Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7
Objective: Use illustrations to describe characters, setting, or events
What You Need: Several books by Mo Willems, such as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!; Pigeon Has Many Feelings! activity sheet; black and yellow colored pencils or crayons
What to Do: Focusing on a book series is a great way for students to see characters grow or change, as well as recognize recurring character traits.
Kristin Erickson Tripathy, a former elementary teacher and literacy coordinator in Minnesota who now works with the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz, California, likes to share author Mo Willems’s Pigeon series.
Tripathy begins by sharing books from the series like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! She reads aloud and encourages students to read them on their own.
Next, she hands out copies of the first two pages of her Pigeon Has Many Feelings! activity sheet, as well as colored pencils or crayons. To make a similar reproducible, simply take a sheet of drawing paper, title it “Pigeon Has Many Feelings!,” divide it into six boxes, and make a copy for each student. Then, on chart paper, write “Can you draw the pigeon feeling…?” and list words like silly, lazy, excited, and so on. Ask students to write a word in each box and illustrate that feeling. Share images of Pigeon’s feelings again, as reflected in the books, and set out copies of the books for students to review while they work.
“We talk about how we can infer the pigeon’s feelings by the pictures and word clues,” says Tripathy, who blogs at Authors as Heroes.
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.4
Objective: Understand the plot of a story by reenacting it
What You Need: Eric Carle: Picture Writer video; Internet access; books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Pancakes, Pancakes, and Little Cloud, by Eric Carle; sensory tub or table; rice; green food coloring; vinegar; lidded container; plush caterpillar toy; toy food items; paper and pencils
What to Do: Nikki Huckabay, a kindergarten teacher at Perkins–Tryon Elementary in Perkins, Oklahoma, creates a sensory experience to get students to reenact story plot lines and think critically about character.
Huckabay begins by sharing the video Eric Carle: Picture Writer. (Try also The Official Eric Carle site for photographs and short videos.) She explains that Carle not only writes the words for his books, he also draws the pictures. She then shares and reads several of Carle’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Little Cloud.
Next, Huckabay, who blogs at Snips, Snails & Kindergarten Tales, creates a sensory experience based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She fills a sensory tub with dyed green rice, a plush caterpillar, and toy food items like those shown in the book (apples, pears, etc.). To dye the rice, fill a container with one cup of rice, one teaspoon of vinegar, and green food coloring. Cover and shake until the rice is colored, and let it dry.
Huckabay then asks students to retell the story as they play. She has them record and keep track of everything the caterpillar eats, and she provides copies of the book at each table. (You can also transcribe students’ words as they work.) Finally, she has children share and compare what the caterpillar ate with classmates.
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.3
Objective: Listen to a story and recreate its main character
What You Need: Alice the Fairy, by David Shannon; white construction paper; colored pencils
What to Do: Kids look to pictures to help them fully form a story in their mind’s eye. What happens when the images are taken away and they use their imagination?
Mary Amoson, a Georgia teacher who blogs at Sharing Kindergarten, gets her students analyzing text and learning the importance of illustrations by hosting a picture-less read-aloud.
She begins by saying she will be reading Alice the Fairy but will not be showing the illustrations until later. She asks children to lay on the rug and close their eyes. While she reads, Amoson asks them to draw pictures of Alice in their minds, explaining they should use the words they hear as well as the images that pop up. After the read-aloud, she hands out paper and colored pencils and asks students to draw what they imagined Alice to look like. Amoson then rereads the book, this time showing them the illustrations: “This changes everything! We discover that Alice isn’t really a fairy at all,” says Amoson. “Alice is just a girl who plays pretend.” She then has students draw Alice again and share their work. Do their two images of Alice match?
Learn About Lionni
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.9
Objective: Compare and contrast the experiences of characters in two stories
What You Need: Pezzettino and A Color of His Own, by Leo Lionni; colored construction paper cut into 2-inch squares and 4-inch rectangles; glue sticks; white or brown butcher paper; white construction paper
What to Do: A good character can make the story—especially when kids can relate to him or her. That is why Shaunna Evans, who taught first grade in Orlando, Florida, focused on character when studying author-illustrator Leo Lionni.
Begin by reading Pezzettino and A Color of His Own. While reading the books aloud, ask students to pay close attention to the characters, as they will be thinking about how they’re alike and dissimilar later.
“Pezzettino, Italian for ‘little piece,’ is so small compared to everyone around him. He’s convinced he must be the missing piece of something else,” says Evans, who blogs at Fantastic Fun and Learning. “He finds out that he isn’t a piece of something else after all. He is himself!” The chameleon has a similar identity crisis, feeling he has no color of his own until he learns otherwise.
Evans encouraged students to think about the similarities and the differences between the two characters, and to talk about what it means to “be yourself.” She reshared pictures from the books, and then handed out paper squares and rectangles, glue sticks, and a sheet of white construction paper. “We talked about Pezzettino being all one color, while the other characters in the book were different colors. I asked students if they would make a creature that was all the same color or different colors and why they would do that. It was interesting to hear their responses,” Evans says. She then asked students to recreate Pezzettino or the chameleon, or to create a new character. If they are creating a new one, ask students how this character is similar to or different from Pezzettino or the chameleon.