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Here is a fantastic multidisciplinary spider unit titled “Spooky Spiders and Wacky Webs”


Art, Computers & Internet, Language Arts, Science  



Title – Spooky Spiders and Wacky Webs –
thematic unit on spiders
By – C. Anderson
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Art, Language Arts, Computers/Internet
Grade Level – 1

Timeline — This unit is typically taught during the month of October after students have gained prior knowledge through an insect unit taught during September.

      3 weeks during the month of October

      2 sessions per week

    45-minute class session

Purpose of Unit —

    The life cycle of spiders is studied in contrast to insects. Spiders also give students a wonderful opportunity to observe organisms and describe the similarities and differences as they contrast them to insects with their two body parts and characteristic eight legs. The various habitats are observed and discussed. When available, live insects are studied and returned to the natural habitat. This is an important lesson in respect to all living things.

Essential Questions —

  1. What are different types of spiders?
  2. How do you identify a spider according to body parts?
  3. How do spiders help and/or harm our environment?
  4. How can you classify spiders according to likenesses and differences?

Objectives for Unit — at the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. identify a spider according to body parts
  2. classify spiders according to likenesses and differences and compare to insects
  3. show an understanding of different kinds of spider habitats
  4. understand the eating habits of spiders
  5. observe and understand the potential harm of local poisonous spiders
  6. observe the living organism causing no harm and return it to the natural habitat
  7. draw pictures of spiders
  8. make model spiders
  9. follow up discussions with journal entries

Unit Assessment — Throughout the unit, first graders will be informally assessed on their accurate completion of projects (drawings, models), and participation in group discussions. Students will be formally assessed on their journal entries that are completed after each lesson. Journal entries must include the following components:

  1. 4 complete sentences that express what they learned during the lesson and whether or not they enjoyed it.
  2. A picture to accompany each entry that correlates to information they learned.

Please note that in first grade, students are not awarded points or grades for their completion of activities. Performance is based solely on the above criteria.

Multiple Intelligences Addressed Throughout Unit —

  1. Verbal/Linguistic
  2. Visual/Spatial
  3. Bodily/Kinesthetic
  4. Interpersonal
  5. Intrapersonal
  6. Naturalist

Activity 1

What Is A Spider?

Content Areas — Science, Language Arts, Art

Multiple Intelligences — Verbal, Visual, Naturalist, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal

Objectives: GDSS 1, 2, 8, 9

Begin by reading the book ” The Very Busy Spider ” by Eric Carle to the students. Ask the students if a spider is an insect. Because most students will say “yes”, have them list on the board the things that an insect must have. Use the list to have students decide how spiders are different from insects. List the characteristics of spiders on the chart/board for all students to see. Explain that spiders are arachnids (8 legged creatures) and discuss the types of spiders we commonly see around our area. Create a list of spiders the students are familiar with.

Distribute a small and medium sized Styrofoam ball to each student. These represent the two body parts segments of a spider. Connect the two balls with a toothpick and have students insert 8 pipe cleaners (4 on each side) and joint them to make the spider stand. Students may also create eyes if they desire.

At the close of the activity, students should be given time to complete their first journal entry. This entry should include at least 4 sentences on the topic they learned about, and a picture to illustrate.

Activity 2

Wacky Webs

Content Areas — Science, Art, Language Arts

Multiple Intelligences – Verbal, Visual, Kinesthetic, Naturalist, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal

Objectives — GDDS 3, 4, 9

Begin the activity by reading ” Spiders Lunch ” by Joanna Cole. Explain to students that spiders catch their food one of two ways, webs or pouncing. Provide pictures of the four types of webs that spiders spin: Orb, Triangle, Sheet, and Tangle.¬†¬†Have the children make a circle on the floor. Instruct them to use yarn to weave a web by wrapping it around them once and then throwing it across the floor to someone else in the circle. Once the web has taken shape ask the students which of the webs they think it most resembles. Have the students carefully step out of their loops leaving the web on the floor and return to their seats. The teacher can later tie the loops together to hold the shape of the web and hang it in the classroom.

When the students are back at their seats, have them brainstorm why a spider’s prey gets caught in the web, but the spider does not. List their responses on the board. Give each student a strip of tape and have him or her hold it down with one hand and use their fingers to tiptoe across the tape like a spider. Discuss with the students what happens (their fingers stick). Put a little oil (vegetable or olive) on a napkin and have students dip their fingers in before “walking across the tape again. Discuss with the students that the reason spiders don’t stick is because they have oil glands to help them move across their webs.

Before writing in their journals, allow students to take their Styrofoam spiders from before and attach them to the web they made today. This makes a great visual to dress up a classroom!

Additional Books to help reinforce lesson:

Spiders Spin Webs

      ” by Yvonne Winer

Web Weavers and Other Spiders

    ” by Bobbie Kalman
Activity 3

Web Walk

Content Areas — Science, Art

Multiple Intelligences — Visual, Kinesthetic, Naturalist, Intrapersonal

Objectives — GDDS 3, 6, 7, 9

*This activity is best done early in the morning so that webs are easier to find within the dew. Review the different types of webs students have learned about. Give them time to review the class charts, and any interesting books and/or pictures you have in the classroom research area. Explain to students that they are going to take a “Web Walk” with a partner. Have students help decide on an appropriate location and distance they will be allowed to go to with their partner (a small wooded area of the playground works best). Also discuss the importance of observing and explain the harmful effects if they try to touch or harm a spider’s habitat. In pairs, students are to walk around the playground to try and find spider webs. When they find a web, they are to use their pencils to draw a picture of it on construction paper and write down (as best they can) where they found it. Once back in the classroom, display the drawings and have the class sort them according to what types of webs they think they are. Discuss with students why there might more of one type than others. Certain types of spiders are more common in some areas than others.

