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Picture a Tarantula


  • Language Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Science


  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Draw a spider based on descriptive text.


  • listen to a description of a Goliath birdeater tarantula from the book The Tarantula Scientist.
  • create a picture based on the read-aloud description.
  • discuss how detailed descriptions can paint vivid pictures in a reader's mind.


experiment, science, non-fiction, The Tarantula Scientist, tarantula, Sy Montgomery, spider, description, descriptive writing, scientist, Goliath birdeater spider

Materials Needed

  • a copy of the book The Tarantula Scientist by Sy Montgomery
  • drawing paper
  • markers or other art supplies

The Lesson

In this lesson, students will draw a picture based on the vivid descriptions of the Goliath birdeater tarantula in the book The Tarantula Scientist. Be sure to cover the photo on the book's cover -- since you do not want students to be influenced by any images they might see of the tarantula.

Begin reading aloud the book The Tarantula Scientist. Read to the end of page 8. Then ask students what they have learned about what the Goliath birdeater tarantula looks like. As students share the characteristics they have learned, you may want to write those characteristics on the board. Some characteristics students might mention include the spider's
--- hairy legs.
--- size (the spider could "cover your whole face" or "weigh as much as five mice").
--- "feet," or pedipalps, next to the front of its head.
--- walking feet.
--- two claws on each leg, or tarsi.
--- each of its 8 legs has 7 segments.
--- legs are covered with hair.
--- hair is long.
--- hair is reddish brown.

Next, read aloud page 9. (Continue to take care not to show any of the photographs.)

Ask students to think about the characteristics they know, and to use what they know to draw a life-sized picture of a Goliath birdeater tarantula. Let students know that they will be able to adjust their pictures as you read more and as they learn more about the tarantula.

Students can continue to work on their pictures as you continue reading through page 15.

When you have finished reading, and students have finished drawing, share with them the photographs from the beginning of the book. Have students compare their drawings with the picture of the Goliath birdeater tarantula on pages 8 and 9.

As you reread, point out some of the specific characteristics mentioned in the text. Do students' pictures show those characteristics?

Talk with students about the importance of recording details while doing scientific research. Ask Why do you think it is important to record as much detail as possible? Scientists often record details as they examine things and as they perform experiments.

Display students' pictures in the classroom or hallway. Finish reading The Tarantula Scientist to your students.

For more great activities to accompany this book, see The Tarantula Scientist: Teacher's Guide on the Houghton Mifflin Web site.


The "success of the lesson" will be determined by the detail in the students' pictures.

Submitted By

Leigh Lewis, Wynne (Arkansas) Junior High School

Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originally published 04/22/2005
Last updated 02/26/2008