As days are short and cold nights seem endless, what better way to add wintery fun to the classroom than Owl Moon? I wanted to replace our basal story with one that would engage students on these cold and dreary days while still covering essential skills, such as cause and effect and compare and contrast. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen was the perfect way to light up our learning. The text is difficult for beginning readers, but as an instructional text it is a compelling story even listeners could understand.
Students needed to learn all forms of verbs, and Owl Moon provided great experience. I retyped the words of the story and students were challenged to find all the verbs. At first glance, some of my less-experienced readers were a bit overwhelmed. I showed a film version of the book pages and paused each page, going back to the text, to help students identify which words were verbs. Because in the story the girl and father are walking and hunting, there were many opportunities for action words in a seemingly still and calm book.
Goal: Story Structure
I needed my students to continue with their understanding of story structure. I printed labels for them and we divided a large sheet of construction paper into eight sections. Students wrote down information in each section about the book, including the beginning, middle, climax, and conclusion along with their name, book review, characters, and setting. I had students illustrate in instances when their writing skills were not sufficient.
Goal: Teach Day and Night Skies
One of my science objectives is for students to observe and record the differences in the day and night skies with the naked eye. Studying day is easy enough, but often we send students home at night to remember to check the moon or try to draw on prior knowledge. With Owl Moon, students were able to visualize the night sky more readily. We could discuss the moon, when we see clouds at night, and how the moon changes in the sky. Students completed close reads about the day and night skies and made Venn diagrams of the things we see in each.
Goal: Comparing and Contrasting
Using both the knowledge from the day and night skies study, plus comparing and contrasting the winter described in the book with our very temperate Alabama winters gave students several opportunities to compare and contrast. As a class, we developed a list of how our nights and the Owl Moon nights were similar and different. (We don’t have snow, so the book had a magical quality to it as well.) Students then wrote several sentences on how our winters were the same and different from Owl Moon winters. We used a map to see where Massachusetts is, and discussed why there might be differences in our weather.
Goal: Use Our Five Senses
Students are quick to name the five senses, but using them is another matter. I wanted them to be able to pick out all the sensory things the author was using, even though they are a little young to incorporate it into their own writing just yet. It is important for students to make connections between what we learn in science as our senses, and what the author uses in their craft to bring stories to life. It is a rarely drawn connection, but a powerful one. Students listened to the story, watched the story, and had the text in front of them. They pulled different things that went with hearing, taste, touch, smell, and seeing. While some were trickier than others, we found something for each category when we shared.
Goal: Make the Hallway Look Cool
Ok, I know this isn’t a learning objective, but we do like a good hall display. Students are always excited to see their work when it is part of a bigger picture. We created little owls from small paper bags. We stuffed the bags with newspaper and then folded the top down in a point. Students traced and cut various circles for the eyes and added a snowy belly. Afterwards they were allowed to make another owl or animal bag to take home with any colors they wanted, which was a big hit.
We painted dark trees on blue paper and then made an owl with a thumbprint and fingerprint. Dabs of paint made the eyes while wings were drawn with marker. We sprayed the pictures with fake snow in a can, but later discovered that the snow will disappear when you run it through the laminating machine. Finally, we added a large moon in the sky. Our owls and work are on display around a large black tree on a dark sky background.
More Owl Moon Resources
Owl Moon is a classic tale, a family tradition come alive in the pages of a book, and an enchanting Caldecott winner. The time shared with my students and this story was calming and entrancing. Each student listened quietly as though they were on an owl hunt of their very own. They asked to read the story again and again, and isn’t that what you want from any lesson?