Prehistoric Giants (Other Than Dinosaurs)
Level Y

About the Book 

Text Type: Nonfiction/Informational/Historical
Page Count: 24
Word Count: 2,161

Book Summary
Many prehistoric animals other than dinosaurs were giants. There were other giant reptiles, as well as giant species of shellfish, insects, centipedes, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Paleontologists have used fossils to learn when these giants lived, how big they were, what kind of food they ate, and how they moved. DNA tests can show how the prehistoric animals are related to animals living today. Now extinct, these enormous animals were forces to be reckoned with: fish as long as 90 feet, dragonflies with a wingspan of 2.5 feet, rhinoceros-like mammals 15 feet tall and weighing 16 tons, and terror birds as tall as 10 feet that could run up to 43 miles per hour. Photographs, illustrations, and maps support the text.

About the Lesson

Targeted Reading Strategy

  • Ask and answer questions

Objectives

  • Use the reading strategy of asking and answering questions to understand text
  • Identify the main idea and supporting details
  • Identify and use commas in a series
  • Understand how to read pronunciations in parentheses

Materials

  • Book -- Prehistoric Giants (Other Than Dinosaurs) (copy for each student)
  • Chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Dictionaries
  • KWLS, main idea and details, commas, pronunciation worksheets
  • Discussion cards

    Indicates an opportunity for students to mark in the book. (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if books are reused.)

Vocabulary

  • Content words: amphibians, arthropod, bamboo, climate, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), eras, extinct, habitat, herbivores, hollow, ice age, invertebrates, marine, paleontologists, periods, populations, predators, prehistoric, prey, species, tentacles, trilobites

Before Reading 

Build Background

  • Write the word prehistoric on the board. Ask students to share what they know about the meaning of the word. Explain that prehistoric relates to the time before writing was invented, about 6,000 years ago. Ask students whether they know of anything that was alive during prehistoric times (besides dinosaurs). Ask how they think the animals may have been different from the animals of today.
  • Create a KWLS chart on the board and hand out the KWLS worksheet. Review or explain that the K stands for knowledge we know, the W stands for information we want to know, the L stands for the knowledge we learned, and the S stands for what we still want to know about the topic. As various topics are discussed, fill in the first column (K) on the board with information students know about the topic. Have students complete the same section of their KWLS worksheet.
  • Ask students what they would like to know about prehistoric animals. Have them fill in the second column (W) of their worksheet. Write their questions on the class chart.

Preview the Book

Introduce the Book

  • Give students their copy of the book. Guide them to the front and back covers and read the title. Have students discuss what they see on the covers. Encourage them to offer ideas as to what type of book it is and what it might be about.
  • Show students the title page. Discuss the information on the page (title of book, author's name, illustrator's name).

Introduce the Reading Strategy: Ask and answer questions

  • Discuss how having prior knowledge about a topic, and asking and answering questions while reading, can help readers understand and remember the information in a book.
  • Direct students to the table of contents. Remind them that the table of contents provides an overview of the information in a book and how it is organized. After previewing the table of contents, use it to model asking questions.
    Think aloud: I can use the table of contents to think of questions I would like to have answered about prehistoric giants. For example, the second section is titled "Giant Invertebrates." This makes me wonder what an invertebrate is and how big these prehistoric giants really were. I'll have to read the book to find out. I'll write this question on the chart.
  • Have students look at the other section titles. Have them write any questions they have based on the covers and table of contents in the W column of their KWLS worksheet.
  • Have students preview the rest of the book, looking at the illustrations and captions. Show students the glossary and index. Have them add any additional questions they might have on their KWLS worksheet. Invite students to share their questions aloud. Write shared questions on the class chart.
  • As students read, encourage them to use other reading strategies in addition to the targeted strategy presented in this section. For tips on additional reading strategies, click here.

