Chameleons in the Zoo

Children will engage in a movement activity and explore the difference between human and animal movements.

Lesson Objective

Children will learn about animals’ bodies and their movement, and how they move differently from humans.


What You'll Need

  • Large floor space
  • Hoops – 1 per 2 children
  • Book, The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle
  • Music selection (see Lesson Tips)
  • Audio device for playing music
  • Chart paper and marker

What To Do

Note: Set the hoops on the floor, allowing plenty of space for moving around the hoops away from the discussion area.

  1. Discuss the ways that animal bodies are different from human bodies (see Did You Know?). As the children name the different animal body parts, record them on chart paper (i.e., trunk, tail, fur, hoof, paw).
  2. Read the story, The Mixed Up Chameleon.
  3. For each animal, discuss a body part that is different from the body part of a human.
  4. Tell the children that they will be practicing moving like the animals in the story.
  5. Perform the steps of the Warm-Up (see Lesson Tips).
  6. Divide the class evenly into two groups; name them “chameleons” and “zoo animals.”
  7. Explain that each zoo animal will choose a hoop as their “cage” and will stay inside the hoop while moving.
  8. Chameleons will move in a circle around the zoo animals’ cages, following movement cues (i.e., walk, tiptoe, stomp, crawl, etc.).
  9. Play the music selection, and instruct the zoo animals to imitate the movement of their favorite zoo animal.
  10. At the same time, instruct the chameleons to follow your movement cue as they move in a circle around the zoo animals.
  11. Tell the children that they will need to “freeze” when the music stops.
  12. After several minutes, stop the music. Have each “chameleon” name an animal in the “zoo.”
  13. Change places so that the zoo animals become the chameleons and the chameleons become the zoo animals.
  14. Repeat with music, as stated above.
  15. Wrap up the session with some Cool-Down movements. These can be any kind of slow, calming movements (see Lesson Tips).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me a body part on a chameleon that is different from a body part on a human.
  • Explain how the way a chameleon moves is different from the way you move.
  • Describe the different ways that different types of animals move.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Teach the children movements that match the different body parts that they listed on the chart paper. For instance:
    • trunk – use your arm like an elephant trunk
    • wings – flap your arms like a bird
    • fins – use swimming arms
  • Create a class book based on the story, The Mixed Up Chameleon. Have children choose 2 or more different animal body parts and cut them out of construction paper. They can glue these to a chameleon cutout. Place each different animal on a sheet of colored construction paper. With teacher assistance, the children can add their own text. Bind or hole-punch the pages, and attach them with notebook rings to create a class book.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children identify animal body parts that are different from human body parts?
  • Could children explain the difference between human and chameleon movement?
  • Could children describe the difference between the way some other animals move and the way humans move?


Did You Know?

A chameleon is a type of lizard that lives in jungles and deserts. Chameleons have curly tails, large eyes, and very long tongues for catching prey. Chameleons are well known for their slow movement and ability to change color. They can change their color depending on the amount of light, the temperature, or their mood.

Animals move in many different ways. Some animals swim; others can run, swing, climb, or slither. Birds have wings that they flap to fly. Fish move by swimming using their fins and tails. Frogs have powerful back legs to help them hop or jump from place to place. Caterpillars use their bodies and tiny legs to move. Animals move at different speeds, too. Some animals are slow movers—like a chameleon, worm, or starfish. Other animals, such as a cheetah or gazelle, can move very quickly.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • chameleon – a lizard that is able to change its skin color.
  • imitate – to copy the actions of something or someone.
  • zoo – a place where animals are kept for people to look at.
  • mixed up – to have trouble understanding something.
  • freeze – to become completely still.
  • movement – a motion or way of moving.

Lesson Tips

  • Musical selections can be found online. Search for Baby Elephant Walk by Henry Mancini [chameleons and zoo animals] and Le Cygne from Carnivale of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens [Cool-Down].
  • Steps of the Warm-Up:
    • Breathing – take several deep breaths in and out slowly. 
      Example: Butterflies or Birds – your “wings” rise as you breathe in and lower when you exhale.
    • Touch – Using gentle energy, tap/tickle your skin all over the body (arms, shoulders, belly, legs, etc.). Then, using stronger energy, squeeze all over your body to wake up your skin and senses. 
      Example: Hickory Dickory Dock – using the rhyme, make the hands mimic a mouse running, skittering, tiptoeing, and so forth, up the body.
    • Get Moving – Do several movements that will get the blood flowing. 
      Example: Cat/Cow Yoga Stretches – from hands and knees position, arch the back then curl the spine. 
      Example: Starfish – start by hugging knees and making the body into a ball, then stretch into a big X”” shape on the ground like a starfish. Repeat three times. Move the starfish arms any way as the legs stay still. Repeat, moving the legs as the arms stay still. Pretend to have a line down the middle of the starfish; move only one arm and one leg; repeat on the other side. From the starfish “X” position, see if children can reach arms and legs up to the sky and touch fingertip to opposite toes. Starfish slowly come up to the surface (standing position), turning and turning, then stop and turn in the other direction.
  • Suggested steps of the Cool-Down:
    • Taking deep breaths in and out
    • Raising and lowering the shoulders
    • Circling neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles
    • Flexing and pointing ankles and wrists
    • Stretching side to side
    • Twisting side to side
    • Stretching up to the ceiling, moving through flat back, reaching to the floor, and rolling back up to center
    • Swinging legs front and back
    • Balancing on one leg and reaching arms up


  • The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle
  • Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert
  • A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni
  • Do Goldfish Gallop? A Book About Animal Movement by Michael Dahl

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS