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Winning Lesson Plan
I Dig Dinosaurs

Subject: Math, Science, Language Arts
Grade: K-2 , 3-5

Brief Description

Students participate in a group "fossil" dig, learn how dinosaurs are named, and create images of dinosaurs.


Students work in groups to gain a greater understanding of how difficult fossil removal may be. After learning how dinosaurs are named, students create original drawings of dinosaurs.


dinosaurs, fossils, dig

Materials Needed

  • For each group: one paper plate, one chocolate chip cookie
  • For the class: teacher-made chart, teacher-made word part cards
  • For each student: writing paper, pencils, drawing paper, crayons or markers, one toothpick

Lesson Plan

Suggestion: Divide the activity into two lessons to be taught over two days.


  • Begin the lesson by asking the class these questions and writing students' responses on a chart: What do you know about dinosaurs? How do we know that dinosaurs lived long ago?
  • Explain what fossils are and then say, "I'm going to let each of you help find dinosaur fossils."
  • Assign students to groups of two to four. Distribute one paper plate, one chocolate chip cookie, and one toothpick to each group. Hang up a chart that says the following:

    Each fossil: EARN $25
    Broken fossil: PAY $15
    Tool rental (the toothpick):      PAY $5
    Damage to the ground: PAY $10

  • Tell students that they are going to try to remove the dinosaur fossils (chocolate chips) from the ground (the cookie) without breaking the fossil or the ground. Give students about 20 minutes to complete this activity.
  • At the end of the lesson, tally each group's achievements; add up the profits and subtract the payments. Teacher's suggestion: Tally the finished "fossil digs" on the board or on an overhead projector so that everyone can see the results.
  • Begin the next lesson by asking students, "How are dinosaurs named?" Write students' answers on a chart.
  • Explain that a dinosaur is named in one of four ways:
    1. where the dinosaur fossil was found: for example, Edmontosaurus, Albertosaurus, a city and a province of Canada;

    2. after a famous scientist: for example Lambeosaurus, Lawrence Lambe;

    3. by the way the animal acted: for example Tyrannosaurus rex, "terrible lizard king";

    4. how the animal looked: for example Stegosaurus, "plated lizard," Triceratops, "three horns on face."

  • Display the word part cards with the meanings. Move the cards around to create different dinosaur names (for example, change Triceratops to Microceratops, "small-horned face").
  • Distribute writing paper, and tell students to copy word parts to create new dinosaur names. For example, if students copy tri- ("three"), donto- ("teeth"), -saurus ("lizard"), the new word would be tridontosaurus ("three-toothed lizard"). Here are a few word parts and their meanings to help you get started:
bi two
cephalo head
derm skin
korythos          helmet
ops face
saurus lizard
tetra four
trachy rough
  • Have students draw pictures of the dinosaurs they create. Tell students to make sure the drawings match the names. Teacher's suggestion: In naming the dinosaurs and "designing" a new dinosaur, I would put the cards in a pocket chart so that everyone could see them. Then I would have a few students come up and manipulate the cards (pick up the cards and move them around) to create a new dinosaur name.

Lesson 1
After students have completed the activity, ask them to explain why removing fossils from the ground might be difficult. Evaluate the tallies of students' profits and payments. Observe students' participation and enjoyment of the activities.

Lesson 2
Review students' illustrations to see whether their drawings match the names students gave their dinosaur creations and reflect an understanding of how dinosaurs are named. Observe students' participation and enjoyment of the activities.

Lesson Plan Source

Teacher's note: I adapted these lessons from years of teaching and gathering ideas from other teachers.

Submitted by: Terri La Masa, ([email protected]) St. Anne Elementary School, Grants Pass, Oregon



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