Polar Animals Unit Ideas

Looking for ideas on how to do a unit on polar animals in the special education classroom? Here are ways to use visuals to support learning and bring your unit to life for students.


We work on the polar animals theme for 2 weeks. We spend those 2 weeks immersed in the arctic! We read about it, create crafts based on it, learn vocab, act like penguins, learn facts about the animals and more. Here are some ideas on how to learn about this habitat and animal group while still working on the basic skills our students need.

These are some of the vocabulary words we work on in this unit. I put 10 to 11 cards out at a time. I hang them up on the board in the morning meeting area. Every morning we talk about the words in different ways. For example, on Monday, we work on just labeling the cards both receptively and expressively. On Wednesday, we work on talking about the pictures, describing the picture, etc. On Friday, we work on creating sentences about the vocab cards. Some of my students stick with the "I see ___." format while other students are able to make a sentence about the color, what it is, what it eats, etc. For most of my students, I write all or the majority of the sentence on the board for them. We also work on underlining the vocabulary word.


During group time, we work on attending to text, labeling and matching pictures with the reader and pictures found in the Polar Animals set.


I hang the book on the table top chart stand I made by following Differentiation Station Creation's tutorial. You can read about how I made it by clicking HERE.

We do guided art projects every week that go along with the theme. As a group, we glue the pieces together by following the directions. For my students who are able, they are given time to cut out all of the pieces needed for the craft. The rest of the group is given the pieces already cut out. 


I love how the final product always looks slightly different and full of personality! 


We also made a penguin craft from shapes:


Seriously, aren't they adorable?!?!

With these vocabulary sheets we practice following verbal 2 step directions to color the pictures and then match the pictures with the labels. Some of my students are also able to match the definition or description with the animal. 


We learned penguin facts (free in my TPT store!) while doing a sensory activity which you can read more about by clicking HERE.  One of the penguin facts we learned was that they put oil from a gland on their feathers to make it so their feathers are more weather proof. Hard for our kiddos to understand, right?! That's why we also did this experiment to help them understand:


First, we colored part of a penguin picture really hard with black and white crayons. We left part uncolored. Next, we sprinkled water on the picture. You can see how the parts we colored (see green arrow) bubbled up instead of soaking into the picture. The parts we didn't color (see red arrow) soaked right through the paper. That is what the oil does for the penguin. 

We learned SOO much while still practicing our vital skills. Here are some of the other materials that we used for this Polar Animals unit:


These were perfect for our work task boxes:



Most of these visuals and materials came from the Polar Animals: Special Ed Theme Unit set.


Hope this has sparked a new idea for teaching about polar animals! Have a different idea? Leave a comment so we can all learn!!

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