Turtle vs Tortoise

The Mother Goose Time March storybook “Who am I?” brought up a great question: What is the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? I vaguely thought the distinguishing factor is habitat, with turtles in the water and tortoise exclusively land dwelling creatures. However, I never got around to actually confirming that information.

Fortunately, a few days later, Mother Goose Time answered it for us with a full day of lessons on the desert tortoise!

First, we made our own “pet tortoise.” Mother Goose Time included a cardboard bowl, paper, and lentils to create a tortoise. Both kids enjoyed decorating the cardboard bowl and found it endlessly funny to rest it on their heads!


My son carefully glued the legs, head, and lentils (for texture) to his decorated shell. During this craft, I couldn’t help but notice how careful he was with the glue and how much he utilized the same muscles needed for writing.

He named his pet tortoise “Rock.”

My daughter moved on from tortoise making to the Tortoise Shell Match game. She carefully cut the cards and enjoyed matching this month’s manipulatives, connecting cubes, to the color squares on the tortoise cards. Once my son joined her, we used the spinner  from a previous lesson to make it a game. Each child took turns spinning. If it landed on a color, they got to place a square on their tortoise card. However, a scorpion meant they lost a cube. We continued until everyone had filled their cards.

Next we looked at the Tortoise vs Turtle poster and cards. We examined the similarities and differences on the poster. Then we talked about each of the similarities and differences in our immediate family. My husband and I are an interracial couple and we have one biracial biological child and one transracial adopted child–did you follow that?? Don’t worry, we have friends that still get confused! We spend a lot of time discussion similarities and differences between us and others to help our children understand physical characteristics are part of us but do not define who we are. We used the turtle and tortoise cards to play a modified game of ‘go fish.’


We ended lesson time by reading the classic story “The Tortoise and the Hare.” When I read the title, my son excitedly recalled the story from our first month of lessons, back in August. Although we have periodically listened to the Folktale CD, I was still impressed. However, the best part of this particular adaptation was the first paragraph. “Once there was a hare that was always bragging about how he could run faster than anyone else. He was not a kind hare. He often teased the tortoise for his slowness.”

Over the last several months, my son has started bragging. Ironically, it is rarely even justified–randomly telling a 6 year old at the playground he can out run him/her, for example. My husband and I have talked to him repeatedly but it hasn’t seemed to change. As soon as I read the first sentence, he immediately identified with the hare and said “like me.” I nodded and finished the paragraph. Then we talked about how the tortoise perceived the hare and how boasting can have unintended side effects, even if we aren’t trying to hurt others. He was very attentive for the rest of the story and correctly answered the comprehension questions at the end of the story. I am praying the story illustrated what my husband and I have been trying to convey.

MGT Blog Ambassador


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