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Godzilla Math!...And Other Lizard Teaching Activities!

Capitalize on students' interest in the summer blockbuster movie with Godzilla math word problems -- and other lizard teaching activities!

Were you one of the millions of people who stood in line last weekend to buy tickets to the much-hyped summer blockbuster? Godzilla, the big scene-stealer (and scenery-chewer), netted $55 million at the box office!

No doubt a handful of your students were among those who stood in line over the Memorial Day weekend! So why not capitalize on the popularity of the huge lizard? (Cheap commercialism? Heck, if it gets your students reading and mapping and figuring word problems, what's the harm in it?)

And that's just what you'll find here! Enough activities to fill Madison Square Garden! ... Ooops! Forgot! The Garden is no longer. Godzilla took care of that!...

Start off with Godzilla Math (Teaching Master 1), a teaching master full of Godzilla-related math word problems! (See the teaching master Answer Key at end of this article.) That teaching master should be good math practice for third-graders through middle-schoolers. Then poke around at the other activities below. Let Godzilla motivate your students to do some reading and mapping and sequencing and writing and graphing and listening and math and... Even Godzilla would be pleased to know it had that kind of impact!!


After you've checked out Godzilla math, give a few of these activities a shot...

Fill in the chart. Godzilla laid a couple hundred eggs! Invite students to use Internet resources to learn how many eggs some (real) lizards lay. Use Teaching Master 2 with this activity.
ANSWERS: Gila monster --- 3 to 15 eggs; Komodo dragon --- 20 to 40 eggs; desert iguana --- 3 to 8 eggs; Texas horned lizard --- 13 to 45 eggs; chuckwalla --- 5 to 16 eggs; plated lizard --- 2 to 6 eggs.

Graphing. Melissa Kaplan is concerned about the number of people who really don't know what they're getting into when they buy a pet iguana. Kaplan took a survey of 71 iguana owners. Among the questions she asked them was: What do you know now about the care and keeping of iguanas that you wish you had known before you bought yours? You can see the results of the survey on Melissa's Web site. Invite students to create a graph showing some of the most common responses Melissa got to her survey question:

What do owners wish they knew?How many people
said this?
Proper diet21
Proper house (cage) size20
How much time and care iguanas need19
Proper lighting needed for house (cage)15
Iguana health concerns12
Dealing with male aggression/taming issues10
How expensive it would be9
How big they get/their expected lifespan9

Debate. Should lizards, such as iguanas, be kept as pets? Let your students do some Internet research about that question. Then students can work in small groups to draw up lists of points on both sides of the debate before bringing those points to a whole-class debate. Or you can try a little twist on the traditional debate activity... Draw a line down the center of the room. Students who are in favor of keeping lizards as pets stand to one side of the line; those opposed stand to the other side. Students who feel very strongly one way or the other should stand to the far sides of the classroom, farther away from the center line; if students' thoughts are closer to the "middle" of the issue they should stand closer to the line. (This physically represents students' conviction to their point of view.) As students make points on either side of the debate, anybody can adjust their position in relation to the line -- or even move across the line! After all points are heard, invite students to form a concise paragraph that describes their position on the question.

Geography. (This could be an individual or a group activity.) Invite students to use the Reptile Alphabet List on the Internet and other library resources to learn about native habitats of some lizards. (Even young students will be able to easily find habitat information on the Reptile Alphabet List; each lizard's "origin" is one of the first things listed.) Students can fill in the lizards' habitat information on Teaching Master 3. When this part of the activity is completed, it's time to map the lizards. For very young students, this activity might be done as a group on a large world map. Use a pushpin to indicate on the map the native habitat for each species. String yarn from the pin to a photo (printed from the Reptile Alphabet List, if you desire) at the border of the map. Older students might work in teams or on their own to create a color key and to color the habitat areas on a copy of world map.
ANSWERS: Komodo Dragon Lizard --- Indonesia; Stump-Toed Gecko Lizard --- Hawaii; Dwarf Gecko Lizard --- Kenya; Green Iguana Lizard --- Mexico; Nile Monitor Lizard --- The Gambia; Shingleback Skink Lizard --- Australia.

Language -- writing. Invite students to write poems or stories about lizards. You might share a couple examples that have been published on the KidsPub Web site, including a folktale, The Lizard and the Fish by Vy Hoang (age 13), and a poem, Lizards!!, by Stephanie Samuelraj (age 9). You might consider submitting your students' best work to KidsPub for publication. See the KidsPub Web site for information on how to submit a story.