In their journal, have students recreate the web they drew and write at least 4 sentences describing where they found it and what it looked like.

Activity 4

Spiders Have Natural Enemies

Content Areas — Science

Multiple Intelligences — Visual, Verbal, Naturalist, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal

Objectives — GDSS 1, 2, 5, 9

Read aloud ” The Lady and the Spider ” by F. McNulty. Discuss the defense mechanisms of spiders and the idea of “camouflage”. Open the discussion by asking students what they would do if they saw a spider on their bed, in their shoe, or crawling across the floor. Would they kill it or not? Explain that spiders have to be careful of all different types of animals, including humans. Ask the students to name different types of animals and list them on a chart. Students predict how different animals and spiders react to one another. In pairs, have students complete the following sentence on a large piece of construction paper and draw a picture showing one way spiders defend themselves.

A ________________ would be afraid of a spider, but a spider would not be afraid of a ________________.
Display the sentences and pictures in the classroom.

Students complete their journal entries focusing on what they learned and how they felt about the topic.

Activity 5

Spider vs. Insect Sort

Content Areas — Science

Multiple Intelligences — Visual, Verbal, Naturalist, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal

Objectives — GDDS 1, 2, 9

Use a “web” to review what the students have learned about spiders up to this point. At the close of the review, divide students into groups of four. Having utilized the Internet and/or magazines, provide each group with a number of spider and insect pictures. Some of these pictures should be insects/spiders the students are familiar with while others may not be. On a piece of poster board, students should observe and sort the pictures into “Spiders” and “Insects”. When the students have finished, discuss the reasons they classified the pictures the way they did.

At the close of the activity, have students write in their journals at least 4 sentences telling about the difference between insects and spiders. Also on their entry, instruct students to draw a picture of an insect and of a spider.

Activity 6

Spider vs. Insect KidPix

Content Areas — Science, Technology

Multiple Intelligences — Visual, Kinesthetic, Naturalist

Objectives — GDSS 1, 2, 7, 9

This activity can be done either whole group, or small groups. It is recommended that the lesson be done in a computer lab.

Students will be instructed to open the KidPix software on their personal computer. The teacher should then instruct the students to divide their “paper” in half and to create a spider on one side of the screen and an ant on the other. Students are expected to use the appropriate drawing tools for their pictures and they should label each of the parts they include. Students should print out their pictures once they have completed the assignment.

Rather than completing a journal entry for this activity, students will be assessed on the following criteria:

  1. Did the student use appropriate computer skills (keyboard and software)?
  2. Was the student able to draw two pictures resembling a spider and an ant?
  3. Did the student correctly label the body parts for each of their pictures?
  4. Was the student creative — color, shape formations, background, etc.?
Activity 7

Sugar Cookie Spiders

Content Areas — Science, Art

Multiple Intelligences — Visual, Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal

Objectives — GDDS 1, 8, 9

As a close to the unit, students appreciate being rewarded with a special treat for all of their hard work. Once students have completed the above activities and they have shown a consistent understanding of spiders and insects, they truly enjoy making something edible. Prior to the activity, I ask parents to send in supplies such as red and black licorice, coconut, decorating icing, chocolate/peanut butter chips, smarties, and any other “small” candy. Students use large sugar cookies and the candy to create an edible spider. Before snacking on them, students have to give them a name and write a couple sentences about where their spider lives and what it likes to eat. Students are allowed to model their spider after a real one, or create their own. The important criterion is that it can look anyway that they want, as long as it has all the appropriate parts to be called a “spider”. We take pictures of all the creations to put up in the hallway and many of the students choose to take their sugar spider home to show their parents before enjoying it. This a fun way to end the unit and to reinforce the information at hand with an edible goody.

Students should complete their final journal entry telling what they learned about spiders and how they felt about the activities. This is a good opportunity to ask students to write about what they liked the most and the least for future planning ideas.

Final Thought

Each of the lessons in the above unit is designed to meet differentiated learning styles as well as various Multiple Intelligences. The seven activities offered in the Spider unit provide students with opportunities in hands-on lessons, small group work, discussion, art, technology, and personal reflection. Due to the age of the children this unit was designed for, a grading system is not in place. Instead, students are assessed on their ability to successfully complete assignments and to participate in group discussions. For students who find it difficult to engage in whole group discussions, the journal allows them an effective way to reflect on their learning on to demonstrate their level of understanding. An important aspect of this unit is that it avoids the use of worksheets. Students are encouraged to be creative and to reflect upon themselves and upon what they find in nature. Also, students at this age demonstrate a higher level of understanding if lessons are presented in a hands-on fashion that can be manipulated by the learner.

Unit Resources


The Very Busy Spider

      ” by Eric Carle

Spiders Lunch

      ” by Joanna Cole

Spiders Spin Webs

      ” by Yvonne Winer

Web Weavers and Other Spiders

      ” by Bobbie Kalman

The Lady and the Spider

      ” by F. McNulty


      ” by Gail Gibbons

      “Spectacular Spiders” by Linda Glaser

Be Nice to Spiders

      ” by Margaret Bloy Graham

The Little Buggers — Insect and Spider Poems

      ” by J. Patrick Lewis

E-Mail C. Anderson !

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