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A Thematic Unit on Spiders

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 6/6/2012

Young children are fascinated by creepy crawly creatures like insects and spiders. Take advantage of this interest with a unit about spiders. Thematic units are a great way to integrate subjects like math, language arts and science around a fun topic that children will love learning about.

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    Fall or spring make great times for teaching a thematic unit on spiders. Children will work on skills in math, science and language arts while learning all about spiders. The activities in this unit are appropriate for kindergarten through second grade students.

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    Science Activities

    Introduction

    Begin your spider unit by completing a KWL chart with your students. Have the children tell you what they already know about spiders and what they would like to know. Then read a great nonfiction book about spiders and complete the What We Learned section. Keep the chart posted and add to it throughout your unit.

    Here are a few nonfiction books about spiders:

    • Are You a Spider? by Judy Allen
    • Spiders by Gail Gibbons
    • Spinning Spiders by Melvin Berger

    Insect or Spider?

    Children often confuse insects and spiders, so spend a science lesson teaching them the difference.

    • Spiders - 8 legs, 2 body parts (abdomen, cephalothorax), no antennae and no wings
    • Insects - 6 legs, 3 body parts (head, thorax and abdomen), antennae and most have wings

    Once you have taught them the differences, show them pictures of different types of insects and spiders to classify or give them a Venn diagram to complete about the two creatures.

    Parts of a Spider

    Teach the children the parts of a spider and give them a diagram of a spider to label.

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    Math Activities

    Spider Measuring

    Add some measuring practice to your math center. Draw and cut out several spiders with different sized bodies and laminate them. Place them in your math center for your students to practice measuring. Provide rulers for standard measurements, but also provide items that the children can use for non-standard units of measurement, like snap cubes, dried beans or paper clips. Encourage them to measure the spiders several different ways.

    Story Problems

    Give your students some fun story problems about spiders to solve. Try a few of these problems or make up your own.

    • If three spiders are climbing on a wall, how many legs are there in all?

    • 7 spiders are in a barn. Some are spinning webs and some are sleeping. How many of each could there be? (This problem has multiple answers.)

    • There are 12 spiders, but only 8 spider webs. How many more spiders than webs are there?

    The Very Busy Spider

    Kindergarteners will have fun practicing counting and classifying skills with lesson plans from the book The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle.

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    Language Arts Activities

    Spider Web Graphic Organizer

    Read a book about spiders and then show the students how to create a spider web graphic organizer to record what they learned about spiders. On a large sheet of paper, have the children draw a large oval in the center with a smaller circle or oval on top. This will be the body of the spider. On the larger circle, have them write the title of the book and the author. Then have them draw 8 lines coming out from the body for the legs. On each line they can write a fact from the book about spiders.

    Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks

    Share this cute story, told from a spider's point of view, about a spider who just wants to be a pet. Unfortunately all of the humans are afraid of her. Use this book for a lesson on point of view. Discuss how it would be different if one of the humans was telling the story. For a writing connection, let the children write letters from the spider to the humans telling why she would make a great pet.

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    Resources

    Scholastic: Insect or Spider: How Do You Tell? www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4629