Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Bodaciously Beautiful Butterflies Take Flight

Heather Watson
Orange County Schools


This lesson is for K-1 students. The students complete a study on butterflies using real caterpillars. Each student keeps a personal daily journal of observations and completes a timeline for their caterpillar/butterfly.


The student writes legibly using manuscript form (for example, prints numbers and upper- and lower- case letters; uses left to right sequencing; spaces between words and sentences).

The student dictates and writes with pictures or words to record ideas and reflections.

The student knows ways living things change and grow over time (for example, seed to flowering plant, tadpole to frog).

The student distinguishes among past, present, and future.


-Caterpillars with hatching houses, one for each group of 3 students (See Preparations)
-Butterfly Journals (See Preparations)
-Writing Rubric (See Associated File)
-Pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, glue
-Magazines and/or pictures of butterflies (make sure you have a picture of the type of butterfly you are ordering)
-KWL chart (See Associated File)
-Whiteboard/markers or chalkboard/chalk
-Chart paper
-Book: Carle, Eric. [The Very Hungry Caterpillar]. New York: The Putnam & Grosset Group, 1987.
-Caterpillar puppet that transforms into a butterfly (optional)
-Butterfly books of various titles and authors
-Long strips of bulletin board paper (8 ˝” x 28”), one per student
-Butterfly Timeline Rubric (See Associated File)
-Overhead projector and film sheets
-Post-It! notes
-Colored or white cardstock
-Digital or instant camera


1. Copy KWL chart onto chart paper for whole class use. (See Associated File)
2. Prepare for each student a Butterfly Journal by folding ten pieces of copy paper tall and skinny and then stapling the pages together in the middle.
3. Prepare a good example and a poor example of the Butterfly Journal. (See Day 1, step #4 and the Writing Rubric for criteria)
4. Prepare an example of a Butterfly Timeline. (See Day 10, step #3 and the Butterfly Timeline Rubric for criteria)
5. Research butterflies. (See Weblinks)
6. Find photos and/or pictures of butterflies.
7. Find books on butterflies and place in the library corner.
8. Order caterpillars two weeks out from the beginning of the unit. Specify the date needed to arrive. A suggestion is at (5 houses, food and larva for $23.00). They are not available from October-February so plan this lesson for the spring or early fall.
9. Create a poster on the development of a butterfly from larva to butterfly or buy a poster that shares this information.
10. Prepare long strips of bulletin board paper (8 ˝” x 28”), one per student for the Butterfly Timeline.
11. Gather remaining supplies listed in Materials.
12. Make transparencies of the Writing Rubric and the Butterfly Timeline Rubric. (See Associated File)


1. Read [The Very Hungry Caterpillar] by Eric Carle. If available, use the puppet caterpillar while you are reading the story. At the end, the puppet transforms into a butterfly.

2. Use the KWL chart (See Associated File) to determine what the students already know about butterflies and what they want to learn about butterflies. Put the “What we WANT to Learn” column in question format.

3. Share with the students that they will be watching their own caterpillar transform into a butterfly. It is important to also let them know that it is possible that not all the caterpillars will become butterflies.

4. Explain to students they will be working in groups of 3-4 and creating a personal daily Butterfly Journal. They are expected to draw pictures of what they see and use some of the science words that will be posted tomorrow, as well as, sentences using known words about what they see (they can look at the word wall for these words). The students will be able to use markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc. to create their daily journal. All writing is to be legible, with spaces between words, punctuation when necessary and clean of smudges, rips or scribbles. Show students a good example and a poor example of a Butterfly Journal. Be sure to highlight the criteria referenced in the Writing Rubric. (See Associated File)

5. Next, tell the students that when the butterflies take flight, they will be making a timeline of the butterfly’s life in our classroom.

6. Close the lesson with a review of the KWL chart.

1. Reread the KWL chart.

2. Hold up or post pictures of butterflies.

3. On chart paper, list the names of the butterflies that are in the pictures. Have the students use Post-It notes to put the names on the pictures.

4. Introduce vocabulary that is needed for journal writing and discussions. Put these words on chart paper with pictures where possible to help students identify the words when they are writing (i.e., chrysalis, cocoon, caterpillar, larva, pupa).

