Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar, written and illustrated by Eric Carle, is easily one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.  Its story is well-known by adults and kids alike, but the great thing about the text is that it can easily be incorporated into the classroom.  The unique and beautiful illustrations, coupled with the simple phrasing make this book a classic choice for a life science lesson about metamorphosis.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar begins with—–what else?—–a newly-hatched caterpillar who is in search of something to eat.  As he munches his way through the week, consuming fruit, as well as a smorgasbord of other treats, he grows bigger and bigger.  The book ends when the caterpillar builds “a small house, called a cocoon, around himself.  He stayed inside for more than two weeks.  Then, he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and… he was a beautiful butterfly!”  It is the perfect way to introduce a lesson on metamorphosis, or even a simple art project to help students learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.  Its layout is also conducive to emergent readers exploring the book on their own, since the text is large and easy to read, and the pages are different sizes with holes in the middle to show students just what the very hungry caterpillar consumed!

Curriculum Connections

This book is perfect for launching a unit on life science, and even expanding upon the story with a caterpillar/butterfly project in your classroom!  It’s appropriate for many different SOLs in kindergarten, first, and second grade (K.6, K.8, K.9, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7, 2.4, just to name a few!) but also makes for a great read-aloud book because the illustrations are so colorful and exciting to see.  Because the pages are different sizes and have holes to show where the caterpillar crawled, younger readers will love to simply turn the pages and follow along, even without reading the text.  You can’t go wrong with this classic text—–students will love it no matter how it is presented.

Additional Resources

  • This fantastic website has tons of ideas for cross-curriculum activities using The Very Hungry Caterpillar and also includes coloring pages and craft projects relating to the text!
  • These free printable templates would be a great addition to any bulletin board, and could also be used to introduce a metamorphosis lesson, or to encourage students to illustrate their own caterpillar tale.
  • Going Buggy on KinderKorner.com has a great selection of poems about bugs and butterflies, as well as links to other websites and book suggestions to use when teaching about the monarch life cycle!
  • Eric Carle’s website is another fantastic resource for activities and lesson plans that relate to all of his books!  It also includes an author biography, as well as a photos and video section worth checking out.

General Information

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author: Eric Carle
Illustrator: Eric Carle
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: October 1981
Pages: 32
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-13: 9780399208539