Introduce the Comprehension Skill: Main idea and details

  • Write the following list of words on the board: river, ocean, lake, stream. Ask students to describe what these words refer to (different bodies of water). Point out that the definitions of these words helps to identify the main idea. (There are many different types of bodies of water.) The words river, ocean, lake, and stream are the details that support this main idea.
  • Explain that sometimes the amount of information about a topic is so large that it is grouped into sections, and each section has its own main idea.
  • Read pages 4 and 5 aloud to students. Model identifying the main idea and details.
    Think-aloud: As I read the first section, most of the sentences mention something about giants that lived long ago. This section gives information about giant species of shellfish, insects, centipedes, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals that lived during prehistoric times. I will underline this information. The sentences also mention that paleontologists learn about these animals from shells, footprints, and fossils. The sentences tell readers that scientists divide Earth's history into different eras, and that different animals lived during different times. Based on what I've read, I think the main idea of the section is: Paleontologists have studied prehistoric animals from many different eras.
  • Write the main idea on the board. Ask students to identify the details from the book that support this main idea (page 4: shellfish, insects, centipedes, fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals; paleontologists study shells, footprints, and fossils; DNA; page 5: time periods are grouped into eras, and so on). Write these details on the board.

Introduce the Vocabulary

  • As students preview the book, ask them to talk about what they see in the photographs and illustrations. Reinforce the vocabulary words they will encounter in the text.
  • Write the following content vocabulary words on the board: trilobites, herbivores, climate, and predators.
  • Explain to students that most of the time, good readers use context clues to help figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word in the text. However, sometimes they will not find enough context clues to clearly define the unfamiliar word. Model how students can use the glossary or a dictionary to locate a word's meaning. Have a volunteer read the definition for trilobites in the glossary. Have students follow along on page 6 as you read the sentence in which the word trilobites is found to confirm the meaning of the word.
  • Point to the word herbivores on the board. Repeat the process, reading the definition of herbivores in the glossary and reading the sentence in which herbivores is found on page 18. List examples of herbivores, such as elephants, rabbits, goats, and sheep. Ask students to give examples of other herbivores that they know, and write them on the board.
  • Have students locate each of the remaining content vocabulary words in the glossary and text. Read and discuss the definitions as a class.
  • For tips on teaching word-attack strategies, click here.

Set the Purpose

  • Have students think about what they already know about prehistoric giants as they read the book to find answers to their questions, and to write what they learned in the L column of their KWLS chart. Remind them to think about the main ideas and details of each section as they read.

During Reading 

Student Reading

  • Guide the reading: Have students read from page 6 to the end of page 11. Remind them to look for information about prehistoric giants that will answer questions on their KWLS worksheet. Encourage students who finish early to go back and reread.
  • When students have finished reading, have them circle any questions on their KWLS worksheet that were answered and add any new questions that were generated.
  • Model answering a question and filling in the third column (L) on the KWLS chart.
    Think-aloud: I wanted to know what invertebrates are and how large the prehistoric giants were. I found out that invertebrates are animals without backbones and that some fly through the air, while others swim in the oceans. I also learned that Cameroceras was a shellfish that grew as long as 36 feet, Meganeura was a dragonfly with a wingspan of 2.5 feet, and Arthropleura was a 60-legged centipede that grew longer than 8 feet. I will write this information on my chart. I wonder what the giant prehistoric birds were like. I will write this question on my chart.
  • Have students write answers for circled questions in the L column of their KWLS worksheet and additional questions they raised in the W column. Invite them to share the information they learned and the questions they generated as they read the book. Record shared responses on the class KWLS chart.
  • Model identifying the main idea and details.
    Think-aloud: As I read the section titled "Giant Fish and Amphibians," most of the sentences mentioned something about Leedsichthys and Koolasuchus. Leedsichthys was the largest fish that ever lived, growing almost 90 feet long. It lived 165 to 155 million years ago, and had 40,000 long, thin teeth to filter shrimp and jellyfish into their mouths. I will underline this information. I also read that Koolasuchus was an enormous amphibian--about 17 feet long--that lived 137 to 112 million years ago. It had eyes on top of its head and lived in the swamp. I will underline this information, too. Based on what I've read, I think the main idea of the section is: Leedsichthys was a giant fish, and Koolasuchus was an enormous amphibian that lived millions of years ago.
  • Write the main idea on the board. Ask students to identify details that support this main idea (page 10: can grow almost 90 feet; 165 to 155 million years ago; page 11: more than 100 long teeth; 17 feet long; and so on). Write these details on the board.
  • Check for understanding: Have students read pages 12 through 15. Have them write answers they found while reading in the L column of their KWLS worksheet and additional questions they raised in the W column. Invite them to share the information they learned and the questions they generated as they read the book. Record shared responses on the class KWLS chart.
  • Invite students to share the important details they identified in the fifth section. Write these details on the board. Have students work with a partner to identify the main idea from these details. (Other enormous reptiles besides dinosaurs lived during the Mesozoic era--Cymbospondylus, Liopleurodon, Elasmosaurus, and Ornithocheirus.) Discuss their responses as a class and write the main idea and supporting details on the board.
  • Have students read the remainder of the book. Remind them to look for and write answers to their KWLS worksheet questions. Encourage them to add new questions they might have to their worksheet as they read.

