersey.     Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Geis, Darlene (1981). The Big-Little Dinosaur. USA.

     Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.


Genter, Norma (1993). Dig A Dinosaur. Washington.

     Wright Group Publishing, Inc.


Gorman, James & Horner, John (1985). Maia: A

     Dinosaur Grows Up. Montana. Museum of the



Gould, Judith & Evan Jay (1999). Four Square Writing

     Method: A Unique Approach to Teaching Basic

     Writing Skills.  Illinois. Teaching & Learning



Harcourt Brace ((1995). Teacher’s Guide: Science

     Anytime: Unit E Dinosaur Museum. Harcourt

     Brace & Company.


Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David (1987).  A

     Diplodocus in the Garden.  California. The Wright Group



Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David (1987).  Brachiosaurus

     In The River.  California. The Wright Group.


Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David (1987).  Dinosaurs on

     The Motorway.  California. The Wright Group.


Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David ((1987).  Pterodactyl

     At The Airport. California. The Wright Group.


Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David ((1987).  Triceratops

     On The Farm.  California. The Wright Group.


Hobhouse, Sarah & Mackay, David ((1987). 

     Tyrannosaurus The Terrible. California. The

     Wright Group.


Hoff, Syd (1962). Stanley. New York. Harper & Row

     Publishers, Inc.


Howard, John ((1972). I Can Read About Dinosaurs.

     USA. Troll Associates.


Johnson, W.Ryerson ((1972).  I Like Dinosaurs.

     Connecticut. E.M. Hale and Company.


Leventhal, J.P. (1954).  From Then to Now.  New

     York. Simon and Shuster, Inc.


Lindblom, Steven (1988). Tiny Dinosaurs. Wisconsin.

     Western Publishing Company, Inc.


Mallinson, George G., Mallinson, Jacqueline B.,

     Smallwood, William L. & Valentino, Catherine (1987).

     Elementary Science Program. Lexington,  

     Massachusetts.  Silver Burdett & Ginn.


Nesheim, Lindsay (1995). Dinosaur Toes. Washington.

     Wright Group Publishing, Inc.


Pallotta, Jerry (1991). The Dinosaur Alphabet Book.

     Massachusetts. Charlesbridge Publishing.


Prelutsky, Jack (1988). Tyrannosaurus Was A

     Beast: Dinosaur Poems.  New York. William

     Morrow & Company, Inc.


Zallinger, Peter (1978).  Prehistoric Animals.

     New York.  Random House, Inc.




v    T.V. and VCR

v    Video tape: “What Ever Happened to the


v    Cassette tape player

v    Cassettes

v    Internet (the Madrid-Waddington website

has links to various dinosaur websites as

part of the unit).  The website can be accessed at:


Click here for songs and play  Back to Dinosaur Page  Back to 2nd Grade