5. Choose groups of 3-4 students.

6. Students get together and choose a butterfly name for their group.

7. Students create a name tent for the butterfly house that they will get tomorrow. Pass out white or colored cardstock to each group. Instruct the students to fold the cardstock in half longwise like a hotdog. After writing the butterfly name for their group, they may decorate the name tent any way they choose.

8. Close lesson with each group sharing their name tent.

1. Have groups come to a central location--carpet, large table, etc. Make sure this is near your butterfly posters or you have the picture of your butterfly with you.

2. Introduce the students to their future butterflies. Show them the caterpillars. Have the students watch the caterpillars move around. Discuss and show them what the caterpillars will be eating. Show them the picture of what their butterflies should look like after their transformation.

3. Review the Butterfly Journal expectations. (See Day 1, step #4 and Writing Rubric)

4. Pass a journal out to all students. Have students get into their groups at tables. Place their caterpillar house on their table with their name attached to the house.

5. Direct each student to write the title “My Butterfly Journal” on the cover and “by: (their name).”

6. Have all students then turn to the first page of their journal. The book is folded so that they can write on the left side and draw on the right side of the book. Date the first page together using simple date format such as 6/3/02. Have all students draw a picture of their caterpillar. Have them write “larva” on the left side of the paper.

7. Close the lesson by having the groups get together and share their pictures.

1. The students journal each day following the pattern that was laid out in Day 3. Each day the students do the following:
a. Date page;
b. Draw picture;
c. Use known words to describe what they see*;
d. Share with another group.
*Note: The students need to be specific about what changes they see. They need to think about the following questions before they write: How has the animal changed today? Is it bigger? smaller? What color is the chrysalis? etc. How has the environment changed today? Do you see precipitation? Has the food level gone down? (List these and other questions on chart paper so that students can refer to them on a daily basis.)

2. The teacher goes from group to group asking questions about what they see and answering any questions that might occur.

DAY 10
1. By this time, all the butterflies should have emerged. When the last one takes flight, this is the time for a Butterfly Bash. Invite people to attend your celebration.

2. Share the completed journals and any digital pictures or photos with your guests.

3. Pass out long strips of bulletin board paper. Explain that each student will now be making a timeline of [important] events in their butterfly’s life. They can use pictures of their butterflies, magazine pictures, drawings, etc. to illustrate the timeline. They are to have at least 5 important events. Each event needs to be dated, labeled and illustrated. Share on the overhead projector the Butterfly Timeline Rubric (See Associated File) that you will be using to evaluate their timeline.

DAY 11
1. Have all students gather in a common place by the KWL chart. Review what they wrote about what they knew before they started this project.

2. Read each question under the “What we WANT to Learn” column and answer them in the “What we LEARNED” column.

3. Add any other items the students want to add that they have learned.

4. Close the unit by congratulating all students on their accomplishments.


The students are assessed on their ability to observe, identify changes in the chrysalis and summarize what they have learned on KWL charts and their timeline.

1. KWL Chart: The students brainstorm as a class what they know about butterflies, what they want to know and they will write later what they have learned.

2. Daily Butterfly Journal: The students draw pictures and/or write legibly using the list of science words on the word bank list what they see each day. The students need to be specific about what changes they see. They need to think about these questions before they write: How has the animal changed today? Are they bigger? Smaller? What color is the chrysalis? etc. How has the environment changed today? Do you see precipitation? Has the food level gone down? Have children refer to a chart (either handmade or from a poster) of the development of a butterfly from larva to butterfly for correct vocabulary in their writing. Children at this time (second semester) are able to write simple sentences using known words and word bank or list words. See the Writing Rubric in the associated file for more specific Language Arts criteria.

3. Butterfly Timeline: The students use their Butterfly Journal to create a timeline of major events in the life of their butterfly, from chrysalis to flight, as a summary of this lesson. See the Butterfly Timeline Rubric in the associated file for specific criteria.


ESOL students can participate in this lesson along with native English speakers. There are no specific modifications necessary if you make the vocabulary available, correlate it with pictures and review each day.

Web Links

Teacher resource. This site has a tremendous amount of information, including learning modules, but they are for upper grade levels.

This site has incredible pictures! It also allows you to look directly at your state and even more specifically the county in which you are located.
Butterflies of North America

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