      Have students make a question mark in their book beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. Encourage them to use the strategies they have learned to read each word and figure out its meaning.

After Reading 

  • Ask students what words, if any, they marked in their book. Use this opportunity to model how they can read these words using decoding strategies and context clues.

Reflect on the Reading Strategy

  • Think-aloud: I wanted to know what the giant prehistoric birds were like. I learned that Gastornis was 7 feet tall and weighed more than 1 ton. I also learned that Phorusrhacos stood up to 10 feet tall and was able to run after its prey at 43 miles per hour. I learned that these birds are called terror birds.
  • Ask students to share questions they added to their KWLS worksheet while reading, and ask them what questions were answered (or not answered) in the text.
  • Reinforce that asking questions before and during reading, and looking for the answers while reading, keeps readers interested in the topic. It also encourages them to keep reading to find answers to their questions and helps them understand and remember what they have read.
  • Point out to students that all of their questions may not have been answered in this text. Brainstorm other sources they might use to locate additional information to answer their questions. Invite students to fill in the final column (S) with information they would still like to know about prehistoric giants.

Reflect on the Comprehension Skill

  • Discussion: Discuss how stopping to review the important details helped students remember the facts and better understand the information in the book. Ask them to use the important details they identified to confirm or refine the main idea.
  • Have students reread pages 16 and 17, looking for supporting details about the main idea. Point out that the section title helps to identify the main idea (giant birds). Write details about these birds on the board (page 16: Gastornis, a bird about 7 feet tall; sharp, powerful beak; may weigh more than 1 ton; page 17: Phorusrhacos; stands up to 10 feet tall; 27 million to 2.5 million years ago; and so on). Ask students how this information supports the main idea.
  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the main idea and details worksheet. When everyone has finished working independently, review answers aloud.
  • Enduring understanding: In this book, you learned about many different types of gigantic animals that lived millions of years ago and how their size could not prevent them from becoming extinct. Now that you know this information, how does it make you think about protecting Earth's modern giants (blue whales, grizzly bears, anacondas, and so on)?

Build Skills 

Grammar and Mechanics: Commas in a series

  • Explain that when writers list a series of items in a sentence, the words need to be separated by commas. Without the commas, the sentence would be difficult to read and understand.
  • Have students turn to page 19, and ask them to follow along as a volunteer reads aloud the last sentence in the second paragraph: It eats bamboo, fruit, seeds, and other plant food in tropical rainforests in Asia. Ask a volunteer to identify the listed words (bamboo, fruit, seeds, and other plant food). Discuss the location of the commas within the list and the word and, which joins the last words or phrase to the list after the comma. Point out that the sentence makes much more sense and is easier to read with the correct punctuation.
  • Write the following sentence on the board: A creature the size of a small airplane swoops down dips its long beak below the water's surface and swallows a fish whole. Ask students to explain why this sentence doesn't make sense (the words "down dips" don't make sense together). Direct students to page 15. Ask them to locate this sentence and identify the proper placement of the commas in the sentence. Ask a volunteer to come to the board and add commas in the correct places, separating the phrases swoops down, dips its long beak below the water's surface, and swallows a fish whole. Point out that the last phrase (swallows a fish whole) is joined to the list by the word and, following the comma.

      Check for understanding: Write the following sentence on the board: Paleontologists can use a fossil to learn when and where an animal lived how big it was what kind of food it ate and how it moved. Have students copy the sentence into the inside front cover of their book and add commas to separate the phrases. Check individual answers for understanding.

  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the commas worksheet. Discuss answers aloud after students finish.

