A Letter to Amy Teaching Plan
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
This lesson is adapted from Teaching With Favorite Ezra Jack Keats Books available from Scholastic Professional Books.
In A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats, Peter is inviting only one girl to his birthday party: his friend Amy. Rather than asking her in person, he decides to send her a special invitation—but a thunderstorm on the way to the mailbox sends Peter’s plans into a tailspin. Will Amy get the letter in time? And will she come to Peter’s party? This story’s themes of communication and friendship are sure to resonate with boys and girls alike.
Begin a discussion with children about letters and mail. Have children ever sent or received a letter? Ask:
- Would you rather get a letter in the mail from a special friend, or talk to them on the phone? How would you feel if you went home today and found a letter addressed to you in your mailbox?
- What kinds of things do people tell each other in letters? If you were to write a letter, who would you write to and what would you say?
Next, show children the cover of the book and read the title aloud. Invite children to make predictions about the story by asking:
- What do you think the letter to Amy is about? What might the boy want to say?
- What is the weather like? What do you think will happen to the letter?
Talk with children about the characters’ feelings throughout the story. Ask:
- Why do you think Peter wanted to send a special invitation to Amy?
- Why didn’t Peter want Amy to see the letter? How did Amy feel when he bumped into her and grabbed the letter?
- How did Peter feel when he finally saw Amy at his party?
Next, discuss the weather in the story and how it affected the characters and plot. Ask:
- Why did Peter have so much trouble mailing the letter? How do you think he felt on the way home from the mailbox? How do you feel on rainy days?
Invite children to talk about any birthday parties they may have had. Did they invite any friends? Did they send out invitations or ask their friends in person? Which way do children think is better, and why?
Rain in a Jar (Science)
Rain is an important element in A Letter to Amy. Children can find out how rain works by making their own rainfall.
- Gather several large, clear jars or bowls, sheets of plastic wrap, and several ice cubes. Fill each jar with hot water, supervising closely for safety. Help children cover the top tightly with plastic wrap. Put a few ice cubes on top.
- Encourage children to watch closely to see what will happen inside the jar. Soon they will see a “cloud” forming under the plastic and “raindrops” beginning to fall back into the water! This is because some of the hot water has evaporated and turned into water vapor. When the vapor hits the cold plastic, it condenses into drops which fall back into the water. Children have just witnessed the water cycle right in the classroom.
Watching the Wind (Science and Art)
In the story, a windy day caused Peter a lot of trouble. Children can have fun exploring the properties of wind with a project that combines art and science.
- To make wind socks, provide each child with half of an empty paper towel tube and colored tissue or crepe paper cut into 1/4-inch by 6-inch strips. First, let children decorate the outside of the tube with crayons, markers, or paints.
- Next, have children smear glue along the inner edge of one end of the tube. Then have them attach the ends of several tissue paper strips to the inside of the tube. (The strips should be placed close together and can even overlap a bit.)
- Help children punch three holes at equal points in the opposite end of the tube. Provide each child with two 6-inch lengths of yarn and one 12-inch length of yarn. Thread each piece of yarn through a hole and tie the ends in place. Then tie all three pieces together to complete the wind sock.
- You can begin your wind explorations indoors with an electric fan. Start by turning the fan on at its lowest setting. Let children take turns holding their wind socks in front of the fan (with the tails facing away from the fan). What happens to the tissue strips? Invite children to predict what will happen when the fan is turned higher, then try it to find out. (If you have an oscillating fan, you can also experiment with wind direction.)
- Invite children to use the wind socks outdoors on the next breezy day. Have them hold their sock by the long length of yarn and watch as the tail flies behind them like a kite. Children can also experiment by running at different speeds with their socks in hand. This is a colorful way to watch wind at work!
It’s Party Time! (Language Arts and Social Skills)
In the story, Peter’s mother helps him include the right information on his invitation to Amy. Why not help children practice invitation-writing by having your own celebration?
- Have a party for an upcoming birthday, a special event, or simply to celebrate friendship and sharing. You can invite another classroom to join you. Encourage children to tell what information they think is important to include in their announcements (they might like to look in the book for reference). Then help children create invitations that include the date, time, place, and theme of your party. Have children write the party information on the left and a child’s name and classroom number on the right. Children can draw party symbols such as hats and streamers on the front of the card. Help children deliver their completed invitations. On the day of the party, encourage children to thank their guests for coming to join in the fun.
Birthday Wish Graph (Math)
When it’s time for birthday cake, Peter’s friends suggest several wishes for him to make—but Peter makes his own wish before he blows the candles out. Revisit this part of the story and use it as a springboard for a fun graphing activity.
- Discuss the end of the story with children. What do they think Peter wished for? What kinds of wishes have they made on their own birthdays? Write children’s ideas on a sheet of chart paper.
- Create several “cakes” from large rectangles of tagboard and let children decorate. Create “candles” from strips of colored construction paper. Give each child a candle and have children label them with their names.
- Next, choose several wishes from the list children created earlier. Write each one on a large sticky note and attach the wishes to the cake shapes. Help children read each wish. They can attach their candle to the cake with their favorite wish using removable adhesive.
- When all the candles have been placed, help children count the candles on each cake and interpret the results. Which wish was the most popular? Which was the least popular? Try the activity again, using different wishes from the list.
Look through the book with children for words related to weather. Words they might find include: rain, clouds, lightning, thunder, and wind. Write these words on index cards and attach them to a bulletin board to begin a weather word wall. Invite children to suggest additional nouns and descriptive words for the wall, such as snow, storm, sunny, warm, cold, and so on. Encourage children to observe the weather each day and record it on your classroom calendar using a word from the wall. If children cannot find a word to match the day’s weather, it is time to add a new one to your collection!
Postcard to a Pal (Language Arts and Art)
Invite children to send messages to special friends by creating a post office right in the classroom.
- In advance, collect a shoebox for each child in the class. Invite children to decorate their shoebox with paints or collage materials, and help them cut a slit in the lid. Assign each child a different number and have children write their name and number on the box to create an “address.”
- Assign each child a secret “Postcard Pal.” Have children write the pal’s name and “address” and include a message. Children might like to write about what makes their pal a good friend. Then have them flip the postcard over and draw a picture of how they like to spend time with their pal.
- Encourage children to deliver their mail by matching the name and number on the postcard to the correct mailbox address. When all the postcards have been delivered, let children open their mailboxes to find their Postcard Pal’s message. You might like to keep a supply of postcards in your writing center so children can send one another messages throughout the year.
Variation: You can also try sending the postcards through the real postal service. Be sure to copy the postcards onto heavy paper for durability, and have children seal the front and back together well. Children can design and send postcards to friends, relatives, or even to family members at their own address—and then watch to see when it arrives! (Note that the postcard is not regulation size and therefore will require a letter-rate stamp.)
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