The Ant Bully Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
It all begins when Sid, the neighborhood bully, sprays a hose at Lucas, who wears funny glasses and a strange hat and is a bit weird. Unable to strike back, Lucas instead attacks the ants in his yard with his squirt gun. Even ants don’t like to be bullied, and they angrily stuff Lucas into their ant hole and take him before their Queen. She commands the Ant Wizard to shrink Lucas and puts him on trial. Lucas, now not much bigger than an ant himself, is declared guilty and sentenced to hard labor.
At last, the Queen agrees to free Lucas if he can bring her a Swell Jell from his home. Lucas almost succeeds until his father comes after him and his ant companions with a fly swatter. Lucas saves the ants’ lives and is rewarded by the Queen with his freedom and his normal size. The story ends with justice being served on Sid the bully!
Teaching the Book
Bullies of the world, beware! That’s the message of this imaginative and clever fantasy story about a bullied boy and the ants who teach him a lesson. John Nickle’s story provides the opportunity to model how to do a close reading to determine the theme of the book and how to choose strong and precise words. Activities engage students in generating questions and finding answers about real ants, performing a dramatic reading of the book, and creating a “Stop the Bully” poster.
Theme Focus: Bullies
Comprehension Focus: Determining Theme
Language Focus: Strong and Precise Words
Get Ready to Read
Stop the Bully
Introduce The Ant Bully by talking with students about bullies. First, share with them several video activities about bullying from the McGruff website. McGruff is a crime-fighting dog developed by the Department of Justice to teach students to create better communities by fighting crime—and bullying. Share activities with students to help them make choices about bullying in school situations by visiting the McGruff website. After playing the games, discuss with students what they learned about dealing with bullies.
Preview and Predict
Project the book cover on a whiteboard or screen. Ask students to read the title of the book and then the name of the author and illustrator. Ask them to study the cover illustration. What is happening in the picture? Why might the boy be using a squirt gun on the ants?
Strong and Precise Words
Ask students to watch for the vocabulary words as they read. How do these words describe things in a very strong and precise way? Have them use clues in the pictures and the text to figure out what the words mean. Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- stunned (p. 12)
- thundered (p. 13)
- defending (p. 16)
- pleaded (p. 21)
- flashed (p. 25)
- booming (p. 25)
- bellowed (p. 25)
- trickled (p. 30)
Words to Know
Explain that the author chooses verbs and other words to describe things in a strong and precise way. Model the example of thundered on page 13: “GUILTY!” thundered the judge.” Explain that the word thundered tells us that the judge spoke in a loud and scary voice. Then read aloud the following quotations from the book to students. Help them define the words and understand why they are strong and precise choices.
- Lucas was too stunned to respond. (p. 12)
- Defending the colony against wasps . . .(p. 16)
- “But I will need help,” Lucas pleaded. (p. 21)
- . . . bright lights flashed and a booming voice filled the room. (p. 25)
- “ANNNNTS!” Lucas’s father bellowed. (p. 25)
- The wizard trickled potion drops into Lucas’s ear until he slowly fell asleep. (p. 30)
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read the book aloud with fluency and expression. If possible, project the book on a whiteboard or screen. Ask students to look carefully at the illustrations as they listen, connecting what they hear in the story to what they see in the pictures.
Reread the book and ask students to read their copies at the same time. Cue them to read aloud certain words and phrases that you omit from your reading. If students are able, encourage them to read the text aloud with you.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read. Write the question on chart paper or the whiteboard. Do you think Lucas will ever be a bully again? Why or why not?
Help students learn how to use evidence in the text and illustrations to determine the theme of the book. Remind students that a theme is the message that an author wants to get across to readers. Project pages 4–5 on the whiteboard or screen and model for students how to do a close reading of the text and illustrations to determine the theme about bullying. Begin by rereading the text on page 4.
Model: The text tells me that some kids thought Lucas was weird, but Sid the bully was especially mean to him. Look at the picture of Sid . . .he looks just as mean as his dog! And Lucas is scared! I can tell he is scared from the look on his face. I think the author is showing us that bullying is a really ugly and mean thing to do.
