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“A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.”
-E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
We’re entering week 3 of our spider unit and we’ve had a great time learning all about spiders. While it pairs great with Halloween, a spider unit can be fun anytime of the year. We started this unit to pair with our read-aloud of Charlotte’s Web (more on Charlotte’s Web to come!)
I have to admit, prior to starting this unit, spiders were certainly not my favorite creatures in the world and prepping for this unit meant getting over some of my own fears. Instead of masking them entirely, we talked about arachnophobia which was a fun vocabulary word. We also watched a quick SciShow Kids video called “Don’t be Afraid of Spiders” and read the super cute book, I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton.
What is a spider?
A spider is not an insect, but rather an arachnid. Scorpions, ticks and mites are also arachnids. There are close to 50,000 identified species of spiders on our planet.
We used a combination of books and videos to learn about spiders. Some reference books we enjoyed this week to learn lots about spiders include; National Geographic Readers: Spiders, and Spiders! Strange and Wonderful. Spiders! Strange and Wonderful was really great. It has so much information and beautiful illustrations. I can see it being a great reference book to have for years to come.
Parts of a spider
We learned that spiders have two main body parts; the abdomen and the cephalothorax (the head.) At the tip of the spider’s abdomen are the spinnerets which is where the silk from a spider flows out of. (But not all spiders spin webs!) All spiders have eight legs. Most spiders have six or eight eyes but even despite having so many eyes, they can’t see very well. To help compensate for their lack of vision, their legs are covered in sensory hairs that detect touch and vibrations. A spider can tell through vibrations if movement on its web is from prey or a predator.
Spiders around the world
Throughout our spider unit we’ve been learning about different types of spiders and comparing what we learn. To help with this, I created Montessori 3-Part Spider cards to help us learn to identify nine different types of spiders. I love Montessori 3-Part Cards and so do my kids! They match the control card to the picture card and then also match the name card. They’re great for critical thinking, memorization and vocabulary building. You can find more of my Montessori cards here!
Each day, of week two and three of our spider we studied a specific spider to learn more facts about it. I would pair a video, a coloring page and we’d look at pictures in our books about them. For example for our tarantula day, I printed out copies of this coloring page and we paired it with a National Geographic kids video and this cute Stardoon video.
Most of our literacy read aloud and writings prompts were related to Charlotte's Web for this unit. I'm planning to share chapter by chapter writing prompts once we complete the book. Stay tuned.
We also read Anansi The Spider by Gerald McDermott which was a great book. In the book Anansi's 6 sons have descriptive names like "River Drinker" to describe things they're good at. After we read the book together we discussed Anansi's sons names and I challenged Mr. J to think about what his name would be if his name was like Anansi's sons. Mr. J said he's "good at art" so his name would be "J the Artist." He drew himself as a spider and wrote "J the Artist" in his journal.
Decomposing 8 Craft
We made a simple craft out of construction paper and used different color strips of paper for the legs. First, Mr. J, assembled a large and smaller circle for the abdomen and cepholothorax and then we folded the strips of paper to make them more three dimensional. Then I asked Mr. J how many legs a spider has, he correctly said eight. I asked him to make 8 legs on his spider by using an equal number of orange and yellow legs. We discussed how one way to make eight is to have four orange and four yellow legs.
On the next spider, we changed it up to figure how to make eight by first starting with five orange legs and we discussed how 5 + 3 = 8.. And then we made one more with two orange legs and discussed how 2+6 = 8.
Finally we glued on spider eyes and a mouth on our spiders!
This was a fun easy way to sneak in math!
We also worked a lot throughout the week with our 10 frame using plastic spiders as counters.
A spider theme lends itself to lots of different phonics sounds. You can work on S for spider, W for web, A for arachnid. We also added in the "sp" blend and had fun saying "The Spooky Spider Spun a Spiffy Web."
Pop Art Webs
We learned a lot about spider webs and how a spider uses a web to catch its prey. We also observed how beautiful and intricate spider webs are. On a whim we decided to draw and paint our own pop art inspired webs!
We started by drawing some straight lines across our watercolor paper with a ruler. Mr. J drew his own and did such a great job! We added in some diagonal lines and then began making a “U” shape in between the lines to start making the circular shapes at the center of the web and continued outwards.
Next we painted our web drawings using bright watercolors. Lastly, once dry, we added some plastic spiders for effect!
Spider Web Weaving
We also made our own spider webs with yarn. I used a single hole puncher to punch holes around a black paper plate and I gave Mr. J some white yarn to weave throughout the plate to form a web. To make it easier on little hands, some plastic needles would be helpful! We again added some plastic spiders for effect!
Spooky Spider Teatime:
For this week’s poetry teatime we read several poems with spiders in it. We baked an apple crisp earlier in the day since we still have so many apples! I also made a snack with a half a pair, a cut grape and pea crisps for legs to resemble a spider. It was a hit. I decorated the table with a spider web tablecloth, candles and mini pumpkins.
We started our teatime this week with an adorable poem about a cat and a mouse from World Make Way which is one of my favorite poetry compilations because it pairs poetry with paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We also read A Noiseless Patient Spider by Walt Whitman.
Finally we read Allowables by Nikki Giovanni.
I killed a spider
Not a murderous brown recluse
Nor even a black widow
And if the truth were told this
Was only a small
Sort of papery spider
Who should have run
When I picked up the book
But she didn’t
And she scared me
And I smashed her
I don’t think
To kill something
Because I am
A special note on this one
Wow. Allowables really moved me. Yes, it paired perfectly with our spider unit and we could talk about in a literal sense and remind ourselves about our arachnophobia vocabulary word, which we did. But, I also used the opportunity to talk about current events with my son as part of my ongoing efforts to approach this learning at home journey with a social justice lens. Giovanni isn’t just talking about spiders here and I think that’s important to acknowledge. It’s never too early to normalize conversations about racism with your kids.
Spiders are such beautiful interesting creatures, and I'm surprised that by the end of this unit, I seem to have shed my spider fears. Maybe you will do.
-School of Mommy
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