ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Animal Habitats

Explore animal habitats through story, song, drama, and art


Key Staff

Classroom Teacher

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques, Producing, Executing and Performing


Pre-readers are introduced to animal habitats through story, song, and dramatic play using children’s picture books. Students use chronological ordering and phonics to reinforce beginning literacy skills. Students explore a non-traditional method of book illustration and create their own story page.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify animals and their habitats
  • Identify and use common organizational structures, such as chronological order
  • Use volume, facial expression, body movement, and American Sign Language to enhance communication
  • Repeat aloud patterns and rhythms of text and identify rhyming words
  • Use music to accompany text in a story
  • Create a story page using a moldable material

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Experiential Learning
  • Role Playing
  • Modeling
  • Group or Individual Instruction

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment


What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • Digital Camera
Technology Notes

Camera is Optional

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Obtain and review each of the following books:

  • Over in the Jungle (Marianne Berkes and Jeanette Canyon)
  • Over in the Ocean (Marianne Berkes and Jeanette Canyon)
  • Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats (Jim Arnosky) or another more traditionally-illustrated animal book.

Review American Sign Language counting (1-10)

Review the artist’s notes in the back of Over in the Ocean/Jungle to learn more about the artist’s use of polymer clay to make and capture her images.

Familiarize yourself with "phonological awareness" or phonemic awareness (the ability to deal explicitly and segmentally with sound units smaller than the syllable) (Stanovich, 1993).

Familiarize yourself with the original song, “Over in the Meadow,” which is the basis for these two stories.. If you wish to hear the music, go to KIDiddles: Song Lyrics. You may also create your own tune or perform the story in a rap style.

Make (or purchase) enough modeling clay for the class. There are many, many recipes --use your favorite, or find a new favorite at the Family Education dough recipe collection page.

Prior Student Knowledge

Students should be able to count from 1 to 10.

Students should be familiar with basic phonics and rhyme.

Physical Space



  • Large Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction


Prepare a reading/dramatization area if one is not already available.

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Read the book Over in the Jungle and share the illustrations. Discuss the animals in the illustrations. Explain what a jungle is (a dense forest in a hot climate).

2. Sing the story in an “echo format,” singing one line at a time and asking listeners to sing it back to you.

3. Sing the story in an “echo format,” adding American Sign Language for the numbers 1 through 10. Use the slide above as a guide if you need it.

4. Sing the story in an “echo format,” using dramatization to act out the actions of the mother and her little ones. You may want to take on the role of the mother and have students act as the animal children.

[NOTE: As students become more familiar with the song, you may be able to sing it without using the echo format.]

Building Knowledge

1. Introduce the rhyming words in the story. Using construction paper (one for each number), note the numeral and the number word. For example: 1, one. You may want to also include a visual for the American Sign Language sign too. Add the corresponding rhyming words from the story. Post these in the classroom or on your whiteboard.

2. Repeat the story process using Over in the Ocean. (An ocean is a large body of water.) Add the rhyming words from Ocean to the rhyming words from Jungle. You may want to continue to include rhyming words after this lesson.

3. Introduce the concept of habitat (the environment in which an organism or group normally lives). Read Arnosky’s Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats (or a similar book.)


1. Introduce the role of a book illustrator. Sample illustrations are available within the Resource Carousel. Explain that a book illustrator tells one half of the story using pictures. (The author tells the other half using words.) The pictures can be made in many ways (pencil drawings, painting, markers, photographs, etc.) Use Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing Animal Habitats to show a traditional type of book illustration.

2. Examine the illustrations of Over in the Jungle and Over in the Ocean. Ask the students to guess what the illustrator used to make her pictures (polymer clay). Explain that for these books, after Canyon created her non-flat pictures, she took photographs to place them into the book (because pages of a book are flat). Another example of non-flat illustration is available within the Resource Carousel.

3. Create non-flat story picture pages. Using clay or another moldable material, ask each student to create a character from one of the stories. (They can be very simple!) The dough figures should be placed on the cardboard stock. (Revisit Over in the Jungle and Over in the Ocean, if necessary.)

4. Photograph the story picture pages (optional, but highly encouraged). Set the cardboard "illustrations" on a flat surface; the floor works well, to provide enough distance for larger boards. (Bonus: If you photograph the pages, you can then re-use the clay for another project!)

5. Print the pages, and assemble into a class book or bulletin board.


1. For reinforcement, read and sing Over in the Jungle and/or Over in the Ocean. Incorporate sign language and dramatic play.

2. Create an original story/song called “Over in the Classroom.” Allow the students to find items in the classroom that correspond to the various numbers. Use teacher and classroom items to replace mother and little ones in the story. (Pencils can write. Chairs can sit still. Blackboards can erase. Etc.!)

3. Perform the story. Present the original story using sign language and dramatic play for another class or for parents.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education

Grade K-4 Music Standard 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music


Grade K-4 Theater Standard 1: Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2: Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 3: Designing by visualizing and arranging environments for classroom dramatizations

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 6: Comparing and connecting art forms by describing theatre, dramatic media (such as film, television, and electronic media), and other art forms

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects

Science Standard 6: Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment


Math Standard 2: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of numbers

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes



Diane Ambur
Original Writer

Carol Parenzan Smalley

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Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



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