Activities for all ages, CCSS-ready lesson plans, and more.
When Frogs Fly
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5; CCRA.W.5
What You Need: Tuesday, by David Wiesner
What They’ll Learn: Action words, shades of meaning
What to Do: In Tuesday, an action-packed comedy without words, thousands of frogs rise into the air and create mayhem overnight in a sleepy village. Explore this tale as a class, drawing students’ attention to the actions and movements shown in each illustration. Point out that the frogs fly through the air and hit many objects, but that fly and hit aren’t very interesting or specific words. Ask your students if they can think of more descriptive action words that tell exactly how the frogs move. For example, instead of fly, students might say the frogs float, zoom, or hurtle through the sky. Instead of hit, they might say the frogs tangle, crash, or collide. Write the words kids suggest on the board, pointing out that each has a slightly different shade of meaning. Next, have students write a new ending to the book, beginning at the point where the frogs fly. After they have drafted their endings, have them use a children’s thesaurus to replace repeated or ordinary action words with more specific verbs. Remind them to choose the word with the exact shade of meaning intended.
A Journey Between Pictures
Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1; CCRA.W.3
What You Need: The Red Book, by Barbara Lehman
What They’ll Learn: Setting, inference
What to Do: The Red Book illustrates the power of stories to bring together people from faraway places. In the tale, a girl finds a magical book on the ground that depicts a boy in a distant land—who finds a similar book featuring the girl herself. As the characters turn pages, their books’ illustrations change to reflect their journeys to meet each other. Tell students that because this book has no words, it is very important to pay attention to details in the pictures—especially the setting. As you page through, ask questions like: Where does the girl live? What is the weather like where she lives? Where does the boy live? What place does he see in his book? Explain that students must make guesses—called inferences—about what is happening in each scene. Ask questions that encourage students to make inferences, such as Who does the boy see in his book? What details make you think he is seeing the girl who has the other book? What special power do you think the pages of these books have?
Stop and close the book at the part where the girl buys balloons and starts rising into the air. Tell students they will use clues they have read so far to infer what the ending of this story will be. Then, tell students they will create a drawing to portray what might happen, including many details that show the setting, and have them write their ending in words. Finally, finish paging through the story, comparing the author’s ending to the ones students have written.
What’s Left Unsaid
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3
What You Need: Unspoken: A Story From the Underground, by Henry Cole
What They’ll Learn: Voice
What to Do: In this wordless book about the Underground Railroad, vivid pencil drawings bring to life the story of a young girl who secretly helps a runaway slave to hide on her family’s farm. At the end of the book, author Henry Cole asks readers to fill in “all that has been unspoken.” Students will practice the writing trait voice by adding thoughts and feelings to this tale of ordinary courage.
Before “reading” the book with students, provide background about the Underground Railroad and the plight of runaway slaves during the Civil War. (Some material can be found in the Author’s Note.) Then, as you go through the story, ask students to identify clues to what the girl is feeling. You might ask: What do her facial expressions show? How can you tell she is behaving in secret? Why does she smile when she brings food? Next, have each student write a diary entry from the girl’s point of view, describing her experiences during the events pictured in the book; they should add voice by including her thoughts and feelings. Prompt them by asking: Does she feel scared? Does she wonder who the man is? Is she concerned they will both get caught? Encourage students to include details about the mood, or atmosphere, as well. Ask: Is the sky dark? Is the air still and quiet? Is it damp and eerie inside the barn? Wrap up by having children share excerpts from their diaries with the class. Record strong examples of voice on the board, discussing how each example brings the girl’s experiences to life. As an extension, you can photocopy the pages and have small groups provide text for the entire book.
Words That Tell Where
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
What You Need: Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? by Stephen Savage
What They’ll Learn: Prepositions
What to Do: Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? follows the escapades of two zoo animals who put on comical disguises to “blend in” with the city around them. As you turn the pages, have students describe where each character is hiding. Next, review that a preposition is a type of word or phrase that can answer the question “Where?” List examples of prepositions, such as over, under, next to, beside, above, and below. Display two sentences containing prepositional phrases that tell where each character is hiding in an illustration. For example, Walrus is inside the newsstand. Penguin is next to the newsstand. Underline the phrases inside the newsstand and next to the newsstand. Point out that each prepositional phrase tells where a character is. Ask students to identify the preposition in each phrase (inside, next to) as you circle it. Invite them to suggest additional sentences containing prepositional phrases to describe other places Walrus and Penguin hide. Write each sentence on the board. Next, have students invent their own creative hiding places for Walrus and Penguin. Have them draw each scene, adding sentences with prepositional phrases describing where Walrus and Penguin are hiding. Display completed drawings and sentences.
Seeing Earth From Afar
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
What You Need: Looking Down, by Steve Jenkins
What They’ll Learn: Figurative language
What to Do: Looking Down shows us our place in the universe—in 15 pictures. Beginning in outer space, paper cutouts take readers closer and closer to Earth, revealing continents, then cities, then neighborhoods, and, finally, a tiny ladybug.
Before looking through the book, review similes and metaphors. Then, as you progress through the images, point out that Earth resembles different things from different viewpoints. Ask students to suggest similes and metaphors to describe what they see in each picture. For example, Earth from very far away is “a tiny blue pearl,” but a closer look reveals clouds “as fluffy as cotton candy” and cars “crawling like ants.” Have students write their own simile or metaphor to go with each illustration. Remind them they can compare the size, color, or texture of what they see with other familiar objects. Use questions to guide them, such as What does the color of the ocean remind you of? What does the texture of the land remind you of? What do the tiny houses remind you of? Lastly, have them share the figurative language they invented to describe each drawing.
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