Dinosaurs as a Teaching Topic for Primary Schools
As young children move from nursery into the reception class at primary school they have to adapt to a more structured and formal type of learning. For teachers and other staff this can present quite a challenge, how to adapt a child’s creative play to permit the child to develop through more structured, formal lessons.
Using dinosaurs as the subject for a term topic can help to bridge this gap successfully. Most children have a fascination for these long extinct monsters and readily involve themselves in the topic areas. Learning about dinosaurs allows a class to become involved in all sorts of themes and activities. These can be readily aligned to national curriculum teaching objectives and can address many different learning styles and needs.
Seeing “Prehistoric Animals” Being Taught in Schools
A recent trip to a primary school reinforced this message to us, spending a morning in the company of the budding palaeontologists and young dinosaur fans at a school, helping reinforce the learning and examining all the different activities that the children had been involved with. Dinosaurs had been the topic for the term for the reception class and the pupils has been busy “boning up” on prehistoric animals as well as demonstrating their developing writing and creative skills.
Helping with the Transition from Nursery Education to Primary School
Exploring dinosaurs can provide teaching staff with an effective scheme of work to help young children manage the transition from a nursery environment to reception as well as helping to reaffirm science objectives as laid out in the national curriculum when moving onto Key Stage 1.
Dinosaurs and prehistoric animals in general seem to capture the imagination of many children and using dinosaur themed lessons can help children grasp important learning outcomes. For the teachers and teaching assistants, a dinosaur topic can be a lot of fun to deliver and in our experience there is always a dinosaur expert on hand in the class to help out if required. Pupils given the opportunity to prepare a set of challenging questions for an external, expert visitor at a special assembly can help to kick off a special dinosaur themed day. With a new dinosaur discovery every twenty days or so, there is always something new to talk about and the children’s enthusiasm for this subject area will encourage them to research topic areas.
Compiling a set of questions prior to a visit from a palaeontologist is always a useful exercise and enables pupils to feel involved with any school visit right from the start of the teaching session.
Certainly, teaching teams can incorporate a wide range of imaginative and instructional activities within their scheme of work. There are a number of reliable suppliers of work-book materials and other resources all aimed at enabling differentiation and catering for mixed age classes.
Prehistoric Animals can Encourage Creative Writing
To help encourage imaginative, creative writing, dinosaur faces with speech bubbles can be used. Pupils readily write short stories about “their” dinosaur and at reception age this method can help with the development of writing skills and the ability to write phonetically.
Showing Fossils – A Good Way to Learn about Materials
When working with very young children, such as those in nursery, fossils and their physical properties can help children to make simple comparisons and identify associations between objects. When working with nursery children dinosaurs can help to reinforce a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Extension activities can be used to help encourage language and listening skills.
Educating Very Young Children
For the reception aged children, children aged between four and five years of age, dinosaurs lend themselves to a wide range of teaching activities. Teaching teams at primary schools can develop challenging and varied topic exploration tasks, everything from measuring a dinosaur footprint which helps children learn about numbers to recreating a model of a lost world in miniature in a corner of the classroom. A sand pit can be turned into a “Lost World” and using dinosaur toys the children can act out scenes and make up their own stories using dinosaurs.
Prehistoric Animals Help to Inform Children about Healthy Eating
Making simple “dinosaur themed” snacks to help children learn about healthy eating, teeth and nutrition is very easy. Such activities cater for a wide range of learning styles. Most dinosaurs were vegetarian so this is an excellent opportunity to learn about the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables and using simple salad ingredients the children can get to grips with learning about nutrition. After all, it might be a simple bowl of lettuce to you, but to a reception aged child they will soon tuck in if they can help themselves to “Stegosaurus salad”!
Developing a Themed Scheme of Work
Teachers with the support of their teaching assistants can create a very full itinerary and a visit from a dinosaur expert can assist by reinforcing some of the learning objectives and providing some expert knowledge to help check understanding and summarise some of the key learning outcomes. Whether it was model making, role- playing, naming their very own dinosaur or helping to build a classroom’s very own dinosaur exhibition the children seem to really enjoy learning about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.
We suspect a few grown-ups get to learn a thing or two when the children go home each day and explain what they have been doing. With over 1,200 different dinosaur genera identified to date there is certainly a great deal of scope within this subject area.
Who knows, some of the enthusiastic dinosaur fans at the school may go onto study science and perhaps make their very own contribution to the field of palaeontology in the future. Dinosaurs as a term topic can certainly enthuse and motivate helping young students to build up an understanding of science and the world around them.