How I Use Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to Teach Animal Adaptations

Challenge your students to study the structural and behavioral adaptations of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things, then create their own Wild Thing.

Where the Wild Things Are to Teach Animal Adaptations

Invite your students to investigate the structural adaptations and behavioral adaptations of the creatures from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are! In this lesson, students examine each Wild Thing’s physical characteristics, using the free printable below to help them identify the various attributes that make each Wild Thing unique. Then in a group, they design a new environment and their very own original Wild Things!

After pointing out the physical attributes on the printable and finding additional characteristics not listed, such as a tail or flapped ears, challenge your students to think about how these specific animal adaptations can help each Wild Thing live and thrive in their special environment. What is their behavior like?

Questions for Students

  1. How are the Wild Things suited for their environment / biome? For example, one of the Wild Things has webbed feet and there is a body of water in the Wild Thing’s habitat. How might the webbed feet help this Wild Thing?
  2. Where might they be located based on their special attributes? Students investigate plants and landforms in the book and think about where the Wild Thing’s might live. Are they on a special island not listed on a map?
  3. The Wild Things are all different. Compare and contrast: Students look at each Wild Thing’s attributes and think about how these features help them. For example, one Wild Thing has a crest and another has long hair. How might these features help each Wild Thing adapt to its habitat? Some of the Wild Things have the same attributes, such as yellow eyes.
  4. Afterwards, your students can look through the book and examine the Wild Thing’s behavioral adaptations, such as swinging on trees and having a rumpus.
  5. What special talents might each Wild Thing have based on its attributes? Students examine the physical attributes and behavior shown in the book.
  6. What other physical attributes can you find in the book that aren’t listed on the sheet? Students flip the sheet over, go on a book scavenger hunt, finding structural adaptations that aren’t listed on the printable.

Create a Wild Thing & Environment

In groups encourage your students to create a new environment and design an original Wild Thing (Instructions below).

What You Need:

  • Poster board or butcher paper
  • Pencils, markers, crayons
  • Construction paper

What to do:

  • Groups make up an environment for their Wild Things. They must think about the biome their Wild Things live in. Then each group member designs one Wild Thing.
  • Environment Criteria: 3 landforms and 3 plants (plus a name for their new land). Each group designs their Wild Things environment on the poster board, including the criteria above. Then each group member designs a Wild Thing using construction paper to add to their poster board scene!
  • Wild Thing Criteria: 3 structural adaptations and 2 behavioral adaptations that would help the Wild Thing be well suited to live and thrive in the environment they create, plus a name for their Wild Thing. For example, should the Wild Thing have tentacles to crawl through the ocean? Maybe the Wild Thing should have wings to fly and catch prey? If the Wild Thing swings on trees, should it have long arms? Once their Wild Thing is designed they tape or glue it on their poster board.
  • Predator / Prey Criteria: Students think about what might be 1 predator and 1 prey within their Wild Thing’s ecosystem.
  • On a separate sheet of paper, have each student record the facts / information about the environment and Wild Thing he or she created.

Click here for a free printable: Wild Thing Adaptations Project