Word Work: Pronunciation

  • Review or explain that pronunciation refers to how to articulate, or say, a word. Discuss how some words might be difficult to pronounce, such as words from another language. Point out that when authors anticipate difficulty with the pronunciation of a word, they write the word's pronunciation within parentheses directly after the word. This helps readers to say the word and continue to read fluently through the text. Explain that when reading a word aloud that is followed by its pronunciation, there is no need to say the word twice.
  • Tell students that when writing the pronunciation for a word, the word is broken into syllables. Review that a syllable is a part of a word that is spoken with an uninterrupted sound of the voice. Words are broken into syllables by their sound, and each syllable has one vowel sound.
  • Direct students to page 8. Ask them to find the pronunciation within parentheses (MEG-an-YOO-rah). Point out that the word is broken into four syllables, each separated by hyphens. Review or explain that when reading these broken syllables aloud, the syllable(s) that are written in all capital letters are read with more emphasis. Practice pronouncing the name Meganeura with the class, emphasizing the first and third syllables. Point out that the letters used to spell out the pronunciation are not the exact letters used to spell the word itself.
  • Direct students to page 10. Ask them to find the pronunciations within parentheses (MEZ-uh-ZO-ik) and (leeds-ICK-thees). Ask students how many syllables the first word is broken into (4) and which of the syllables in the word gets the emphasis (the first and third). Ask students how many syllables the second word is broken into (3) and which of the syllables in the word gets the emphasis (the second). Have students turn to a neighbor and practice pronouncing the names Mesozoic and Leedsichthys.
  • Check for understanding: Have students identify the word on page 14 that has its pronunciation given within parentheses (eh-LAZ-mo-SAWR-us). Have students hold up the same number of fingers as the number of syllables in the word (5). Ask students which syllables gets the emphasis (the second syllable, LAZ, and the fourth, SAWR). Have them turn to a neighbor and practice pronouncing the name Elasmosaurus. Listen to individual responses.
  • Independent practice: Introduce, explain, and have students complete the pronunciation worksheet. If time allows, discuss their answers.

Build Fluency 

Independent Reading

  • Allow students to read their book independently. Additionally, allow partners to take turns reading parts of the book to each other.

Home Connection

  • Give students their book to take home to read with parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends. Have students share their KWLS worksheets with someone at home, explaining how it works and what they learned.

Extend the Reading 

Informational Writing and Art Connection
Have students choose one of the prehistoric giants from the book to research further using print or Internet resources. Citing information from their research and the book, have them write a report about their giant. Tell students to include at least three sections, including an introduction and conclusion. Have them create a table of contents and a glossary, and encourage them to add illustrations or photographs to their report. Require an error-free final copy and make a front and back cover. Either bind each report separately, or bind all of the reports together to make a class book with its own front and back cover.

Visit Writing A-Z for a lesson and leveled materials on informational report writing.

Science Connection
Provide print and Internet resources for students to learn more about paleontology. Have them read to find out about the methods paleontologists use, interesting facts they've discovered, how old the field of study is, and where they do their work. Have students find out what type of education is required to become such a specialized scientist and which colleges offer the necessary courses. Lead a discussion in which all of these questions are answered, and give students an opportunity to share any other interesting facts they learned. Ask students whether they would like to be a paleontologist and to share their reasons.

Skill Review
Discussion cards covering comprehension skills and strategies not explicitly taught with the book are provided as an extension activity. The following is a list of some ways these cards can be used with students:

  • Use as discussion starters for literature circles.
  • Have students choose one or more cards and write a response, either as an essay or a journal entry.
  • Distribute before reading the book and have students use one of the questions as a purpose for reading.
  • Cut apart and use the cards as game cards with a board game.
  • Conduct a class discussion as a review before the book quiz.

Assessment 

Monitor students to determine if they can:

  • consistently ask relevant questions about a topic prior to and during reading; locate answers to their questions and write them on a worksheet
  • identify the main idea and supporting details to better understand the text through discussion and on a worksheet
  • recognize and use commas in a series during discussion and on a worksheet
  • understand and read pronunciations in parentheses; identify syllables and emphasis among the syllables during discussion and on a worksheet

Comprehension Checks



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