Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Octopus Legs

Carolyn Rosier


Have oceans of fun transforming a wienie into an octopus kids can eat! After counting, cutting halves and fourths, observing steam and the effects of heat, they learn about mixing colors as they create a yummy dipping sauce from mustard and ketchup.


The student understands that print conveys meaning.

The student counts up to 10 or more objects using verbal names and one-to-one correspondence.

The student compares two or more sets (up to 10 objects in each set) and identifies which set is equal to, more than, or less than the other.

The student uses concrete materials to represent fractional parts of a whole (one half, one fourth).

The student knows that matter exists in different states (solid, liquid, gas).

The student knows that materials can be changed by cutting, folding, bending, and mixing.

The student knows selected characteristics of plants and animals (for example, shape, size, color).


-Wieners, one per child with a few extras
-Paper plates
-Plastic knives
-Large pot with water for boiling
-Hot plate or stove
-Drip pan for colander
-Mustard and ketchup in squeeze bottles
-Plastic baggie or container
-Toothpicks for stirrers
-Books featuring good photos of an octopus showing 8 arms
-Computer, viewing station for visiting Websites
-Vocabulary Word Cards (See Associated File)


1. Buy wienies, ketchup, mustard, plates, napkins and toothpicks.
2. Get cooking supplies together.
3. Set up a safe cooking area away from main classroom traffic.
4. Select books and Websites for reviewing what an octopus looks like. Bookmark Websites on computer.
5. Select a good day for a cooking activity when you will have extra help available in the classroom. Call for parent volunteers to join you.
6. Set up a center for wienie cutting.
7. Designate and prepare areas for eating wieners in the afternoon. See Procedures for more details.


Note: This would be a great culminating activity for an ocean unit. When covering the octopus, be sure to look at ocean concept books that show the eight arms of an octopus. Most school libraries have at least one. Discuss habitat, what colors they are, how they move and protect themselves.

1. During your ocean unit, read a book about octopi. You may want to visit a Website from those listed at the link below. (See Weblinks)

2. Hold up a wiener and ask, “Does this look like an octopus? No? What could we do to it to make it look more like an octopus?” Listen to and comment on all kinds of suggestions! Tell kids you know how to make a wiener have the same number of arms as an octopus. Ask, “How do you think I can do this?”

3. Show them the plastic knife and ask students, “How can we use this to make arms? Do you remember how many arms an octopus has? That's right, eight! Is that more or less than the number of arms people have?” Hold up eight fingers. If children use a combination of 5 and 3 fingers, have them change so that they hold up four on one hand and four on the other. Tell students, “We have four fingers on the left and four on the right. We want our wienie to look like this. We need four arms on this end and four on the other end of the wienie.”

4. I suggest doing the next step on the floor with the children sitting in a circle around you so you have a stable working surface and the whole group can see what you are doing. Cut one end of the wiener a little more than an inch toward the middle. Gently spread the end apart. Say, “When we divide one thing into two pieces that is called making halves. I cut this wiener in half.”

5. Discuss, “Now let's make the other side look the same. Will that make enough arms to be an octopus? We have divided each end in half making two arms on each end. Let's count the arms. One, two on this end, then three, four. No, not enough. Four is less than eight. We need eight arms! What should I do now? Cut it again? Alright, I'm going to turn the wiener over and cut again through this half. Wow! Now I have one, two, three, four arms on this end. That matches the number of fingers we held up on one hand, doesn't it?”

6. Continue, “Okay, let's compare this end of the wiener to the other end. Are they the same? No? That's right they are not equal sets, this end is cut into two halves and this end has been cut into four arms. When we divide something into 4 equal pieces, that is called making quarters. This end is cut in quarters with four arms, but this end has two arms. We cut it into … what did I call it when we cut something into 2 equal pieces? Halves! Since these sets of arms are not equal, what do I need to do now to make this end have the same number of arms as the other so that the wienie will have four arms on each end to make eight like an octopus has?” Repeat the cutting and count with the class. Say, “Now we have eight arms. Four on this end and four on this end. Do those sets match? Yes, they are equal sets.”

7. Ask, “Does it look like an octopus yet? What else could we do?” After suggestions, point out that the arms need to be spread out so we can see them better. Tell children you know how to do it. Tell them we will cook the wienies and they will change because the hot water will make the arms spread out. Explain that this will be done a little later but now we will go to centers and each child will get a chance to practice cutting their own wienie into halves and then quarters so each can have their own octopus wienie to eat later.

8. At a table that has been set up for this activity, seat 5 - 6 children (who have washed their hands) with their own plates, knives and wienies. Circulate and provide step by step directions the same as in group time. Tell children, “Wait until I tell you to cut so we can make sure we all do it together.” Some children will need you to guide their hands as they cut. Have each child count and compare sets of arms as they cut. Using tongs, put wienies in a bag and call the next group of children to cut.

9. Prior to beginning the cooking part of the lesson, set up hotplate, pour water into the pot and tell children what you are doing. State that water is liquid. It can be poured into a container of any shape. Begin boiling water in an area away from main classroom traffic and have another adult on hand to monitor for safety! You can have the lunchroom staff cook these for you but children will not be observing the changing state of heating water into steam. If you do, caution whoever cooks them not to overcook or boil rapidly as wieners that have been cut too deeply toward the center might break apart in a vigorous boil.

