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Vertebrates Lesson 3: Reptiles part II

In the first part of reptiles lesson, I have written about the introduction of reptiles and lessons on turtles. In this post, I will continue writing about the lessons on other reptiles…

One reptile is chosen a day for the lessons as follows…

Snake: 

  1. Snake is a reptile that doesn’t have legs. They zigzag over the ground quickly.
  2. Snakes have no visible ear, so they don’t hear sounds as we do. But it’s not quite right to say that snakes are deaf. They have inner ear (cochlear apparatus) for hearing inside their heads, and it is attached to their jaw bones, so they feel vibrations very well. They don’t hear the bansuri music of the snake charmer, but they follow the bansuri movement because it considers the bansuri as a threat from the predator.
  3. Snakes have eyes with no eyelids but a transparent scale covering them. They have a good night vision but poor colour vision. Snakes could sense movement very well rather than static objects. Some pit vipers can sense heat (infra red light) from the living things with their pits in head not eyes.
  4. Snakes have two nostrils to breathe and they have good sense of smell to identify the prey and the distance they are at.
  5. Snakes do not have the right kind of teeth to chew their food so they must eat their catch whole.  The teeth are made for grabbing, holding, hooking but not for chewing. Their jaw is structured in such a way that it allows the mouth to open wider than their own body in order to swallow their prey whole.
  6. Most snakes eat insects, rodents, birds, eggs, fish, frogs, lizards and small mammals. The following facts with in the brackets will be of interest to the elementary children …(Constrictors will grab and hold their prey while wrapping their bodies around the victim and slowly “constricting” or tightening their coils until they squeeze the last breath out of their prey and the heart stops. Cobras, Vipers, Rattlesnakes, and other venomous snakes will maim or paralyze their prey by sinking their fangs into it before swallowing it.Have you ever wondered how a snake can swallow such big meals without chewing? Snakes have powerful muscles all along the front half of their bodies. Snakes use these muscles for moving as well as swallowing. The muscles move the food down along the throat and into the snake’s long stomach. Moving the food through the throat into the stomach can take 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the animal they are eating.In egg-eating snakes the sharp rib bones will poke through the eggshell to help speed along digestion. Food in the snake’s stomach can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months to breakup or digest. That is a long time to work on a meal! Believe it or not, some snakes only need to eat a couple times a year.)
  7. Snakes use their forked tongues to smell. Snakes have nostrils to breathe and smell. But a snake’s tongue is also very important. When a snake flicks its tongue in the air, it picks up tiny chemical particles.
  8. Snake venom is a special form of saliva that contains a range of zootoxins and is stored in something akin to our salivary gland. The toxic venom is stored in these specially protected glands until it is moved down through narrow tubules in the fangs (the sharp teeth of poisonous snake) and delivered into the snake’s prey.
  9. Every few months, the snake grows too big for its skin and it gets rid of its old skin by just crawling right out of it.

Snake picture cards from the reptiles folder for the lessons

Crocodilians:

  1. Alligators and crocodiles are crocodilians
  2. They both look much alike, but……………  An alligator has fatter and shorter jaws and he is smaller than crocodiles. They like to swim in fresh water and they live in swamps. Crocodiles are larger, thinner and faster than alligator. They have narrow and pointed snout. They like to live near salt water.
  3. Both eat fish, turtles, crabs and mammals.
  4. The mother builds nest to lay eggs and protect the nest from predators.
  5. Baby crocodilians hatch out of eggs and the mother assist them to water and protect them for one year.
  6. Crocodiles can be often seen with their jaws wide open.They open their jaws to cool themselves because they don’t have sweat glands.
  7. Crocodiles have between 60 and 72 teeth which they use to tear flesh apart. They do not chew their food, but instead swallow large portions of their prey.

Crocodilians picture cards for the lessons

Lizards: 

  1. Lizards have scaly skin and eyelids
  2. They have 4 legs with 5 toes on each foot. Lizards run very fast and they can swim as well.
  3. If a lizard looses it’s tail by accident, it can regrow it.
  4. They eat insects and worms.
  5. Lizards can be as small as 3 inches or longer up to 10 feet. Komado dragon is the longest lizard in the world.
  6. Most lizards live in trees and they are good climbers. They have sticky toe pads to climb.
  7. There are only two poisonous lizards . They are Gila monster and beaded lizard.
  8. Gecko is the house lizard that we commonly encounter. They come in various colours and patterns.
  9. Chameleons are the lizards that can change their colour to match their surroundings. This is called camouflage. And they can move their eyes independent of each other.

Lizards picture cards for the lessons

A child sorting out the reptiles cards from the folder.

