Teacher Resource

Life as a Lizard Unit and Role Playing Game: Part 3

Craig Ivanyi

Lesson 3.1 is necessary to prepare for the Life as a Lizard Game, and in lesson 3.3 you will play the game! Learning Materials are available from links in the Support Materials section at the bottom of this page.

Lesson 3.1 Preparing the Props: Making Tails and Other Items

Learning Resource Information

Lesson Steps:

  1. Tails: Making tails is important to the game. Each lizard species gets a flag or “pass” that is meant to represent a tail. This could be attached to species card, or Velcro-ed to the student, or on a necklace. The shape it takes is up to you. More Ideas for tails: Pipe cleaners, cards with pictures on them (they can attach it to a necklace or hold it in a pocket), scarves. Students should make the tails and the class can decide as a whole what to use for tails. The tail is the student’s get out of jail free card. See the Game Instructions for additional explanation.
  2. Camouflage: Obtain pennies to use for camouflage and explain what they will be used for. Some of the lizard species use camouflage to hide from predators. The species cards indicate which lizards use this method of escape. In nature, camouflage does not always work. To demonstrate this, each student playing a lizard species that uses camouflage is given a coin. If a predator species tags a lizard species with a coin, the lizard species gets to call heads or tails and then flips the coin. If the coin lands on the side they called, then it is assumed that the camouflage tactic was successful and the lizard can remain on the scene. If the coin lands on the side not called, then it is assumed that the camouflage did not work and the predator can leave the scene with their meal. Ask students to determine who uses camouflage and mark this on their lizard lists:
    • Gila Monster - Heloderma suspectum
    • Regal Horned Lizard- Phrynosoma solare
    • Desert Iguana - Dipsosaurus dorsalis
    • Ornate Tree Lizard - Urosaurus ornatus
    • Common Side-blotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana
    • Western Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus
  3. Make or obtain additional props. Students should make or bring in the following props. If you are going to play outside you may not need to make some of these props.
    • Paper flowers – construction paper in flower shape can be taped to the trees
    • Tree bark – construction paper in a shield-like form
    • Eggs– the Gila monster eats eggs so you will need to put some in a burrow for them to find. You can use balls of string, plastic eggs, balls, marbles, etc, or have the kids make something that represents an egg to them.
    • Check "Setting up the physical space" in lesson 3.3 to see if there is anything else you will need for preparing the space where you will play the game.
    • Come up with some additional props on your own.

Lesson 3.2 Create Lizzie Awards

Learning Resource Information

To prepare: Optional: Print out Lizzie Award sheets

Lesson Steps:

  1. If the class has not already done so, have students create a chart with each type of lizard on the left side and the topic "behavior" on the top. Go over the behaviors of these lizards and have students fill out the chart.
  2. Assign students a secret recipient for a Lizzie (an award given for best performance of a specific lizard behavior). For example an award can be for best lizard camouflage, or best lizard push-ups.
  3. Students create Lizzies and they should be collected to give out after the game is played.

Lesson 3.3 Preparing the Physical Space and Playing the Game!

Learning Resource Information

Lesson Steps:

  1. Preparing the physical space: The game requires the creation of some special (though easily created) spaces in the classroom or outdoors. The class can help move furniture around and decide where things should go. This gives the students more of an investment in the outcome of the activity. This activity can be done in a classroom or outside. In either case, the play area is divided into habitats and microhabitats, including two large rocks, two small rocks, a rock crevice, two trees, and burrows. Here is an example of how a set-up for a classroom might look:
    • Large rocks: push several desks together in any configuration that works for the room. Each group of desks becomes a large rock. Use as many desks as it takes to fit 4-6 students. You could also use a low shelf if it is sturdy.
    • Rock Crevice: one of the desks used in the large rock should be set slightly askew, leaving a small space that will serve as a rock crevice. This space should be big enough to fit two children.
    • Small rocks: push a couple desks together or use a small table. These areas should fit two students each.
    • Mesquite tree and creosote bush: the first could be two chairs side by side and the second could be the teacher’s desk. Students will love the idea of being allowed to climb on the teacher’s desk. If this is not feasible put two more chairs side by side in another area of the room to serve as the other tree.
    • Burrows: the burrows are automatically made when you put the desks together. The area under each rock area (student desks) becomes the burrows. There should be four burrow areas.
    • Open areas: leave as much space open as possible around each resource. A lot of activity will occur in these open areas.
  2. Playing the Game: First print out the "Life as a Lizard Game Instructions (see learning materials list below)." In this activity each individual takes on the identity of a lizard species, a lizard predator, or a lizard prey.  Each player receives or has received (lesson 2.1) cast card with information regarding the species (lizard, predator or prey) that they are to act out. The goal is to use the information on the card to act out a full day in the life of their lizard. There are no winners or losers only the successful completion of a day as a lizard. Make sure that you have the space set up and all of the props and cast cards are distributed:
    • Those playing lizards receive a species card and a tail.
    • Species that use camouflage receive a coin:
      • Gila Monster - Heloderma susprctum
      • Regal Horned Lizard- Phyrnosoma solare
      • Desert Iguana - Dipsosaurus dorsalis
      • Ornate Tree Lizard - Urosaurus ornatus
      • Common Side-blotched Lizard - Uta stansburiana
      • Western Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus
      • The cast cards are for students to read or review before they play.
    • The action cards are for the teacher to read out loud to the class during the game. They give the order of events that are read out loud to the class (in black) and the possibilities of outcomes which tells the teacher what should be happening (in red). The students respond to the action read according to the information on their species cards. Students are NOT to to see the action card before the game.

Support Materials

Return to the Life as a Lizard Unit Home Page

Learning Information

Education Standards

National Education Standards

View standards

About This Page

Collection: Arizona Partners in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation, AZ PARC.

Additional Authors and AZ PARC Education Working Group Members: Cori Dolan, Lisa Schwartz, Kat Wilson, Cristina Jones, Dave Prival, Dennis Caldwell and Taylor Edwards. Special thanks to the teachers who piloted the lessons and gave invaluable feedback: Kristen Trejos, Angela Bonine and Karen Bradley.

Craig Ivanyi
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Lisa Schwartz at

All Rights Reserved.

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