Reel in Learning with Reptiles

Whether it’s all about a Jackson Chameleon or a North American Bearded Lizard, learners will be eager to embark on informational text with reptiles.

By Christen Amico

As teachers and parents shift from state standards to Common Core standards, the addition of informational text becomes increasingly important. Even the youngest of readers are now expected to comprehend non-fiction text. One great topic that is sure to engage all learners is reptiles! Use these tips and strategies to plan an interesting and meaningful science unit on reptiles.

Rounding Up Some Reptiles

Whatever type of lessons you plan on using, it is always best to start with some real reptiles; or maybe some really realistic reptile toys or photographs. Allowing children to explore, sort, and talk about different reptiles will help build schema, as well as lay the foundation for future lessons on reptiles.


Here are some other learning activities that would make for a great introduction to reptiles:

  • KWL chart
  • Class Graph: What is your favorite reptile?
  • Tally Chart: Have you ever seen a _______?
  • Writing: If I could be any kind of reptile I would be a _______ because _______.

Classifying Reptiles

Children often have misconceptions regarding reptiles. Specifically, amphibians, such as frogs, are sometimes confused with reptiles. Direct teaching is required to help learners understand the definition of a reptile. It is best to help them memorize the exact characteristics of a reptile. In this case, they will benefit from detailed, in-depth, and specific factual knowledge, not just broad and general information. Use technology, such as tablets and computers, to conduct research about a specific type of reptile. Each student, or small group, can present their findings to the class. Class charts and graphic organizers can also keep track of newly learned information. Specific lessons comparing and contrasting similar reptiles, like crocodiles and reptiles, or tortoises and turtles, will help young scientists better define each type of reptile.

Here are some additional activities that can be used to reinforce learning:

  • Paper mache reptile
  • Reptile report
  • Snake Story: A fictional story about a snake
  • Tissue Paper Turtle: Cut out a turtle from green paper. Glue green tissue squares on one side and facts about turtles on the other.

Wrapping Up Reptiles

Whether you spend weeks or months studying reptiles, it is essential to wrap up the learning with conversations and presentations. If your children researched a specific reptile or created a project, this is the time to allow for sharing. I recommend they either present their findings in class, or create a movie/slide show presentation. One final fun project is to allow learners to invent their own unique reptile. Begin by drawing what the new reptile would look like, then write the specific details such as the number of arms, legs, tails and horns, teeth, skin, habitat, and adaptations. Pupils will have to rely on the information they have learned throughout the unit to help decide how to create their own reptile. Tablet applications, such as My Story, allow writers to compile information into their own book that can later be e-mailed to share with parents. Here are some more activities that can be used as a final activity for a unit on reptiles:

  • ABC Reptile book: Each child creates a page in the format: A is for _______, and draws a picture. This can be worksheet-based or done on a word processor.
  • I have _______, who has _______ ? Game with fact cards about different reptiles.
  • Class game of reptile jeopardy.

Slither Over to These Additional Resources:


Use this informational text to teach upper graders about the different types of reptiles. Graphics and diagrams are included to enhance the readability of the text. Comprehension questions are at the end.

Reptile Crossword Puzzle

Here is a great reptile crossword puzzle to use when other work is completed as an introductory lesson to reptiles.

Snake Sort

This is a cute primary graphing/sorting activity for younger learners. Snakes to be sorted are NOT provided. You can choose to use photographs or toy snakes to pull out of a bag.

Turtle Adaptations

Second and third graders would benefit from using this worksheet to read about turtles and match the type of turtle to its adaptation.

All About Alligators

This is another great informational text to use with young scientists. The information is well presented in color and includes comprehension questions, as well as three vocabulary words to look up in a dictionary.