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Butterfly Wings
Teaching Suggestions
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What can we discover by looking closely at the wings of a monarch butterfly? What details can be revealed through descriptive writing and drawing? The activities for this slideshow will strengthen students' observation skills as they explore this essential question:

Essential Question:
How can descriptive drawing and writing enhance
scientific observation?

Why Don't We Have a Billion Butterflies?

After viewing photos and reading the slideshow, students will be able to:

  • Draw and label a scientific representation of monarch butterfly wings.
  • Write a paragraph that summarizes facts about monarch wings.
  • Create an expressive drawing and snapshot sentences to capture the beauty and wonder of monarch butterfly wings.


1. Observe and describe a monarch wing.
Show the magnified photo of the monarch wing. Have students brainstorm similes to describe details they see in the image. Provide sentence starters to help students make comparisons:

  • The brilliant orange color is like...(glowing embers).
  • The shape is like...(fringed feathers).
  • The scales overlap like...(layered shingles on a roof).
  • Monarch wing scales look like...(soft flower petals).

2. Brainstorm words to capture sensory details.
Display images from the monarch butterfly wings photo gallery. Distribute copies of the pre-writing attribute chart. Have students work with a partner to brainstorm sensory details to describe colors, shapes, sizes, textures, patterns, and distinctive features/markings.

3. Collect facts about monarch wings.
Read the slideshow as a class. Distribute copies of the text-only version of the slideshow. Have students underline descriptive words and phrases they could add to their attribute chart.

4. Write snapshot sentences.
Authors make pictures with words. Sentences that include sensory details that help a reader visualize ideas are called snapshot sentences. Have students explore how they can use words on their pre-writing attribute charts to write snapshot sentences that describe monarch wings.

5. Draw and describe monarch wings.
Use the draw and describe handout to help students explore the science and art of monarch butterfly wings:

  • As a scientist:
    Challenge students to create a scientific illustration and written description of monarch wings. Remind students that a scientist's work is objective. A scientist would represent and describe the characteristics and features—patterns, size, textures, and colors—of the wings as accurately as possible.
  • As an artist/poet:
    The goal of expressive drawing and writing is to capture the thoughts and feelings that are inspired by observations of nature. An artist's work is subjective.
    Challenge students to think about how an artist and poet would draw and describe a monarch butterfly to express the beauty and wonder of its wings. Spark creativity by encouraging students to capture how they feel when they observe monarchs.


Photo: Raul Gonzalez

Magnified Photo of
a Monarch Wing.

Photo Gallery
Monarch Wings

attribute chart

Attribute Chart

Draw and Describe
Monarch Wings

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