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Do All Turtles Have Hard Shells? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

Do all turtles have hard shells?  No, they don’t. Some have “soft” shells.

A Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) swimming near the surface of a body of freshwaterPictured here is a Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox), native to the southeastern United States. This large turtle has a flat, pancake-like body, webbed feet, and a long neck which ends in a long head with a long nose. I looked across the lagoon to see several heads, but just the eyes and snouts above water.

In my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle, I describe turtles and tortoises having scutes, the individual panels of their hard shells. However, the softshell turtle’s carapace (the top shell) is cartilaginous, covered with a leathery skin. This the largest softshell turtle found in Florida, but more interestingly is that the females are often three-to-five times larger than the males!

Softshells spend most of their time in the water and can be found in freshwater and brackish environments, but they don’t like fast-moving water. They also enjoy burying themselves in the muddy substrate. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as sinking one’s self into mud.

Even though they are omnivores, these turtles are significant predators in their ecosystems, feeding primarily on meat. The lagoon where I enjoy viewing the softshell turtles also has alligators. So, when ducklings were being eaten, the gators were blamed, of course. Usually softshell turtles eat small aquatic animals and insects, but now and then, ducks are on their menu. It’s not always the gators!

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

Don’t Call Me Turtle is a fun children’s book written in rhyme that tells the differences between turtles and tortoises–and there are LOTS of differences!

For those parents, teachers and tutors using educational supplements, Lyric Power Publishing offers high quality workbooks on turtles and tortoises, for lower and upper grades.

A light blue book cover with images of freshwater turtle and green sea turtlea green book cover with an image of freshwater turtlesa white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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How to Teach a 10-15 Minute Lesson by Marilyn Buehrer, Teacher

Daily lessons for children, especially very young children, should be limited to 10-15 minutes each. Attention span plays a big role in this, as does interest level. To teach a short, but powerful lesson, begin with introducing the day’s lesson. What do you want your child/ren to learn?

First, choose a topic: Tell your student/s what they’re going to be able to accomplish by the end of the lesson. For example, Correctly label the parts of a turtle.

A black and white illustration of a freshwater turtle with its body parts labeled
From the 24-page workbook My Book About Freshwater Turtles

Tell: “In this lesson, I want you to cut out the names of the parts of a freshwater turtle and correctly paste them in the spaces on the page with a picture of a turtle.”

Model: Show them a perfect example of the finished product, one you’ve done yourself. Give them time to study your model.

Ask: “What do I want you to do?” or ask them to finish this question: “I want you to do what?” Don’t simply ask if they understand. Kids will just say yes because they know that’s what you want them to say.

A black and white illustration of a freshwater turtle, with arrows pointing to the turtle body parts

From the 24-page workbook My Book About Freshwater Turtles

Engage: Give them the worksheet, scissors, and glue stick. Older students may want to help them, but the older kids usually end up doing the project for the younger ones to help the little ones feel successful. In reality, this does just the opposite for the younger child, so give a different task to the older students while younger kids complete the assignment you gave them.

Check for understanding: Ask your child/ren to explain, in their own words, what they did. Ask them to point to and read the parts of a turtle aloud to you. After this, let them color in the picture of the turtle.

Marilyn Buehrer is a teacher and creator of Lyric Power Publishing’s comprehensive, fun, and engaging workbooks that bridge the summer gap between school years, stave off the overuse of electronics, and fill in those bored hours on the weekends.