Classifying. Provide each student with five cards (index cards will do nicely). Invite students to draw on each index card a simple picture of an animal and to label the drawing with the name of the animal. (Encourage students to think of some of the more unusual animals.) Then divide students into groups of four. Let the students work as a group to come up with different ways of classifying the animal cards in their group. (Students might classify by size, shape, skin texture....) Offer each group an opportunity to explain the way in which they decided to classify their animal pictures. This activity might lead to the next one, a lesson in advanced animal classification.

Zoology (animal classification). Biologists and zoologists classify animals according to a "family tree" of sorts. The classifications they use are based upon similarities among animals within each group, and their differences from animals in other groups. This organization is a complex one, beginning with the entire Animal Kingdom, which is then broken down into many major groups, or Phylum. Each Phylum is divided into Classes, then Orders, then Genuses, then Species. Among the Phylum is the Chordata Phylum. (See Phylum/Major Group Index to Zoological Hierarchy.) The Chordata Phylum includes a handful of animal Classes, including Reptiles (also Amphibians and Mammals). The Reptile Class includes the Orders that include crocodiles and alligators; lizards; snakes; turtles; and "extinct related forms" (such as dinosaurs and pterosaurs). For this exercise we're going to simplify just a bit. See Teaching Master 4 for the activity.
ANSWERS: Crocodile/Alligator Order --- American alligator, Nile crocodile, caiman, Chinese alligator, saltwater crocodile; Lizard Order --- horned toad, iguana, monitor lizard, gecko, Komodo dragon; Snake Order --- boa constrictor, rattlesnake, cobra, viper, python; Turtle Order --- painted turtle, leatherback, desert tortoise, box turtle, olive Ridley; Extinct Forms (Dinosaurs, etc.) Order --- T. rex, apatosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, pteranodon.

Sequencing (ABC order). Following is a list of lizard books for students to search for in the library database or card catalog. Before searching, invite students to sequence the list of titles in ABC order.

  • Komodo! by Peter Sis
  • Frogs, Toads, Lizards and Salamanders by Nancy Winslow Parker
  • Calling All Creeps! (Goosebumps, No. 50) by R. L. Stine
  • Snakes and Lizards by George S. Fichter
  • Frogs Swallow With Their Eyes! : Weird Facts About Frogs, Snakes, Turtles, & Lizards by Melvin Berger
  • Iguanas by W. P. Mara
  • Amazing Lizards by Trevor Smith
  • Lizards by Donna Bailey
  • All About Lizards by Robert Sprackland, Jr.
  • Catch Me If You Can by D. M. Souza

Science -- endangered species. Introduce students to endangered lizards of the United States. You can find a list at Listed Species Information Central on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Web site. To find endangered lizards (including anoles, skinks, and geckos), click on Index - Vertebrate Animals and then on Reptiles. Click on each highlighted animal name to learn about its current status and its "historic range." Students might create maps to show the range of endangered lizards. In many cases, USF&W offers links to additional information and photos; just click on Learn More.

Critical thinking -- endangered species. Activities on the Endangered Species Classroom Web site encourage students to think critically about endangered species. Activities are organized under three headings: Solve problems and take action; inquire, analyze, and compare; and use your artistic imagination.

Listening. Read to students a news story, Napa House Fire Blamed On a Clumsy Iguana, from the San Francisco Chronicle. Then ask the following questions to check students' listening comprehension. (For younger students, you might read the story and ask the questions once, then repeat the activity to give students a chance to listen for additional details.)

  • How did the fire start? (a pet iguana tipped over a heating lamp)
  • How many stories tall was the house? (two)
  • Scott Pollock owned the house. What kind of work does Mr. Pollock do? (He's a traveling snake handler; puts on "critters for kids" shows.)
  • Name two of Pollack's animals -- other than the iguana -- that died in the fire. (python, boa constrictor, Japanese dragon, lizard)
  • What time did Pollock return home to discover the fire? (9 a.m.)
  • Where did the fire start? (in a bedroom closet)
  • How much money was the python that died in the house fire worth? ($1,000)
  • How much total damage was done? ($10,000 worth)

Art. Invite students to illustrate the lyrics of a fun song, Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips. (The song was written by Bruce Springsteen!)

Godzilla Math Answer Key
1. $145 million; 2. $35 million; 3. 44 years ago; 4. 462 feet, 8 inches long; 5. $80 million more; 6. 138 calories; 7. 68 years; 8. 10:04 p.m.; 9. $250.00; 10. 14 years. BONUS! 8 million! If 200 hatchlings could become 40,000 in a year, the reptile population would have grown by 200 times its original number! Multiply the 40,000 times the same growth rate (200) to determine the population in two years.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2004 Education World

Originally published 06/01/1998
Links last updated 11/15/2004