Your children will learn to identify fossils while also paying attention to letter sounds. They will then make their own “fossils.” Note: This is written for kindergarten, but the lesson can be adapted to any age.
Pictures of real fossils
A leaf fossil made out of clay and assorted leaves
A comb or other obvious household object fossil made out of clay
A starfish divided into 3 parts like a puzzle
Various objects for making fossil imprints
Worksheets (in Worksheet section)
Or just use a storyboard
Dinosaurs are extinct. That means there aren’t any living now. The last dinosaur died millions of years ago. So how do we know they ever existed?
Explain: Scientists called paleontologists use clues found in old rocks to learn about dinosaurs.
Write the word paleontologist on the board. Have your child say the word several times until they can say it easily.
Ask them again what a paleontologist is. They should answer that a paleontologist is a scientist who is interested in dinosaurs.
What clues do you think paleontologists use to study dinosaurs? These clues are called fossils.
Write the word fossil down. Practice it with your child until they can say it easily.
Explain that fossils are found in very old rocks. Fossils can tell us a lot about dinosaurs, from what they looked like and what they ate, to how they died.
Yesterday we talked about finding dinosaur bones. Those are called body fossils. Why do you think bones are body fossils?
There is another type of fossil called a trace fossil. Have you ever used a stamp? A trace fossil is made in almost the same way that the stamp makes a picture on paper. Each fossil tells a story about what made it.
Give them a worksheet.
Show your children a fossil made from pressing a leaf into clay.
Ask your child to draw this fossil on their worksheets in box #1. What do you think could have made this fossil? Yes, a leaf. What sound does leaf start with? What letter makes that sound? Write that letter on the line below the picture you drew in box #1. Can you guess which leaf made this fossil? (Show 4 or 5 different leaves of varying shapes and sizes.) Let them guess which leaf made the fossil. “How do you know this is the leaf that made this fossil?”
“Sometimes knowing the place where a fossil was found can help us figure out what it is. I found this next fossil in my house.”
Hold up a fossil of a comb or other obvious household object. “Draw a sketch of this fossil in box #2. What do you think made this fossil? If anyone thinks they know, give us a hint by telling us what sound the object that made this fossil begins with.” Let your children guess until they come up with “comb.” If they are having difficulty, hold up 4 or 5 objects including the comb and have them choose which of the objects made it. “What do we do with a comb? What sound do you hear at the beginning of comb? What letter makes that sound sometimes? Write that letter on the line below the picture you drew in box #2. What is another word we know starts with that letter and sound?”
“Usually fossils become broken and Paleontologists cannot find all of the pieces at once. This fossil was found at the beach. Can you tell me what made it by looking at this piece?” Hold up a piece of the starfish fossil showing the imprint of one or two legs.
“Sketch this piece of the fossil in box #3. Can you guess what made this fossil? Let’s see if you’re right. Here is the last piece of the fossil.” Have them come up and fit the last piece with the other 2 pieces. “Does it look like a starfish could have made this fossil? What sound do you hear at the beginning of ‘starfish’? What letter makes that sound? Write that letter on the line below the picture you drew in box #3.”
Now your child will make their own fossils. Give them the clay.
“First we need to get the clay warmed up. Roll it into a long snake. What letter sound does snake start with? It is the same sound a snake makes. Let’s all make the S sound as we make our snakes into the letter S. What fossil did we just see that starts with the S sound? Yes, the starfish.”
Give the items to your child. “Now you’re all going to make your own fossils from one of the objects on your table. First you need to roll your clay into a ball and flatten it with the palm of your hand.” Demonstrate this. “Then you’re going to choose an object and press into your clay like this.” (Demonstrate).
“Try to figure out what letter sounds your object starts with. Write that letter on the line in box #4.” You can help students who are having difficulty as you go around and glue their worksheet and fossil onto the colored cardstock.
“Now we are going to use the letter clue and fossil clue to find out what made these fossils.” You can make a game of it by making several and then trading them to make guesses about what type of fossil it can be with the hint of the starting letter sound and the imprint.