Nocturnal animals is an exciting and engaging theme you can do in your preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten classroom. Investigate animals who come out at night that students likely see in their daily lives. It’s also the perfect theme to do if you are not permitted to do a Halloween theme at your school. Grab your lesson planner because I’m sharing tons of FUN, hands-on activities you can do for a nocturnal animals theme (and a FREEBIE too)!
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FREEBIE alert! Class books are my favorite because my students read them over and over. There is powerful learning in the repetition of reading! For this spider class book, students write or trace the letters in their names on the rectangles. The pattern sentence has students count how many letters are in their names. This will help students understand the difference between a letter and a word.
Spice up the writing table with nocturnal animal writing paper, word cards, and star stickers! My trick to making stickers last longer with little learners is to cut the sticker sheets into small pieces. Then once they use a small square of stickers, they typically draw on their paper. If your students are struggling with stickers, remove the outside background part leaving just the stickers on the sheet.
Giant web letter match! I made the web on a big piece of butcher paper with black masking tape. Then I wrote letters all over it with a black marker. What a super simple prep! Then students matched the uppercase and lowercase letter tiles to the letters on the web. As an alternative, you could also put numbers or sight words on the web instead of letters.
Make handwriting and letter formation FUN by building it with night time letter cards, star beads, and a dry erase marker. I found the star beads at Michaels and the Dollar Tree aka my favorite place.
Feed the raccoon and hedgehog matching letters (uppercase with uppercase or uppercase with lowercase). You can also match letters and sounds.
One trick I use all the time is to only put half or fewer of the alphabet out when playing this game with my pre-k and three-year-old friends. Having all letters matches out at once can be very overwhelming and frustrating for littles.
Spider and Letter Rescue is a classic fine motor activity with a literacy twist! Take a small basket and weave a string in and out in various directions to create a web. Place spider rings and letter manipulatives like these letter beads at the bottom of the basket. Students use tweezers to rescue the spiders and letters. Sneaking letters into classic activities is how I teach WITHOUT using letter of the week.
Bat Read, Write, Build can be easily differentiated. In the build section, for example, you can have the students build sight words or their names. The same game can be played at different levels.
My bookcase is filled with books all about Nocturnal Animals, but I will share that I had a hard time finding quality books for this theme. I did some classics by Eric Carle and nursery rhymes as well as amazing non-fiction books. Make sure you always have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction on your bookshelf. Here is a blog post with all my favorites!
Add new props and Fall STEM I Can Build Cards to inspire students to build nocturnal animal homes and habitats. Add sticks, fake leaves, rocks, tree rings, and forest animals to the blocks center. Don’t forget to add black felt or foam too so students can create caves. Students can manipulate the black felt over and around blocks to create caves and dens for the animals.
Nocturnal animals have adaptations to help them live and hunt at night. Create a science table with anchor charts, posters, real photos, and mini nocturnal animals for students to explore and investigate. Grab all of these science printables in my All About Nocturnal Animals Science Unit HERE.
Fill the sensory table with black and purple noodles. I made the ones in the photo with liquid watercolor. Then I added sparkly black and purple pom poms, bats, spider mini erasers, small buckets, and purple measuring spoons. Measuring spoons are the perfect small scoop for strengthening those fine motor muscles.
Later, I added text tubes and jars because my students are loving scooping and filling this year.
Spider play dough mats get students counting, identifying numbers, writing numbers, and building fine motor strength all at the same time. It’s also a fun way to show that numbers can be represented various ways.
Make an opossum number line by linking the opossums with chains in numerical order. If your students need reinforcement with counting on, have students start the number line with a number other than one.
Have your students help these shape owls find their home! Students match the shape owls with the corresponding shape tree. To make it a bit more fun, hide the owl cards in a small sensory tub with back beans. If the game is too easy for your students, make it harder by having them tell you about the characteristics of each shape (ex: number of sides, round/curvy, number of corners).
Play dough trays are my jam! Grab some spiders, bats, cookie cutters, eyeballs, and white pipe cleaners (to make web designs) to make this theme come to life. Use store bought play dough or make your own. Play dough trays give students the opportunity to problem-solve, engineer, share and trade materials, and strengthen those fine motor muscles.
Spider web paintings are another classic activity! Place a piece of paper in a box and place marbles that are covered in paint in the box. Then shake, shake, shake. Once the paintings were dry each student made a spider on their web. I used my circle paper punch to make the bodies. Each student got a rectangle and cut the legs by cutting across. My littles LOVE making long paper strips this year so this craft was perfect for them. Lastly, they each added 8 sticker eyes.
Animals can be tricky to make, and my goal is to make our classroom art projects open-ended. I just love this creative forest at night project I came up with for my students. I found the circle sponges at the Dollar Tree and added some white to the green paint to make it easy to see on the black paper. First, students cut tons of brown strips and glued them to the paper. Then add animal eyes and stamp the treetops with the circle sponge.
Make a fun owl snack while learning about the parts of an owl. Each student had a plate with all the things they needed on it. To sneak in some science, we looked at a real photograph of an owl and took note of the different parts of an owl. Together we made the owl and talked about each body part as we made it. We used a graham cracker for the body, pretzels for the wings, candy corn for the nose, marshmallows cut in half for the eyes, M&Ms for feathers, yellow icing and M&Ms for the pupils.
Friends, this owl snack was delicious and even my picky eaters ate it or at least parts of it!
Change dramatic play into a campsite for your nocturnal animals theme! Check out how in THIS blog post!