Little Me in a Big World: Ants


antMagnify.gif (3K) Grade Level: First
Health Topic: Self-esteem
Subjects: Health, Science, Language Arts, Music

Time of year: Ants are mostly active after the last frost and before the first frost.

Overall Objective: Over a three or four day period while looking at obstacles that humans and insects encounter, students will predict, observe and record strategies to overcome them using discussions, role play, and charts.

Set-up: Little Me In A Big World

Activity sheets:

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Scout the playground for active ant colonies. Look for areas that are easy for the class to work in and that are ideally not in high traffic areas. Avoid areas with poisonous plants, venomous animals and treacherous terrain.
  2. Many of the observations and discussions are greatly enhanced if you have access to a live ant colony that you could keep in the classroom. To be successful, a colony must have a queen ant.
  3. Once you have identified the colony you will be using for the observations, notify the custodian so that he/she does not try to kill the colony while you are doing the lesson.
  4. Prepare copies of Ant Observation sheets (for Activities 2 and 3) and Songs (for Closure Activity).
  5. Obtain obstacles brainstormed in Activity 2. Direct the discussion towards easily obtainable items.
  6. Five discussions are recorded on butcher paper (Activities 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5).
  7. Prepare bulletin board space or other wall space for displaying charts throughout the lesson.
  8. Gather remaining materials and books (see Bibliography).


  1. Ant nest (indoor or outdoor; if inside, set up colony at least one week in advance).
  2. Individual student journals or writing paper.
  3. Chosen obstacles (sticks, rocks, leaves, pencils, etc.).
  4. Butcher paper
  5. Books: Chris Van Allsburg, Two Bad Ants; Michael Chinery, Ants; Arthur Dorros, Ant Cities; Polly Cameron, I Can't Said the Ant; Pat Hutchins, Happy Birthday, Sam.
  6. Any supporting fiction and non-fiction literature that may not be suggested in the bibliography.

Ant Information Sheets

Ant Rearing Sheets

Lesson Plan: Little Me In A Big World

Length of sessions:

  • Five 30 minute sessions
  • Two 45 minute sessions
  • One 45-60 minute session
  • One optional 30 minute session

Introduction Activity:(30 minute session)

Read Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg. Introduce the meaning of the words "obstacle" and "overcome" using examples from the story. Have the students cite examples from their lives to show they know the meanings of the words. Discuss obstacles the ants had to overcome and how they did it. If your students are interested, go on a preliminary trip around the school to look at where ants live and what they are doing.

Activity 1 (30 minute session)
Using Ants by Michael Chinery or Ant Cities by Arthur Dorros, introduce background information on ants and their behavior. Have the students contribute what they already know about ants. Ask them to share what they would like to learn about ants. Teacher record on butcher paper. If applicable, record discussion as a 'web' of ant, where the word "ant" is at the center and lines extending out are labeled with adjectives, observations and facts about ants.

Activity 2 (Two 30 minute sessions)
Review record sheet, counting body parts and legs. Discuss what to look for when observing ants. (Ant behavior - what are they doing?) Discuss observations. (Why do you think the ants do what you saw them do?) In teams, find and observe active ant nests on school grounds. Record observations. Brainstorm possible obstacles that could block an ant trail. Categorize the chosen obstacles. Teacher records on butcher paper, and checks that each category is represented. Each team chooses its obstacle. Make predictions of how the ants might handle the chosen obstacles and what they do with them on the record sheet. Send a copy of the first observation sheet home with the students to share with their parents. Ask the students to look around their home for different ants and complte the sheet. Remind them that ants may bite or sting and to use caution around the colony.

Activity 3 (30 minute session)
Review discussions from Activity 1. Have the teams observe the ants' activity and record information gathered on Day 2 box of the record sheet. Gather the obstacles. Each team places their obstacle along the ant trail one at a time. Observe and record on record sheet what the ants did with each team's obstacle (words or pictures). Discuss how the ants overcame the obstacles. Teacher records ideas on butcher paper.

Rainy Day Alternative Discuss the rain as an obstacle and have the students speculate on how the ants handle rain. Compare how humans deal with rain. After rain, check the ant nests. You might add this to the song.

Activity 4 (45-60 minute session)
Review discussions from activity 2. Read I Can't Said The Ant by Polly Cameron. Ask each team to share one thing they have learned. Brainstorm obstacles that the students have or will have to overcome in their own lives (e.g., reaching the sink, crossing the road, etc.,). Record them in their journal or on paper (pictures or words). Brainstorm strategies to overcome these obstacles. Teacher records on butcher paper. Compare with the ants' strategies discussed in the last activities. Look for similarities and differences.

Activity 5 (45 minute session)
Read Happy Birthday, Sam by Pat Hutchins. Discuss. Give each team an obstacle and have them role-play different ways to overcome it. Discuss feelings about overcoming the obstacles. (Is it better to keep trying or give up?) Teacher records on butcher paper.

Closure Activity (45 minute session)
Teach the students the song, "High Hopes." Review the feelings about overcoming obstacles as recorded on butcher paper. Sing the song.