Always we have rhymes, songs and crafts fun with our lessons. And various craft suggestions that we tried for our reptiles lesson are…….



Alligator castanets

And that’s our reptiles lesson.

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Vertebrates lesson 3: Reptiles part I 

Today I am going to write about our reptiles lesson in our Montessori classroom.

We start our lessons with reptile after a short recap of five classes of vertebrates names and the ones that we have learnt so far.

Turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodilians are all reptiles. What are the general characteristics of these reptiles?

  • Some reptiles are nocturnal (night animals) and some are diurnal (active during day)
  • Reptiles are cold blooded like our fish and frogs. They need to bask in the sun to become active.
  • All reptiles have lungs and breathe air like us.
  • Their skin is covered with dry scales. The scaly skin keeps them from drying out and protects them from contact with the ground. A reptile shed its skin as it grows. ( we can show the shed skin of snake) . A turtle has a hard shell instead of scales for protection.
  • They lay leathery eggs on land and the baby reptiles take care of themselves, as soon as they hatch from the egg. The reptile babies are not like us, we need parents to take care of us till we get older enough.

Then we tell the children about each reptile a day….  We use the pictures that I have prepared from google images for our reptile folder for the discussions.

Our reptiles folder and the picture cards for the lessons

We first talk about the …..

Turtles:

  1. Turtles can live on land and water. A land turtle is called tortoise.
  2. Parts of the turtles
  • Head: The head of the reptiles are attached to their body by a neck, allowing them to move their heads, independently of the body. This allows the turtle to extend its head from the shell. The have two eyes with eyelids to see colours and to detect distance. Turtles are active during the day. They have two nostrils to breathe. They have membrane covered opening called tympanum for sensing vibrations.
  • Mouth: Turtles don’t have teeth but a bony jaw. They can only tear down the food or eat it whole and their tongue helps them to swallow the food.
  • Shell: Turtles have protective shell instead of scales. The shell is made up of protective plates called scutes. The upper part of the shell is called carapace and it’s dome shaped. The back bone of the turtle is attached to the carapace and it can not move out of the shell. The bottom part of the shell is called plastron which is attached to the carapace with openings for the neck, legs and tail. The turtle can retract all its parts into the shell when it encounters any danger.
  • Legs:  The turtles have four legs, two legs in front called forelegs and two at the back called hind legs. The legs of the turtle are covered with dry scales. The hind legs of the turtle are stronger than the forelegs. They have short stride because of their shell and move slowly on land. Some sea turtles have flippers for swimming instead of legs. Turtles can swim or walk along the bottom of the lake but they breathe with their lungs, hence they need to come to the surface to take deep breath.
  • Feet: Turtles have five toes with sharp claws used for digging the ground for hibernation in winter, also for laying eggs. Many turtles have webbed feet for swimming.

And few points on sea turtles…

  • Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the seas and they have flippers instead of legs to swim.
  • Sea turtle can not pull its legs and head into the shell like other turtles.
  • They breathe air, hence have to come out of the water to breathe.
  • The mother turtle comes out of the water to lay eggs in the sand. When the baby turtles hatch from the eggs, they immediately go to the water to begin their life as a sea turtle.

We use the turtle puzzle and the nomenclature cards from wasecabiomes for the discussion of parts of the turtle.



Turtles picture cards from the reptiles folder

I will continue with the lessons on reptiles in the second part of reptiles lessons. ( my next post)

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Vertebrates Lesson 2 : Amphibians 

We start our second vertebrates lesson on amphibians after a small recap of the five classes of vertebrates.

We start the discussion of amphibians by describing the Life cycle of the frogs. 

  • Eggs: The mother amphibian lay soft, jelly like eggs in water, so that they won’t dry out. These eggs are really soft and they don’t have hard shell like the chickens egg. And the baby amphibians are born in water and they don’t resemble their mother and they are called tadpoles.
  • Tadpoles: The tadpoles after hatching out of the egg stay sticking to the water plants as they can not see immediately. And the tadpoles breathe through gills like the fish. And they develop little mouth and begin to grow. They swim like fish with their fins and long tail.
  • Froglet: At the end of tadpole stage, they grow legs, develop lungs and their gills disappear just in 24 hours. Their skin becomes thick, breath with their lungs, move with their limbs and come to land. This stage is called froglets. They lose their tail finally.

All amphibians go through these changes after they are born and we call this change metamorphosis. Thus they start their life in water and undergo development to live on land. They have life in water and land. Hence they are called amphibians ( amphi- both, bios – life). I use the following picture charts and cards from The Helpful Garden for explaining the life cycle of frog.


And few other materials for the metamorphosis lessons are….

Accordion frog life cycle booklet for reading level children

And on another time we describe the parts of the frog , adding few points day by day, as follows…..

