Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle – compare to other texts, use as a mentor text for writing

LOVE THIS NEW BOOK!!! So many possibilities for classroom instruction in grades 2-5.behold the beautiful dung beetle

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle by Cheryl Bardoe (2014) is so well written and I had no idea how important dung beetles are to our environment…right up there with earthworms!!!

The book starts by drawing the reader in with the gross factor – “Somewhere in the world right now an animal is lightening its load–in your backyard, on a nearby farm, in a forest, on a grassland far away.” The content of the text includes descriptions of the three types of dung beetles – dwellers, rollers, and tunnelers. After introducing each type of beetle, Bardoe introduces a sub-topic–how they store the dung, how they fight over the dung, how they use the dung to lay their eggs and provide nourishment for grubs and so forth. Really interesting, thorough, coherent, clear. The illustrations clearly support the content in the words.

Read aloud this book to students in 2nd-5th grade. I think it has value for all of these grades – in being read aloud maybe more than once and then asking students to have collaborative conversations around specific questions and compose a written response together or independently. What is the main topic/main idea of this text? Why are dung beetles important to our world? (Common Core Reading Informational Text Standard 2) What is the author’s purpose in writing this book? (RI.7) How does this illustration clarify what the author has written? (RI.6) What makes this text enjoyable to read? (RI.10) What are you learning that you didn’t know before? (RI.1)

Put this in your classroom library. Give a book talk, read the first couple of pages. Share some of the illustrations on the document camera (if you have one) and then leave in the classroom library for students to read independently (caution – in 2nd grade – they’d have to be reading above grade level).

Provide opportunities to read and contrast with additional texts. Read aloud this book and then another about earthworms or dung beetles or give both to a small group to read and contrast – in collaborative conversations and in written responses (RI.9).  For example, Earthworms by Claire Llewellyn addresses some of the same sub-topics – how the earthworms use the soil for sustenance, how when the earthworms digest the soil, this contributes to health of the soil and so forth.


OR you could have the students contrast the info in Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle with a website on dung beetles–there’s a free, short article at that would work.

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As a writing mentor text, I really like the way this book is organized –

  • The initial hook draws the reader in with the gross factor and a common fact.
  • Three categories of beetles are briefly introduced
  • There are subtopics as far as the dimensions of their lives- how the beetles collect their dung, collecting the dung, laying their eggs and so forth. But instead of writing about one type of beetle on all of these sub-topics–the author writes about all three for each sub-topic–comparing and contrasting as she goes. Does that make sense? This is just more savvy than a five paragraph essay (yuck)!!! Below is a brief outline. I think you could use each part as a mentor text or unpack organization with students to they could think about for their own research writing.
    1. hook
    2. short narrative about how quick the dung beetles arrive on a real life piece of dung and explanation of why dung is so important to them
    3. introduction to three types of dung beetles – dweller, tunneler, roller,
    4. competition (as it relates to all three types of beetles)
    5. mating and stashing the eggs
    6. growth of grubs and hatching of young adults (author does not differentiate between three for this last sub-topic)
    7. close – with anecdote about why Ancient Egyptians worshiped the dung beetles
  • Each section is so well written – you could just use one paragraph to think about how to describe or explain a topic in the students’ writing.

Okay…hope this helps.


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