Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Habitats and All That

Laurie Ayers
Bay District Schools


This lesson plan explores climate characteristics of different environments, adaptations of living things to environments, and adaptations of living things for survival. It is the second lesson of the Unit Plan: Living Things.


The student knows that plants and animals have adaptations that help them survive in their environment (camouflage, teeth, spines).

The student knows plants and animals that live in a particular habitat (for example, black bears in the forest, whales in the ocean, camels in the desert, ducks in the wetlands).

The student knows the characteristics of the climate in different habitats (for example, sunlight, moisture, temperature).

The student knows some ways in which animals and plants are adapted to living in different environments.


-Big books:
Berger, Melvin. [Where Do Animals Live?] ISBN 1-56784-044-2, [Life in the Desert] ISBN 1-56784-217-8, [Life in the Polar Regions] ISBN 1-56784-210-0, [Life in the Rainforest] ISBN 1-56784-200-3. New York, New York: Newbridge Educational Publishing, 1994.
Berger, Melvin. [Animals in Hiding] ISBN 1-56784-010-8. New York, New York: Newbridge Communications, Inc., 1993.

These books can be obtained on loan from school media centers that are members of Sunlink, an interlibrary loan system located at SUNLINK ( on the Worldwide Web.

-Other books that could be used are [Arctic Animals] by Kalman,[Arctic Babies] by Darling, [Rainforest at Night] by Rourke, [Welcome to the Icehouse] by Yolen, [Desert Alphabet], [This Earth of Ours - Polar Regions, Vanishing Rainforests, and Amazing Rainforest] by Rourke.
-Copies of “Animal Habitats” (see associated files)
-Glue or glue sticks
-Practice paper, one 8 1/2” x 14” sheet of paper per student
-White construction paper, two 12”x18” sheets per student
-Crayons or water-based markers
-Optional tissue paper for desert scenes
-What If cards (see associated files)
-Graphics that show examples of ways living things adapt to survive
-“Survival!” picture cards (see associated files)
-Arts and craft items for the students to use when creating their Lovely, Looney, Living Things projects: play dough, small Styrofoam balls, pipe cleaners, construction paper, tissue paper, trims, leaves, small rocks, Styrofoam pieces to simulate polar ice, etc.
-One shoebox per student
-Copies of the Rubric for the Lovely Looney Living Thing Project, one for the teacher and one per student (see extensions)
-Copies of the Final Summative, one per student and one for the teacher (see extensions)
-Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze (see Weblinks)


1. Collect materials listed in the materials list.
2. Download and make copies of Animal Habitats activity, one per student; What If cards, one set; Animal Survival Cards, one per student; Rubric for Lovely, Looney, Living Things Project, one per student and one for the teacher, and Final Summative Assessment, one per student.
3. Download and print a copy of Examples of Ways Living Things Adapt to Survive and become familiar with them. If necessary, prepare other examples of ways living things adapt to survive.
4. Inform the students that they need to bring a shoebox within the next few days for the final performance assessment.
5. For Day 12, if you plan to do the extension activity using a large screen display hooked up to a computer with Internet access, you will need to set it up in advance.


This lesson plan provides lessons for instruction for Days 6-11, lessons for the final performance assessment and review on Days 12-14, and concludes with the administration of the final summative on Day 15.

Day 6

1. Students share It’s Alive! books.

2. The teacher reads the big book, [Where Do Animals Live?] by Melvin Berger.

3. Discuss how living things have homes.

4. Define habitat – where animals and plants live and grow.

5. Use the “Animal Habitats” activity from the associated files. Students are to draw a line to match the animal with its habitat at the top. At the bottom they are to draw an animal and its habitat. This activity could be used as a formative assessment to guide instruction.

6. For homework, the students are asked to draw a picture of their habitats and write one sentence describing a characteristic of it.

7. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 7

1. Students share It’s Alive! books.

2. Review habitat and homes of different living things by discussing last night’s homework.

3. Define climate (the weather of an area over an extended amount of time) and explain how climate conditions vary in different environments/habitats.

4. The teacher explains that in order to help the students remember ideas about climates of different environments, the class will make accordion books to depict climates of different environments over the next few days.

5. Show the students how to fold the 12" x 18" construction paper in half. Use glue or glue sticks to apply glue along the back of the 12" right side edge of one sheet of 12”x18” construction paper. Then place about 1/2" of the edge of another sheet of construction paper on top of it. Have them rub them for a few seconds to secure them.