Continue to discuss how the text and illustrations develop the theme by using the questions on Resource #2: Determine Theme while projecting the pages on the screen. Prompt students to think deeply about the author’s message to readers. After answering all the questions, ask students to write or discuss the theme of the book.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
What do you think McGruff the crimefighting dog would say to Lucas at the beginning of the book? What advice would he give him? (Sample answers: Stop. Talk. Walk. He would tell Lucas to respect himself and not bully the ants.)
2. Determine Theme
What lesson do you think the ants taught Lucas about bullying? (Sample answers: They taught him that bullying only creates bad feelings and more hurt. When Lucas helps them, they reward him with friendship and freedom.)
3. Strong and Precise Words
Look at the picture of Sid the bully on the last page. Use one of the vocabulary words to describe how he feels or what he says. (Sample answer: Sid the bully felt stunned to be so teeny. “Put me down!” Sid bellowed.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
What do you think Lucas should do with the tiny version of Sid the bully?
What kinds of help do people in your school or community give you to deal with bullies?
Compare the illustrations in this book with illustrations in other picture books. Do you like or dislike these illustrations? Why?
Content Area Connections
Two Bully Books
The Ant Bully presents a good opportunity for students to read two books on the same topic. For younger readers, you might choose Noodles: I Hate Bullies! by Hans Wilhelm. For older readers, consider reading The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill. Both books stay closer to reality than The Ant Bully and provide students experience with comparing realistic fiction and fantasy, as well as, comparing how different characters respond to bullying.
The Ants Go Marching One by One
Students will have fun learning the words to the traditional song, “The Ants Go Marching One by One . . .” Locate full lyrics at the Bus Songs website. For math and music fun, share the animated video of the ants marching one-by-one, two-by-two, and three-by-three from Grandparents Games which is posted on YouTube. Challenge students to form the lines of numbers like the ants in the video.
To practice fluency and oral expression, help students do a dramatic reading of the story. Choose one or several strong readers to read the narration (or read it yourself). Assign other students the dialogue of the different characters: the ant queen, the ant judge, Lucas, Speedy, Rene, and Lucas’s father. Have students rehearse their lines several times and then present their dramatic reading to the class and make an audio recording of it.
All About Ants
After reading The Ant Bully, students may wonder how much of the information they learned about ants is true and how much is fantasy. Is there really a queen in an ant colony? Does she sit on a pink throne? Challenge students to come up with a list of questions about ants. Then help them find answers in books or on science websites for kids. Students may also be interested in watching a video about ants such as the one from Tiny Grads posted on YouTube.
A Shrinking Fantasy
Being shrunk is a popular plot device in fantasy books and movies. Students can have fun with the idea by creating a fantasy story modeled after The Ant Bully. Depending on students’ abilities, you may want to have them work with partners or create the story through a mixture of recitation and writing. Get their imaginations started with the following writing prompt: You have been shrunk to the size of an ant! What happens when . . . ? Provide students with possible options: What happens when your cat comes in your room?
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student a turn to answer the big question. Encourage students to give examples from the story or their own lives to support their answers. Do you think Lucas will ever be a bully again? Why or why not?
“Stop the Bully” Poster
Encourage students to create a poster against bullying using ideas from either McGruff or The Ant Bully. Tell them that their poster should have the following elements:
- an attention-getting slogan or title
- a strong picture or illustration
- two or three sentences with tips or information
Distribute the Big Activity: “Stop the Bully” Poster printable. Have students think-pair-share with a partner to brainstorm ideas. When they have completed their posters, hang them on the classroom wall and invite students to discuss them as a class.
To assess and enhance students’ comprehension, this Storia e-book contains a Reading Challenge Quiz.
About the Author
John Nickle has illustrated several acclaimed children’s books including Alphabet Explosion, Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty, and Hans My Hedgehog. The Ant Bully was released as a major motion picture by Warner Bros. and Playtone in 2006. Nickle’s editorial illustrations have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Wall Street Journal.
John Nickle says he has faced many bullies in his lifetime, and writing and illustrating The Ant Bully gave him a way to finally get even. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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