Parts of the frog 

  1. Head: The head of the amphibian is attached to the body with out neck. The amphibians eyes bulges from it’s head and it develops eyelids when they move to land. Their ears are nothing but an opening covered with skin called tympanum. They sense the vibrations and calls. They breathe through their nostrils and can detect odours. They have wide mouth with a bony jaw and sticky tongue to catch insects but no teeth to chew.
  2. Body: The body of the amphibians have moist skin that can absorb water and air directly. Thus they can breathe through their skin as well apart from the lungs. Amphibians are cold blooded similar to the fish.
  3. Limbs: They have limbs to help them move. The limbs in the front are short and called forelegs. The limbs at the back are called Hind legs. Hind legs are long and strong and they are used to swim and leap. Their feet are webbed to help in swimming. Webs are the membrane found between the toes that act like a paddle while swimming. And they have claws for digging.

Parts of the frog is explained with the puzzle and nomenclature cards (from Waseca Biomes).


Also the two other amphibians namely salamander and caecilians are explained on different days.

Salamander: 

  • Salamanders have lizard like appearance
  • They also undergo metamorphosis like frog but their tadpoles head doesn’t grow big and their tails stay long in the adult period as well.
  • They eat fish, worm and insects.
  • They are nocturnal.

Caecilians: 

  • They are leg less, burrowing worm like amphibians.
  • They are found in moist soil.

We show various frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians of various continents, to the children with the picture cards in our amphibians folder that I have prepared from thehelpfulgarden website.


And we give the songs and rhymes of frog during the amphibians lessons. One of our favourite songs is ” thathi thathi thavalayar..”, that I came to know during my montessori training.

And to add more fun to the lessons, we do art and crafts on the concept with the children.

Some of the art and craft works that we have tried….

Amphibians lessons for the star kids club children.

Children on the go with the amphibians work

And that’s our amphibians lesson.



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Vertebrates Lesson 1: Fish 

The first class of vertebrates, fish lessons in our Montessori classroom is as follows…….

Generally lessons on each class of vertebrates are given for 1 to 2 weeks. Each day few points are added to the lesson and the last session will be a review with the animal visit to the environment.

At first the general characteristics of the fish is explained with the help of the pictures in our fish folder that I have prepared from the various google images.

Our fish folder and the pictures :

I have written the names of the fish and few details at the back of the cards.

The following facts are told about the fish to the children, each day few facts

  1. Shape of the fish : we ask the children to look at the shape of the fish head and we say we call it as “streamlined shape”. This body shape helps the fish to go through the water smoothly and easily. So when the people dive into the water, they keep the hands up like this to resemble a fish head which helps them to dive smoothly and easily.
  2. Gills: Fish live in water and how do you think they get the air to breathe like us. Fish take a gulp of water into its mouth and gushes it out through it’s gills wherein the oxygen from the water is removed and used. We show them the picture of gills. ( picture next to the fish folder in the picture)
  3. Scales: The body of the fish is covered with thin, flat and hard plates called scales which protects the body. We show them the cleaned and washed fish scales.
  4. Lateral line: This is a line along the side of the fish which senses movement in the water and sound vibrations.
  5. Fins: There are two unpaired fins called dorsal fin (found on top of the fish, helps in staying upright and taking turns) and the caudal fin ( it’s the tail that helps the fish to propel forward in water) . And there are three paired fins called pectoral fins ( located just behind the head, helps in steering), pelvic fins ( found along the underside of the fish, assists the fish in going up or down, to slow down or stop) and the anal fins ( found underside behind the pelvic fins, helps the fish stay stable during swimming)
  6. Cold blooded: Fish are cold blooded. Cold blooded means if the water is cold, the fish body gets cold inside and out.  if the water is warm, the fish body gets warm inside and out. The fish cannot keep the temperature inside their body from changing. We call it as cold blooded. People like you and me are warm blooded. The inside temperature of our bodies stay the same even if it is very cold outside.
  7. Eggs: Fish lays eggs in the water which are very soft and jelly like. And the little fish come out the eggs when they hatch.
  8. Eyes and nostrils: The eyes of the fish are on the either side of the head and have no eyelids like us. Fish can see colours. Fish uses it’s nostrils to smell to recognise one another, recognise places, recognise food.
  9. Swim bladder: We explain swim bladder to the elementary kids with the help of the Cartesian diver experiment. Like the tube in the Cartesian diver experiment The amount of the air in the swim bladder helps the fish to rise up and down.

The Cartesian diver experiment

The parts of the fish are explained again with the fish puzzle.


