Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?


What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? is written by Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. The book shows students that different types of animals use their eyes, nose, ears, tails, mouths and feet in very different ways. This book can be very interactive. The first page for each body part has an almost 3-D picture of the body part of five different animals. Students can try to guess what animal the part belongs to. When you turn the page it shows the full animal and tells you how the animal uses that body part.

Each use is very unique and interesting. For example: a cricket hears with his ears that are on his knees, a bat “sees” with his ears, a jackrabbit uses his ears to keep cool, a humpback whale can hear sounds hundreds of miles away with his ears and a hippopotamus closes his ears when he’s under water. The back of the book gives more details about each of the 30 animals.


Curriculum Connections: This book would be useful when teaching physical characteristics of animals. SOL 1.5(b). It shows that animals have physical adaptations that allow them to respond to certain life needs. SOL 3.4. The book can also be used as an introduction to habitats. SOL  2.5.

Additional Resources:

  • Here’s the author’s website. It lists all of his books and has a resources page with links to other websites.

  • SmithLifeScience.com is a great resource for teachers. It has multiple pages on different subjects within life science. The link takes you directly to a page devoted to answering the question: What is Life? It has 7 days worth of lesson plans, worksheets and activities for this subject.

  • Seeing, Hearing and Smelling the World is a page on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute website. This is a good site for teachers to learn more about the senses to prepare for lesson plans and questions from students. This site was in the back of the book Making Sense of Senses. This book is full of experiments for elementary students.

  • Education World has a ton of lesson plans on life science. Amusing Animal Adaptations works for grades 3-5.

General Information:
Book: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
Author: Robin Page
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Publication Date: 2003
Grade Range: k-3
ISBN: 9780618997138

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