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Teaching Suggestions

Who's Been Eating the Monarchs?
Monarchs and Their Predators in Mexico

(Back to Slideshow Overview)

Introduction

Monarch butterflies are poisonous to most predators. However, some animals can eat monarch butterflies, and millions of monarchs are eaten during the winter season in Mexico. Using the facts and photos in this slideshow, explore this essential question:

Essential Question:
Who are the monarch's predators in Mexico and
how do the butterflies defend themselves?


Set the Stage for Learning

1. Display the cover. Ask questions to assess prior knowledge:

  • How would you define predator? Prey?
  • Millions of monarchs in Mexico are eaten by predators. Who do you think are the three main predators?
  • How do you think the monarchs defend themselves from potential predators?
Monarchs and Their Predators in Mexico
2. Preview images in the photo gallery. On large chart paper, post the essential question: Who are the monarch's predators in Mexico and how do the butterflies defend themselves? Have students make pre-reading predictions based on details they see in the photos.
Photo gallery

3. Preview vocabulary using word cards. Have students predict how the words may be related to the essential question: Who are the monarch's predators in Mexico and how do the butterflies defend themselves?

 

Word Cards
Viewing the Slideshow

As a class, read through the pages of the slideshow together. Stop occasionally to spotlight key words and ideas or ask questions. Encourage students to share their own questions sparked by the information and images. Optional printed booklet of slideshow can be copied and assembled for partner or at-home reading.

Revisit for Understanding

1. Solve "Who-Done-It" mysteries. Each predator has its own method of eating a monarch. Close inspection of butterfly remains reveals clues about the predator. Have students inspect three photos and read descriptive clues to solve "who-done-it" mysteries. Look for evidence that helps identify the predator: Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-backed Oriole, or Black-eared Mouse. What clues did the predator-suspect leave behind? Check your answers.

2. Search for survival strategies. Inspect three photos to see if you can figure out how monarchs avoid hungry predators. Look for details that reveal the physical features and/or behavioral strategies that help monarchs avoid predation. Check your answers.

Journal Worksheet: Monarch Butterflies and their predators in Mexico.

3. Mark up the text. Revisit the essential question: Who are the monarch's predators in Mexico and how do the butterflies defend themselves? Have students reread the text-only version of the slideshow with a partner, underlining important ideas and circling key words. Challenge them to use the word cards to write a summary paragraph that answers the essential question.

Wrap Up
1. Ask Reflective Questions. Encourage readers to think beyond the text by asking questions like these:
  • What other examples can you find in nature where aggregation is a defense strategy? camouflage, cryptic coloration? chemical protection?
  • Why are defense mechanisms important for survival?
  • What role does a predator play in an ecosystem?
  • Why do scientists study the size of predator and prey populations?
  • How does milkweed eaten in late summer (before fall migration) help a monarch survive winter in Mexico? (poisonous chemical toxins, stored fat)
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