Dinosaur Unit Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Utilize this unit plan to access activities and projects to encourage your third through sixth graders' creativity and analytical skills while learning about dinosaurs.


When teaching about dinosaurs, it helps to start with a general outline, and then proceed to specific concepts. In this unit, your students will be given an overview and some context to begin. Then they will learn about specific dinosaurs. Although the broad topic of dinosaurs can be grouped into many different subcategories, a great way to teach your third through sixth grade students is to divide the dinosaurs into the time period in which they lived. Dinosaurs lived from 245 million to 66 million years ago, in what was known as the Mesozoic Era, which is then broken down into the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. The unit concludes with interactive activities, projects, and assessments.

Unit Outline

  • Pre-Discussion
  • Research and Presentation
  • Class Discussion
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Comprehension and Assessment

Step One - Pre-Discussion

Because so many students love dinosaurs, it is a good idea to begin your unit on dinosaurs by determining your students' breadth of knowledge. The following questions will assist you in getting started:

  • How long ago did dinosaurs live?
  • Can you compare and contrast herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs?
  • Were some dinosaurs actually omnivorous?
  • In what parts of the world did dinosaurs live?
  • What was the climate like in the days of the dinosaurs?
  • What was a typical dinosaur habitat like?
  • By what circumstance do many scientists believe the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago?
  • Since humans were not alive at the time, how do scientists know all these facts about dinosaurs?

At this point, you can utilize the Dinosaur Timeline Lesson Plan to help students understand the order of events of when the dinosaurs lived.

Step Two - Research and Presentation

Now that students have been introduced to some basic information on dinosaurs, they will benefit greatly from engaging in research to further their knowledge. Use the Dinosaur Lesson Plan to introduce a variety of questions that can help students identify a topic that interests them. Then have students determine a research topic to be approved by you. While you can allow time in-class for students to work on their research, much of this component can also be done out of class.

The Dinosaur Writing Activities contains not only a typical research report activity, but also various other fun and engaging writing activities. You can allow students to choose any of these activities in which to present their research, or require they do both the 'Dinosaur Report' activity as well as another of their choosing.

Once the research has been completed, presentation options need to be considered. While students could present to the whole class, round robin small group presentations are also an option as this method helps students become more comfortable presenting, and by repeating the information several times, the understanding of the material is reinforced.

Step Three - Class Discussion

When your students have finished the research and presentation phase, it is time for the entire class to meet together as a group to discuss dinosaurs. Ask them:

  • What new facts did you learn about dinosaurs that you didn't know previously?
  • Scientists brought the dinosaurs back to life in the movies. They claim to be close to doing that in real life. Is that a good idea? Why or why not? Should they be put in zoos or allowed to roam free?
  • If you could travel back in time to visit the dinosaurs, would you do it? Why or why not?

Step Four - Hands-On Learning

While reading books with cool color pictures is a fun way to learn about dinosaurs, activities and projects are fun, hands-on methodologies that your students can utilize to learn about the 'thunder lizards' and their daily lives.

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