  1. Ants on a Twig, Project W.I.L.D.
  2. Show - excerpts from "Honey I Shrunk the Kids!"
  3. Activity 1 - for higher grade levels use smaller teams; 3 or more of the same obstacles.
  4. Create paper bag ant puppets and use them in a play.
  5. Use the template provided with paper plates to create ant hats.
  6. Make a book using "The Ants go marching" rhyming with the numbers.
  7. Using construction paper, draw a large wall size colony, label each area and place ants in different rooms.
  8. Have the students write or tell a sequel adventure to Two Bad Ants.
  9. Adapt the third grade lesson Me and My Family to learn more about family life and communities using ants.

Words with Special Meanings(for understanding only, not to be tested)


(hypotheses, plural): a tentative explanation for a question that can be tested using experimentation.


to look at and pay special attention to what something does, what it looks like, and how it changes.


anything that stands in the way.


to do something in spite of extra difficulties. (To master an obstacle.)


to guess what you believe will happen.


Banner, Angela and Bryan Ward. Ant and Bee: Alphabetical Story for Tiny Tots. New York: Kaye & Ward, 1972

Cameron, Polly. I Can't Said the Ant. Illustrated by the author. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1961

Carrick, Malcolm. I Can Squash Elephants. New York: Viking Press, 1978

Chinery, Michael. Ants (Life Story). Mahway, NJ: Troll Associates, 1991

Clay, Pat and Helen. Ants. London: A.& C. Black, 1984

Darby, Gene. Jerry Finds Ants. Austin, TX: Steck Vaughin Co., 1964

Dethier, V.G. The Ant Heap. Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press, 1979

Dorros, Arthur. Ant Cities. Book and cassette. Illustrated by the author. New York: Harper Trophy/Harper Collins, 1987

Fischer-Nagle, Heiderose, and Andreas. An Ant Colony. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1989

Freschet, Bernice. The Ants Go Marching. Illustrated by Stefan Martin. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973

Glenn, George S. Ant Rancher's Handbook. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1990

Greenland, Caroline. Getting to Know Nature's Children: Ants. Ontario, Canada: Grolier Educational Corporation, USA.

Hoke, Helen. Ants (A First Book). New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1970.

Hopf, Alice L. Biography of an Ant. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974

Hutchins, Pat. Happy Birthday, Sam. New York: Puffin Books, Viking Penguin, 1978.

Hutchins, Pat. You'll Soon Grow Into Theirs, Titch New York: MacMillan Company, 1971

Hutchins, Ross E. A Look at Ants. Illustrated by the author. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1978

Kraus, Ruth. The Carrot Seed. New York: Harper and Row, 1945

Lavine, Sigmund A. Wonders of the Anthill. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1960

Lionni, Leo. Swimmy. New York: Random House, 1963

Lvenn, Nancy. Nessa's Fish. New York: Atheneum, 1990

Martin, Bill. Ants Underground. Sound recording with book. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britanica Education Corp., 1975

Myrick, Mildred. Ants Are Fun. New York: Harper and Row, 1968

O'Toole, Christopher. Discovering Ants. New York: The Bookwright Press, 1986

Overbeck, Cynthia. Ants. Minneapolis: Lerner Natural Science, 1982

Peet, Bill. The Ant and the Elephant. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972

Pluckrose, Henry. Ants. Illustrated by Tony Waver and David Cook. New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1981

Project W.I.L.D Elementary Activity Guide, Boulder, CO: Western Regional Environmental Education Council, 80302, 1983

Ryan, Will (adapted by). Grasshopper and the Ant: An Aesop Fable. With cassette. Chatsworth, CA: Alchemy Communications, 1987

Sheridan John. How Ants Live. Bethell, WA: Wright Group, 1992

Sushiela, LC. Ant and the Grasshopper: A Love Story. Hollywood, CA: Running Water, 1990

Suzuki, David. Looking at Insects. New York: Warner Books, 1987

Van Allsburg, Chris. Two Bad Ants. Illustrated by the author. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972

Wang, Mary L. Ant and the Dove. Chicago: Children's Press, 1989

Zolotow, Charlotte. I Like to be Little. New York: Harper & Row, 1987


The Ants Go Marching

The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stopped to suck his thumb

And they all go marching down to the ground
To get out of the rain.

The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching two by two,
The little one stopped to tie his shoe,

The ants go marching three by three, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching three by three, hurrah, hurrah.
The ants go marching three by three,
The little one stopped to climb a tree,

Additional verses
4x4: Shut the door
5x5: Look at a hive
6x6: Pick up sticks
7x7: Stopped to go to heaven
8x8: Shut the gate
9x9: Pick up a dime
10x10: Look at a hen

Ant Observation Sheet #1

antObserveSheet.gif (9K)

Ant Observation Sheet #2


Obstacle for the ants:

What I think the ants will do with the obstacles





antObserveSheetDay2.gif (5K)

Ant Hat Pattern

antHatpattern.gif (12K)

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