Teaching the Life Cycle of a Butterfly Using the Kinesthetic Approach to Learning

The power of movement and silence is learned as small groups create a drama showcasing the life cycle of a butterfly.

By Bethany Stagliano


Field of flowers with a butterfly

Science is exciting! But sitting in a stuffy classroom with their noses in a textbook is certainly not going to help your students experience the exhilaration of science. Get your class up and moving, while teaching them science and showing them that actions really do speak louder than words! This article will give you ideas on how to incorporate kinesthetic learning as you teach about the amazing life cycle of the butterfly.

Who Wants to Be an Actor?

Ask your class this question, and you will get kids who are overeager to respond, as well as kids who shy away, desperate not to be chosen. They will all be actors when this activity culminates. Begin by pairing up each child with a classmate, or allow them to choose their own partners. Ask them to act out certain situations (provide a written list or write one on the board). Here are some ideas for your list:

  • Eating lunch at a fancy restaurant
  • Waking up late and having to run after the school bus
  • Competing at a championship Ping-Pong tournament
  • Going fishing and hooking a shark

Before they begin their performances, inform your class that there is one thing they cannot do while acting: talk! Learners may be initially shocked by your restriction, but will quickly find the activity to be entertaining. Tell them they are learning through doing!

Introduce Learning by Doing

Kinesthetic learning is a teaching style in which students learn through physical activity, rather than sedentary activities like reading, writing, or lecture. Kinesthetic learning provides for artistic expression as well. Explain to your pupils that when they acted out the above scenarios, they just participated in a kinesthetic activity. Ask for their thoughts, feelings, and/or concerns before introducing the next lesson. It is important to gauge the level of understanding before you proceed. Learners should be aware that it is their actions that are important for this lesson, not anything they may write down (or say, in this case). You may have to model and practice again to be sure everyone understands the goal of this learning process. Once everyone in your class has mastered a basic understanding of kinesthetic learning, they are ready to develop their own non-verbal skit.

Dramatize the Butterfly's Life Cycle

Briefly teach the life cycle of a butterfly, particularly if your class is unfamiliar with it (you may also want to have butterfly books on hand for learners to get ideas).

Divide your class into partners or small groups. Instruct them to devise their very own kinesthetic approach to the life cycle of a butterfly, which they will then present to their classmates. Explain that basically, they will be putting on a silent play.

Use this question to get them started on the right track: If they had to explain the life cycle of the butterfly to someone who knew nothing about it... how would they do so through their actions only? It may be helpful to use the five stages of a butterfly's life cycle:

Allow learners to be as creative as they wish with their drama, including using props. Encourage all members of a group to participate in the brainstorming session. One way to guarantee that everyone participates is to have learners write down their ideas before they share them with their group. If you find that you have pupils who are stuck with no ideas, offer this simple scenario to build upon.

Curl up in a ball pretending to be an egg, when suddenly you slowly stretch and start crawling along the floor as the caterpillar. Climb up onto a chair and become a chrysalis by covering up with a blanket. Start tugging and pulling at the blanket as you slide out of the chrysalis, fly across the room with your arms flapping like a butterfly.

Obviously, it’s better if students can come up with the drama without this prompt, but some kids need extra help with an outside-the-box lesson like this. The point is that they not only learn through doing, but will also gain ideas from each other. As long as they stay on-task, all types of learners should have a ball with this activity! 

Stage Fright Remedies

You are likely to have children in your class who dread presenting anything in front of their peers. Ease their tension by forming groups that will be encouraging to each other. Although all members should play a role in the final presentation, allow those who are terrified to play a smaller role–but do not let them get out of it completely! You want these kids to learn to feel comfortable giving a presentation, so make attempts to build their self-esteem and confidence. They may soon realize that giving a presentation is actually fun!

Come One, Come All!

If you find your scholars have a knack for kinesthetic learning (and most likely, they will), and if they give great presentations of the life cycle of a butterfly, consider inviting other classes, staff, and/or parents into your classroom for an encore! Many nursing homes enjoy seeing children put on plays, so consider visiting one near you. Whether this becomes a public presentation, or simply a classroom activity, rest assured that after their kinesthetic drama, your learners will not forget the stages of a butterfly’s life cycle.  

Related Lessons and Articles: 

All About Kinesthetic Learning

Read this article for more discussion and ideas on kinesthetic learning techniques. 

Climate Change Performance

Using kinesthetic learning, pupils develop a dance while learning about climate change. 

Life Cycle of a Butterfly

A useful lesson complete with worksheets that would be helpful when teaching about the life cycle of the butterfly.