Desert Activities for Elementary School

Instructor: Lori Sturdivant

Lori has a specialist's degree in Instructional Leadership/Mild Moderate and currently serves as the Lead Teacher for The University of Southern Mississippi's Autism Project.

Are you looking for fun and engaging strategies to use on while teaching your elementary students about deserts? This lesson will provide many examples for different types of learners.

Lessons for Every Type of Learner

To increase academic engagement, you can plan lessons that incorporate activities that appeal to different learning styles. Learning styles are the preferred way that students take in, process, understand, and retain information. The most common types of learning styles are:

  • Visual- learners prefer pictures, images, maps, graphic organizers, etc.
  • Auditory- learners prefer listening and speaking activities
  • Reading/Writing- learners prefer words, written notes, and text
  • Kinesthetic- learner prefer hands-on activities, movement

Desert Activities for Multiple Learning Styles

  • Desert Vocabulary

There are many desert related words that your students will need to know before you begin a new unit.

Saguaro: large cactus with limbs that look like arms

Desolate: empty, bleak

Scarce: in short supply

Nocturnal: an animal that sleeps during the day and wakes at night

Burrow: hole in the ground

You can have students define the words using online or hard copy dictionaries. If you do not have access to either, you can provide the definitions for the students. The students can create visual representations for each word by drawing, cutting and pasting images, etc.

Students can also create flashcards that have the word on one side and the definition on the other side and can create crossword puzzles using the definition of the word as the clue. They then swap papers with another student and fill in the crossword.

  • Desert Similes

Teach your students what a simile is. A simile is a phrase used in writing that compares two things using the words 'like' or 'as'. Then have them write similes that relate to the desert:

''This apple pie is as hot as a desert day!''

Provide the students with a word box of desert-related vocabulary words.

  • Identify the Region

Provide your students with a blank world map. Have them color the map using the following key:

Blue: Oceans and Seas

Brown: Deserts

Green: Land other than Deserts

White: Polar Regions

You can use this as a pre and posttest to determine growth, or you can display a colored map for all students to use as a guide as they color their maps. For older students or to increase difficulty, you can have them label the seas, continents, etc. You could also focus on certain areas and have the students label the specific deserts.

  • Desert Encyclopedia

Assign each student a desert. Have students create 'encyclopedia pages' of information about their desert. They can add information such as geographic location, size, temperature, animals and/or plants that inhabit it, etc. You can increase visual learning by having students draw pictures of the wildlife or maps of the location. Have each student present their findings to the class. You will then collect the pages from each student to create a desert encyclopedia that the class can reference later.

Modification - You could also let students work in pairs or small groups on this assignment.

Desert Crafts and Activities for Younger Students

  • Matching Game

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