6. Demonstrate how the two glued pieces of paper can be folded back and forth in an accordion fashion to make an accordion book. Each “page” will be about 12” x 9” in size. Note: There is a digital picture of a completed accordion book in the associated files of this lesson.

7. At this point, the teacher might want to encourage students to make first drafts on practice paper before actually working on their books. This will serve as a planning tool for the activity, provide an opportunity for formative feedback from the teacher, and hopefully minimize frustration with mistakes on the final product.

8. In the first space on the left, the students are to make a title page. Encourage them to be creative. Suggestions for titles include All Kinds of Habitats, Climates in Habitats, Habitat Climates, etc. Make a Word Box on the board for a spelling reference. Explain that they also need to write their names on this page since they will be authors. Allow time for the students to add decoration.

9. The teacher reads the big book,[Life in the Desert], by Melvin Berger and leads the class in discussing characteristics of climate (sunlight, moisture, and temperature) in the desert and plants and animals that live there (See Materials).

10. Review characteristics of desert climate with emphasis on sunlight, moisture, and temperature. In the next space of their accordion books, ask students to draw a picture of a desert scene with animals and plants that are native to the desert and write a sentence at the bottom that describes the climate of the desert by focusing on sunlight, moisture, and temperature. A variation might be to allow students to use art supplies, such as torn tissue paper to depict the desert.

11. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 8

1. Students share It’s Alive! books.

2. Review climate and how climate varies in different environments.

3. The teacher reads the big book,[Life in the Polar Regions], by Melvin Berger (See Materials).

4. Discuss the climate (sunlight, moisture, temperature) of a polar region, animals and plants that live there, and how the climate of a polar region differs from that of a desert.

5. Students draw a polar region scene, including living things common to that type of environment and write a sentence to describe its climate by focusing on sunlight, moisture, and temperature. They do this first on their rough drafts and receive formative feedback from the teacher. Then they create their pictures and sentences on the next space in their accordion books.

6. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 9

1. Review climate of a polar region and desert. Make sure students understand aspects of sunlight, moisture, and temperature of each habitat.

2. The teacher reads the big book,[Life in the Rainforest], by Melvin Berger.

3. Discuss the climate of the rain forest (sunlight, moisture, and temperature) and plants and animals that live there.

4. Students create a rough draft of their ideas and pictures on practice paper. After receiving formative feedback from the teacher, they finish their accordion books by adding a rain forest scene with appropriate plants and animals to the last page and writing a sentence to describe the climate of a rain forest focusing on sunlight, moisture, and temperature. The accordion books may be used to formatively assess student understanding of characteristics of climate of various environments.

5. To review, the teacher draws a three-ring Venn diagram on the board and students compare and contrast the climates of a rain forest, desert, and polar region in regards to sunlight, moisture, and temperature.

6. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 10

1. Review the definition of habitat and examples of different habitats.

2. Define adapt – to change.

3. Discuss ways students adapt or change because of factors in their environments. (Examples: When it’s cold outside, they put on a jacket. When it rains, they use an umbrella, etc.).

4. Tell students they will get to dramatize how they would adapt to different situations.

5. One student at a time draws a What If card. The card will describe a scenario, and the student dramatizes how he would adapt to the situation presented. Allow several students a turn. Reassure the students who did not get a turn that you will make the cards available for them to use at other times.

6. Explain that plants and animals have plant parts or body parts that help them adapt to different environments. Some examples might include:
· The waxy coating on a cactus helps keep water in the plant in a dry desert.
· The thick fur of the Siberian tiger keeps it warm in the harsh, cold climate of Siberia.
· The whale’s blowhole helps it breathe air.
· The elephant’s big ears help the elephant stay cool in the jungle.
· The turtle’s shell provides protection from other animals.

7. Encourage students to try and think of other animal body parts that help them adapt to their environments.

8. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 11

1. Review plant and animal parts that help them adapt to their environments.

2. Define survive – to stay alive

3. Read the big book,[Animals in Hiding], by Melvin Berger.

4. Discuss how the behaviors of some plants and animals help them survive. Some examples might be:
· Some plants in the desert only open up and bloom when it rains. They have special stems that allow them to store water better between rainfalls.
· Some plants in the rainforest do not need soil to grow. They get everything they need for growth from the air.
· Some animals, such as lizards, use protective coloration to help them survive. They change the color of their outside body covering to blend into the natural surroundings.
· Animals, such as the cheetah, tiger, and lion, can run fast, and this helps them survive.
· The turtle withdraws into its shell to avoid enemies.
· Many animals that live in cold climates hibernate during the long winters.
· Kangaroos and rabbits hop fast to get away from their enemies.
· Some animals, such as the rattlesnake, make sounds to warn their enemies of their presence.
· Whales make sounds and use echo location to find food or know when an enemy is near.

