Penguins!!! (And A Couple of Walruses, Too)

Teaching my kids about penguins has always been one of my favorite themes.  There is just SO much you can incorporate in this thematic unit of little bit of everything! If you're in the process of planning out your penguin activities for the next few weeks, I thought I could share a few ideas that might help make your planning easier :)

First up, here are some of my most favorite penguin picture books.  I don't get around to reading them all during our unit, but these are several I've read throughout the years and have loved.

The Penguin Who Lost Her Cool is a great little read if you have any friends riding the struggle bus with anger issues...just sayin' ;)

These are a few of my most favorite non-fiction books, too.  I like to keep a variety of non-fictio books in our library during our thematic unit of stuy to give kids the opportunity to do a little self-guided research.  

We always start out our unit of learning by activating our schema.  We talk about misconceptions and new learning as well and then this stays displayed as an anchor chart throughout our penguin study.

Speaking of non-fiction, Deanna Jump has a great non-fiction unit on Penguins that I've been using in my classroom for the last 4ish years or so.  Here's a little non-fiction writing & craftivity we did when I taught first grade..

I LOVE how much my kids write when it comes to composing non-fiction pieces.  I always think it's so much easier to get MORE out of my kids during the non-fiction writing process because they know what to write's all so concrete.  When  I notice kids struggling with writing...or when I'm introducing a new writing skill..I like to add a lot of non-fiction writing to my plans because it's easier for them to implement new writing techniques or ideas when they're not having to think about what kind of story they want to write, too.  

Here's a little craftivity we did with our non-fiction writing last year.
I don't have a template for the craftivity, but it was super simple to create.  Cut out a big circle in black.  And then a circle about an inch and a half smaller in white.  I used circle hole punches for the eyes...then cut out super simple beaks, feet, & wings...and the kids added hair (depending on the kind of penguin they were making).


One of our favorite penguin picture books is The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly by Catherine Vase.  If you haven't read it, you must.  And if you already know what I'm talking about, then make sure to pull it out again this year and try out this little text to self writing craftivity!!!  

I love the way these turned out, too!  So simple and easy.  Again, no template (womp, womp)...but the assembly is super simple. Cut out a large blue square...round the edges.  Cut out a smaller white square...round the edges.  Cut out small orange squares for the feet...and, you guessed it...round the edges.  Finish it off with a skinny oval for a beak and larger oval shapes for the wings.  I used a small circle punch for the eyes.

Speaking of freebies, here's an oldie but goodie.  Beginning and ending digraph sorting...with a penguin theme :)  Click on the pic to download your copy.

Here are some penguin themed math & literacy centers.  My kids LOVED these last year!!!  
They were a great supplement for our learning.  

Now if you're all about the arctic animals, here are a couple of things we did with walruses.  

This was one of my favorite writing activities of the year!!  Through our non-fiction reading, we learned that walruses whistle.  We even watched a video about it on Discovery Education.  I can't find that video at this moment, but the first 16 seconds of THIS VIDEO are awesome!! 

Anyway, after we learned all about whistling walruses, I had my kids compare themselves to their friends with a little compare/contrast writing activity.  All they had to do was pair themselves up with another friend in class and try to whistle...then they wrote about it.  You can read more about that HERE.

And Feed the Walrus was one of our favorite winter math games!!! 

 I explained to the kids how we have one/two/three digit numbers and for this game, we were going to see how many two digit numbers we could create with number sentences.  First up, I had one friend roll the dice.  We practiced “counting up” from the highest amount rolled and then fed the walrus that number of sea creatures.  After the first friend rolled the dice and fed the walrus, my next friend came up, rolled the dice, and fed the walrus the next amount. After the walrus had a full belly {two rolls of the dice}, we pulled out the “food” and used the tens frame tray to count the total amount.  Then we created number sentences to go with them!  This was a great little learning piece because the kids got to see how different number sentences can still equal the same amount.  For example…8+7=15 and so does 10+5.  They did such a great job working with their tens frames! After everyone had a turn to roll and write, we counted up the two digit numbers for a quick vocabulary review.  We had more number sentences with two digit sums than not!  Pret

I do hope this helps with your planning these next few weeks!!!

Now, if you own my Work on Writing Growing Bundle, go into your purchases and download the February edition!  It was added to the bundle yesterday!  If you're interested in adding these activities to your writing center, you can grab this packet for 20% off through the night!! 


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! We are finishing up our penguin unit next week but I might have to add that text to self writing connections. We are reading the Penguin Who Wanted to Fly on Monday-I'm always looking for more ways to incorporate writing. Thank you!!

  2. This post is full of the most adorable ideas!!! I love how well thought out your units are! I started following you this year, and I have to say it has truly helped transform my teaching. I always tell my team to check your page whenever they walk in and see something I'm doing they love! Thank you so much for sharing!!!