Introducing Deserts Mini-Lesson

Objective: Students will learn what a desert ecosystem is and will be introduced to some plant and animal adaptations that help organisms survive in the harsh desert environment.

Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Teacher Background

With little rain and extreme temperatures, deserts are some of the harshest places on Earth. A desert is strictly defined as MORE

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Print or Project

  1. A Visual Overview: Show the slideshow of photos to your class. Each has a descriptive caption and kid-friendly copy for your students to read. (Please note that there is also more extensive teacher note copy just for you.)
  2. Creative Caption Review: Once you've been through the slideshow for an overview, go back through it again. This time ask students to explain why the captions do (or do not!) work. (Example: Do you think the caption "Ship in the Desert" is a good one for the camel? Why or why not?)

Click the thumbnail slides below to see the captions and kid-friendly copy up close.

  1. Continue the Conversation: Many forms of cacti have roots that are shallow and spread out around the plant. Ask students why they think this might be an advantage. Guide them to see that having a large radius of shallow roots helps the plant gather as much water as possible from dew and occasional rain.
  2. Write about it: Tell students to imagine they are a reporter assigned to cover a story in the desert. Ask them to write a paragraph that tells their readers how they prepared to survive in the desert. Remind them that they will need more than water!

Extension Activities

Reinforcements: These worksheets will be useful as you further develop your teaching unit. The Word Power worksheet will give your students vocabulary practice with key terms from this mini-lesson and the related activity will help reinforce key concepts on deserts.


Introducing Deserts Word Power
Grade: 4 - 6
Students practice vocabulary relevant to deserts by using each defined word in a sentence.



Desert Ecology Reading Warm-Up
Grade: 3 - 4
A reading passage and comprehension questions on desert ecology.



Excerpted from:

Eyewitness: Desert

Eyewitness: Desert is a detailed guide to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth. This book treks across the Earth's most parched places to find some of the greatest stories of adaptation and survival.

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