5. Discuss other ways animals adapt to survive such as stinging or dispensing odors.

6. Distribute Survival! cards from the associated files. Students work in pairs and cut out the cards and practice grouping them according to survival tools and techniques. The teacher observes, guides discussion as to how the pictures can be grouped, and provides formative feedback.

7. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 12

1. Review concepts previously taught in Days 6-11.

2. Explain the directions for Summative Assessment 2: Lovely, Looney, Living Things (see extensions).

3. Share the rubric for the project with the students and answer any questions they might have (see extensions).

4. Show examples of possible creative animals and the finished project (see note in extensions).

5. Provide time for the students to work on their projects.

Day 13

1. Finish projects.

2. If some students finish before others, they can be encouraged to complete the Student Web Lesson: Critter Craze. They can write journal entries as self reflections of the unit, or they can write creative stories about living or non-living things.

3. Upon completion of the project by all students, a small group of students may share their projects orally with the class.

4. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 14

1. More students share their Lovely, Looney, Living Things projects.

2. Review all concepts taught in the unit by revisiting the K-W-L chart and making additions and/or corrections to it.

3. Remind students of the Final Summative tomorrow and explain the format of the assessment to them (see extensions).

4. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 15

1. Administer the Final Summative Selected Response Assessment (see extensions).
2. If necessary, more students may share their Lovely, Looney, Living Things projects after the final assessment has been completed.


Summative Assessment 2 will be done on Days 12 and 13 (see extensions).

The students will create an imaginary living thing with an adaptation for survival and an adaptation to its environment. The student will create a diorama to demonstrate understanding of an appropriate environment for his or her living thing. The student will write a paragraph to describe his or her living creature. The student will describe the creature’s environment and tell at least one way it has adapted to its environment. The student will also explain one characteristic of adaptation for survival. A rubric will be used to assess the project (see extensions).

Final Summative will be administered on Day 15 (see extensions). It is a Selected Response assessment. Each response counts ten points.


The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL:
Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Note to the teacher: If you are not familiar with the Reading Framework concept referred to in these extensions, more information may be obtained with the following reference:
Cunningham, Patricia, Dorothy P. Hall, and Cheryl M. Sigmon. [The Teacher's Guide to the Four Blocks]. Greensboro, North Carolina: Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc., 1999.

The vocabulary taught in this lesson could provide words for Working with Words and Word Wall activities to go along with the Reading Framework.

Reading the big books could be considered a Read Aloud component of the Reading Framework.

To provide repeated exposure to content in the big books, the smaller student books could be used as Guided Reading material or Self-Selected Reading to correlate with the Reading Framework.

On Day 12 for Summative Assessment 2, an excellent site for modeling how to create a new animal, using parts of other animals, can be found at the Website Switcheroo Zoo located at (see Weblinks). The teacher will need to set up in advance the display system using a large screen TV that is hooked up to a computer with Internet access.

As an extension of Day 10, students could work in pairs to think of more scenarios, then present to the class. It could also be used as an opportunity for students to write about a scenario; then they could illustrate it.

It may be helpful to find videos that illustrate the regions covered in this lesson: deserts, rainforests, polar regions, etc.

Web Links

Web supplement for Habitats and All That
Animal adaptations

National Wildlife Federation provides lesson plans and teacher resources. A Habitat Action Pak is free of charge. This teacher resource includes background information and activities related to the concept of habitat.
National Wildlife Federation

Animal habitats with printouts of animals and background information for the teacher.
Animal Habitats

Web supplement for Habitats and All That
Daniel Elementary

Lots of Animal Links can be found at here under Science click Animals.
4 Kids

A good site on Deserts. Click on Education, Elementary Education, Science, then Animals.

An online Student Web Lesson that introduces the concepts of basic needs, grouping, and habitats.
Critter Craze

Students switch parts of animals to create new unusual animals.
Switcheroo Zoo

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