10. From a safe vantage point, call children's attention to the steam rising from the pot as the water heats up. Explain that this is steam and that when water is heated to a very high temperature, when it gets real hot, it changes from a liquid into vapor or gas and rises into the air. Ask, “Have you ever seen this at home when someone is cooking?” Remind them that just like the heated water, steam is hot!!! Ask, “What do you think would happen if we boiled this water all day?” Tell them that the steam they see is actually water in another form and it is leaving the pot and going into the air. If left to boil, eventually all the water would be gone! The pot would become empty. Ask questions to get children to express these concepts and use the vocabulary words steam, evaporate, boiling, vapor, liquid and gas.

11. Carefully lower wieners into the pot with tongs. Water does not need to boil. Once water begins to steam you cook the weiners gently until the ends of the wieners curl up. This takes about 4 minutes. I use a big pot with at least 5 inches of water and do about 10 wieners at a time. Remove with tongs, let cool as you cook the next batch in the same hot water. Children should be engaged in another activity away from the pot while you do this. Drain wieners in a colander with a pan underneath it to catch drips. This same pan can be used to serve in.

12. After cooling, seat children (who have washed hands) at tables with a paper plate, a napkin and a toothpick. Put one curly octopus wiener on each plate. Squirt ketchup and mustard side by side on one part of the plate. Ask children the following questions: “What colors are mustard and ketchup? What do you think will happen if we mix them together with the toothpick? Will we still have red and yellow dipping sauce? How do you think it will look?” Tell children to use their toothpicks to swirl and mix the condiments together and see what happens. Encourage them to tell their friends what happens.

13. Discuss how different the weinies look. Ask, “What made the wienies change?” (Cutting and heat.) Talk about how red ketchup and yellow mustard make the color orange. Ask, “What made the color change?” (Mixing) Tell children to count the arms on their octopus for a friend, compare the number of arms on each end and then use their fingers to eat the octopus! While children are eating, circulate and talk with children about the experience.

14. Review the lesson briefly, encouraging children to remember the steps taken in sequential order. Show the Vocabulary Word Cards (See Associated File) that correspond to those steps. Practice saying and spelling the words. Ask for a volunteer to tell the class what each word means. Tell the children, “We will be using these cards to help us remember what we did and to help us spell our new vocabulary words when we write stories about our Octopus Wienies.” (More follow-up ideas are provided in Extensions.)


Characteristics of an animal, the octopus, are discussed, but not those of a plant. Only the liquid and gaseous states of water are discussed, not the solid. Only equal sets are assessed.

1. Counting, comparison of sets, and knowing characteristics of animals, i.e. an octopus has eight arms, can be assessed during the small-group activity and recorded on a checklist. (See Associated File)

2. Knowing that cutting, heating and mixing were the agents of change in this activity; representing fractional parts of halves and quarters with concrete materials; knowing that matter exists in solid, liquid and gaseous states, i.e. water into steam; and knowing what color is produced by mixing red and yellow are best formatively assessed through participation, observation and discussion as are many of the Kindergarten GLE's for science.

3. Students should also be assessed on the vocabulary words, knowing that that they represent words. Allow much time for practice and record as students are able to successfully read the words. (See Associated File)


1. To insure safety, another adult should be present to monitor hot plate/boiling water. This lesson is best done during a center time, when the teacher can work with small groups to cut wieners and formatively assess representing fractions, counting, and comparing sets. It is best to have an aide or parent volunteer to assist so ESE students and children who require assistance with fine motor tasks and/or following directions have greater opportunities for success.

2. Note: Wieners can be bagged and refrigerated, then cooked after lunch for an afternoon snack. A more detailed time-required might look like this: 15 minutes for introductory lesson, 30 minutes for cutting wieners and cleanup in morning, 30 minutes for boiling wieners, 30 minutes for sauce mixing, eating, clean-up and follow-up discussion, 30 minutes or more for a follow-up writing activity to provide for review.

3. Follow-up: On the following day, picture/story or journal writing will help your students recall and reinforce concepts explored. Depending on the time of year and the level of your students, stories could be dictated or written by the children using the vocabulary word cards in the associated file along with sight words and inventive spelling. Word cards can be run on tagboard and added to your word wall for children to use. Blanks are included if you want to write or type other words you want your children to focus on. The cards are typed in 60 pt. Gadget.

4. Encourage children to remember the steps involved in making Octopus Wienies. To aid in this process, you could fold a piece of manila paper into quarters. This will reinforce your teaching of quarters being 4 parts of a whole. Then discuss what happened first, next, then and last. Steps might be 1. First, my wienie looked like this. 2. Next we cut the wienies. My wienie had eight arms. 3. Then we cooked our wienies. 4. We mixed ketchup and mustard and ate the octopus. Children who recall and want to write with lots of detail might need to use the back of their paper to include more steps...i.e. the mix was orange, I like to eat octopus wienies.

5. For a more long-term project that involves editing and rewriting, this step can be the prewriting/planning stage. The teacher could assist by writing these steps with the children on their paper and they can later transfer this to sentence form on another sheet of paper. An alternative idea is to assign each stage of the project to small groups that are not academically grouped. The teacher can work with each group separately to write and illustrate, assigning each child a task that is within his/her capabilities and skill needs, then compile the work product into a class book titled, [Octopus Wienies].

Web Links

Web supplement for Octopus Wienies
Giant Octopus

Attached Files

This file contains a Student Checklist and the Vocabulary Word Cards.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.