Dinosaurs - Lesson 3: Fossils
On this page
- Encountering the Idea
- Exploring the Idea
- Getting the Idea
- Organizing the Idea
- Applying the Idea
- Closure and Assessment
- List of Activities for this Lesson
BIG IDEAS: Paleontologists dig for fossils to help us learn about the kinds of
animals that lived long ago. Good guesses can be made from careful
Whole Group Activities
- Book: Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by B. Barton.
- Baby paraphernalia: pacifier; clean diaper; jar of baby food; article of
clothing such as a shoe; and, any other objects that would suggest a baby's presence.
Arrange these articles on a table where students can easily see and study them.
- Chart tablet with sample chart from Activity - Fossil Hunting
- Hats/caps for the paleontologists
- At the Mathematics Center: dinosaur crackers and/or cookies for
counting and sorting
- Word tags: paleontologist; fossils; imprints
Students, guess what happened today before school! We had a visitor, but the
visitor could not stay and left before I got here. I don't know who the visitor
was, but there are some things that were left here that were not here before. Can
you help me guess who this visitor was? Let's look at all of these things and see
what kind of detectives we are. Can you list some of these things? Yes, diaper,
baby food, pacifier. The shoe is very small. Who do you think our visitor was? A
baby! Tell me some more about this baby. Is it big? Oh, the diaper is not the
smallest, but medium. Okay, so our baby is a medium-size baby. Do you think it is
one year old? What about five years old? Ok, since it's wearing a diaper, it's
probably not! It's probably younger. Is it a girl? The diaper has pink
elephants on it, so you think it was a girl? But, are you certain? Well, it's
probably a good guess. What color hair does the baby have? You don't want to
guess? Is there a clue that can tell us the color of her hair? Well, I guess our
class is full of good detectives. You never saw the baby girl, but you think that
she was our visitor.
How do you think our guesses about who our visitor was have anything to
do with the dinosaurs we are studying about? Yes, we can make good guesses when
we have clues or evidence that helps us guess. That is one of the things
that we will learn about today - the evidence that we use to help us learn about
At the Science Center the students, working in pairs, dig for fossils.
Bury the models for the bones (chicken) and fossils in the cornmeal or sand. The
students role play that they are paleontologists looking for dinosaur bones. The
students dig them up using the small brushes and one hand only to make
sure they do not destroy the fossils. The teacher models how to dig for fossils.
Some of the children model also.
Students also complete Activity - Fossil
Matching, wearing the hats/caps.
At the Mathematics Center, the students continue sequencing and counting
the dinosaurs, and complete Activity - Two Legs or Four Legs? While the
students work at the center, they can count and crackers and/or cookies.
At the Art Center, the students make fossils by making imprints of hands,
leaves, and other objects on playdough. Students complete Activity -
Ask: Who has seen a real dinosaur? Ask students to predict what the book
Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones is about, then read aloud. Point to familiar
words. None of us have seen dinosaurs, but we have seen some evidence that they
existed. Some of the most important pieces of evidence scientists have to suggest
that dinosaurs lived on earth millions of years ago are the fossils or remains of
these giant lizards that have survived for millions of years. In our Science
Center, we are going to discover how scientists who have discovered these
fossils take them out of the earth and then study them. From those observations,
the scientists make guesses about the dinosaurs.
Talk about a paleontologist as you show the word tag. The teacher shows the
chart, Fossil Hunting, with its columns: Where to Look for Fossils; Type of
Fossil; Tools to Use; Things to Use for Records. Ask for students' suggestions to
put under each column. Record children's comments/ responses on a large piece of
paper or a chart to be used later.
What evidence do the paleontologists look for when they hunt for fossils? Are
bones the only thing they want to find? What other things are important? (Leaves,
to tell us what kinds of plants existed at the time; sea shells, to tell us if
that part of the land had been under water; humans' remains such as pottery or
human bones to tell us if people lived on earth at that time.) Human bones that
are as old as dinosaur bones have never been found, so scientists believe that no
human beings lived on earth at the same time that the dinosaurs lived on
The fossils that have been found appear to be of three kinds: actual bones or
teeth of animals, prints (impressions) such as footprints or spaces or casts left
in stone after the object has decayed away. Which kind of fossils did you make?
When you role played that you were paleontologists, what kinds of fossils did you
At the Listening Center, the children "read" Bones, Bones, Dinosaur
Bones by listening to a tape.
At the Writing Center, the children complete Activity - Fossil
Hunting, including the chart from that activity; they trace and write the word
"paleontologist" on a chalkboard.
Working in groups, one student group challenges another to guess about an event
from the evidence the group supplies. Students may draw clues, or they may act
them out as they would in Charades.
Reconvene the class, using the same role playing activities as in Lesson
- What is a paleontologist? What do they do? Do they make guesses about
the past? What things do they do to make certain that their guesses are as
accurate as possible?
- What are some other words we use to talk about dinosaurs? Use word tags to remind students.
- What did we learn about dinosaurs today?
- Who can count from one to five? Show me three fingers. Show me two. Show me one. Show zero fingers.
- What other things have been found as fossils besides the actual dinosaur bones?
(Imprints of leaves, and casts of footprints left on earth that have hardened
- What else would you like to know about dinosaurs?
- Two Legs or Four Legs
- Fossil Prints
- Fossil Hunting Lesson
- Fossil Matching