I used the three part nomenclature cards that I bought from the site Waseca Biomes for the elementary children weekend classes. These cards are part of the bundle ” introduction to the biomes with curriculum “. It’s worth a buy. The cards and all the materials available in the site are beautiful and the children love it. Following is the picture of the three part cards and the control chart that I printed out from google images


And the lessons to the children are always with the songs and rhymes. I generally give any song or rhyme in English, Tamil or Hindi related to the concept. I choose my English rhymes for the concept mostly from the site Preschool Express by Jean Warren.

And also the lessons are with art and craft fun. The following picture shows various craft options for fish lessons that we have tried..


Finally review of the fish lesson with the friendly animal visit by our golden fish.


And that’s all about the fish lessons. I will post a separate lesson on Cartesian diver later.

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Lessons on Moon 

This is the lesson that I presented for the elementary kids in star kids club. Grade I kids were taught just the different phases of moon and the reason behind it. The lessons on moon went like as follows…..

Rocky bodies that orbit the planets are called moons. Mercury and Venus are the two planets that don’t have moons and Jupiter is the planet that has more moons.

Earth’s gravity holds the moon in orbit. This is shown by two children holding their hands and revolving around.

Moon doesn’t have light on it’s own but it just reflects the light of the sun. The phases of the Moon are the different ways the Moon looks from Earth over about a month. As the Moon orbits around the Earth, the half of the Moon that faces the Sun will be lit up. The different shapes of the lit portion of the Moon that can be seen from Earth are known as phases of the Moon. I explained them the different phases of the moon with the following picture.

I used the picture cards for the phases of moon from ETC MONTESSORI. This is five part cards. I have made two out of the five as a control booklet.


The phases of moon can be demonstrated with a white ball on a stick acting like a moon and a torch light as the sun. I showed this video Video on Moon to the children and asked them to act it out to have a hands on experience.

This picture shows the Moon lessons on the go…  you can see the torch and the ball for the phases of moon demonstration and the kids taking turns in carrying out the demonstration of phases of the moon.

And I explained the lunar calendar to the kids as follows….

Lunar calendar is based on the orbit of the moon. A lunar month (29.53 days) is slightly shorter than an average standard month (30.44 days)of solar year calendar. If you only had 12 lunar months then you would end up with 12 days short of a year. As a result very few modern societies follow lunar calendar. But many people celebrations are based on lunar calendar like Ramadan festival of Islam, Chinese New Year are based on lunar calendar.

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Botany Lessons in Montessori Classroom 

We start our botany lessons by explaining the children about how plants help us in various ways. We explain how the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the house we live are from the plants. We use the following picture cards to explain the process of plants uses. This is from Montessori for Everyone.

And we introduce them our botany shelf by saying this shelf has all related to plants and it’s called our botany shelf. Study about plants is called botany.

We start with seeds in botany. We explain the kids that the plants are grown from the seeds by showing them the germination of mustard seeds in the school environment.

We enjoy the germination of the seeds with the famous song ” Gardner plants the seeds”.


And we explain the parts of the seed with the sprouted beans. We offer each child one or two sprouted beans and help them to remove the seed coat and tell them how the seed coat protects the seed. Then we help the children to open up the sprouted beans to look into the baby plant grown inside. And then we compare our seed puzzle with the sprouted beans to identify the parts of the seed.

Sprouted beans for the seed lessons

Parts of the seed

The radicle grows in to root and the plumule grows in to shoot of the baby plant. And the cotyledon is the storehouse of food for the baby plant till it develops it’s own leaves for photosynthesis.

A child working with the seed puzzle and learning the parts of the seed.

As an additional activity to our seed lesson we have this matching up the seed cards with the seed samples in the box.


The seed picture cards are from The Helpful Garden

And that’s our introduction to botany and lessons on seed.

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Vertebrates and invertebrates lessons in Montessori classroom 

We first help the little children in understanding that all the things in the world are either living or non living.

Pictures sorting for living and non living. Picture cards are from thehelpfulgarden

And all the living things are either plants or animals (We explain the six kingdoms of living things only to the elementary children).

Pictures sorting for animals and plants. Pictures are from thehelpfulgarden.

Then we tell the children that study of animals is called zoology and our zoology shelf has all the materials related to animals.
Our zoology shelf

And all the animals are classified as either vertebrates or invertebrates. We help the children to understand, what is vertebrate by asking them run their fingers along the spine of his friend.

Vertebrates and invertebrates sorting . Picture cards from thehelpfulgarden.

Then the five classes of vertebrates are introduced.

Pictures with vertebrates highlighted. Picture cards are from The Helpful Garden.

A child matching the picture cards and the model of vertebrates.

I have also recently printed out the x rays of the five classes of vertebrates to show the children.


That was our class of vertebrates and invertebrates.