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Here’s a large, 5 day thematic unit on Penguins




1, 2, 3  


Title – Penguin Theme Unit
By – Kelly Wanczak
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects –
Grade Level – 1st-3rd


Objectives: TSWBAT tell facts about Emperor penguins.
TSWBAT experience what a father penguin does to take care of an egg.

Materials: Emperor penguin poster, overhead, non-fiction penguin books (listed below), small ball

Motivation/Anticipatory Set: I will tell the penguin joke of the day: “Which fish do penguins eat at night?” (starfish)

– I will begin the unit by activating the student’s prior knowledge about penguins. I will ask them to tell me what they already know about penguins and I will list their suggestions on the overhead. Then I will ask them what they want to learn about penguins. I will tell them that we will be learning about three different specific kinds of penguins, the Emperors, the Adelies, and the Rockhoppers. I will also tell them that we will be doing some fun penguin activities and games.
– Now I will read about the Emperors in several non-fiction books, including Face-to-Face Penguins, The Penguin in the Snow by Doug Allen, and Penguins by Annette Barkhausen and Franz Geiser. All of these books have excellent pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions of how penguins live.
– After we read through the books, as a class we will fill in facts on my Emperor poster that already contains pictures of these penguins. I will ask the students for important facts that they remember from what we read and I will add them to the poster.

Closure: Finally, I will discuss how the father Emperor penguin keeps the eggs warm on top of his feet for two months. Then we will play a game, where the students will have to try to balance a ball on the tops of their feet and waddle around. Here, the students will be simulating the father’s job.

Evaluation: Participation during discussion and listing of penguin facts.
Observation during egg activity.


Objective: TSWBAT tell facts about Rockhopper Penguins.

Materials: Rockhopper penguin poster, black and orange construction paper, mask pattern, eye pattern, orange, yellow, and white feathers, yarn

Motivation/Anticipatory Set: I will begin by telling the penguin joke of the day: “What’s black and white and red all over?” (an embarrassed penguin)

– I will read through the same books, picking out pictures and reading pages about the Rockhopper penguins. Then I will ask the students to recall some facts about the Rockhoppers and I will fill them in on a new poster.

Closure: We will make penguin masks using construction paper, feathers, and yarn. I will give the students patterns to cut out the mask size the beak, and eyes. The feathers will stick up from the middle, like a Rockhopper’s feathers.

Evaluation: Participation during discussion and listing of penguin facts.
Completion of penguin mask art project.


Objective: TSWBAT communicate ideas about what it would be like to have a pet penguin.

Materials: Fiction books (listed below), penguin-shaped cut out book

Motivation/Anticipatory Set: First, I will tell the penguin joke of the day. “What do penguins eat for lunch?” (icebergers)

– I will read and discuss the stories Cinderella Penguin by Janet Perlman and Little Penguin’s Tale by Audrey Wood.
– I will give the students the rest of the time to write about penguins in a penguin-shaped cut out book. They will pretend that they have a pet penguin in their house, and they will write about what it might be like. I will suggest such topics as food, needs, temperature, and toys.

Closure: After I check their stories, they will color the cover of their penguin book.

Evaluation: Completion of creative story and penguin book.


Objective: TSWBAT tell facts about Adelie penguins.

Materials: Adelie penguin poster, “I Know a Little Penguin” song, penguin fill-in-poem

Motivation/Anticipatory Set: I will begin by telling the penguin joke of the day, “What’s black and white and goes round and round?” (a penguin stuck in a revolving door)

– As I did with the other penguin species, I will show pictures and read passages from the non-fiction books. Then, I will ask the students to recall the important facts and I will list them on an Adelie penguin poster with pictures. All three of these posters will be displayed around the room throughout the unit.
– Sing “I Know a Little Penguin” (to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot)

Closure: As a class, fill in the penguin poem with rhyming words. Assign homework to wear black and white for the last day of the unit.

Evaluation: Participation during discussion and listing of penguin facts.

Participation in the song and poem activities.


Objective: TSWBAT recall penguin facts about Emperor, Rockhopper, and Adelie penguins.

Motivation/Anticipatory Set: I will start by telling the final joke of the day, “Why do penguins carry fish in their beaks?” (Because they don’t have pockets)

– We will play a waddle relay. I will divide the students into teams, and they will have to waddle with a ball between their knees to a line and back, without dropping it. This shows them what it is like to walk like a penguin.

Closure/Final Unit Evaluation: To finish the unit, we will play a final trivia game, reviewing the penguin facts that we learned. Each table will be a team, and move their penguin along an iceberg gameboard until the first team reaches the finish.

E-Mail Kelly Wanczak !

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