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February 1, 2018

Spotlight on Mo Willems: An Author Study and Activities

By Shari Carter
Grades PreK–K, 1–2

    I wanted to do an author study with my kindergarten class and chose Mo Willems. As the writer of over 40 books, he offers plenty of titles to choose from. But the big draw for me are the many wonderful and beloved characters Willems has created — every one of your students is bound to find one he or she connects with.

    Following are some of the most popular Mo Willems titles, together with activities to reinforce the stories. I hope you enjoy them as much as my students (and I) did!

    Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

    The Pigeon book series just might be my students’ favorite of the Willems collection! They love how Pigeon looks directly at them, pleading for their sympathy and help. In Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, the author puts the children (readers) in charge, right at the beginning of the story. It’s almost as if the characters in the story are talking to you! It’s really fun when the kids discover this text feature, and let me tell you — they always do!

    After reading the book to my class, I taught my kids how to draw a pigeon during a directed drawing lesson. Directed drawing lessons are a great way to encourage listening and following directions, strengthen those little hands to improve fine motor skills, and most of all — their drawings always turn out so cute and make wonderful take-home items for parents!

    As this was their first time using chalk pastels, a little extra instruction had to be given before starting. Teacher tip: Remind the children to shade in lightly (they seem to always color with such force), and blow off excess chalk before rubbing and blending the colors into their papers. Each child was given a tissue to use for the blending. The end results made a beautiful bulletin board for all to see and enjoy.  

    Remember to put names on the children’s artwork. When parents come to school to volunteer, they will easily see what their child made in school. It takes a little bit of extra time to do this, but I am confident the parent reaction is worth it.

    Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

    We had a great debate after reading Don't Let the Let Pigeon Stay Up Late!. I asked my kids if they thought Pigeon should or should not stay up late, and got many enthusiastic responses. This gave me the idea to collect and analyze the data and charting their answers.

    I had the students draw small pigeons on blue paper, which I cut out. They then took turns putting up their artwork in the "yes" or "no" category on the chart. The students were totally engaged in the activity, and because our results were so close, it made the process even more exciting! After all the pigeons were up, we took the opportunity to count all the yes and no votes to the "staying up late" question. After counting, we discussed the concepts of greater than and less than.

    Please feel free to use materials I created for this chart!

    Pigeon Presents

    When prepping for our author study, I came across a wonderful resource! It’s called Pigeon Presents, and has all kinds of activities both you and your students will love! Whether you are looking for games, newly released books by Willems, or ready-to-draw videos — it’s all in there, and so much more!  

    Knuffle Bunny

    All children have a special something, and losing it would be devastating. When Trixie lost Knuffle Bunny at the laundromat, my students had so much empathy for how she was feeling. Text that children can relate and connect to have a natural tendency to draw them right in — and this book does just that. Cartoon character drawings set against black and white photographs of New York City have a such a unique quality and lend themselves perfectly to discussions of setting.

    After reading Knuffle Bunny, we talked about and shared some of our most special belongings. I gave my students the opportunity to help set the stage for their writing assignment, and it was nice to learn more about what things are important in my students’ lives. I learned that American Girl dolls, Barbie vans, and Spiderman and Tinker Toys, are among some of my kindergartners' most treasured items. If you would like to do this with your students, please feel free to use my Knuffle Bunny writing paper.  

    Paint Your Own Knuffle Bunny

    It’s a good day in kindergarten when we get to paint! Teacher tip: I would highly recommend painting in stages. We first drew the bunny with pencils and then traced over the lines with a permanent marker. From there, we painted the Knuffle Bunny with a very light green tempera paint. When the paint was dry, we added the blue to the ears, arms, and legs. We also painted two white circles for the eyes. Again, we let the paint dry. Finally, we added little black circles to the eyes, a nose, and a mouth. They were beyond cute, and what I think I loved most about them was the uniqueness of each bunny — much like the uniqueness of each of the artists!  

    Author’s Craft

    The text features in Willems’s books are just begging to be noticed. The ones my kids pay close attention to are motion lines, speech bubbles, and words throughout the story that are written in all capital letters. The students caught on quickly to changing voice levels when they came across words written in all capital letters. The use of speech bubbles in this collection has also helped to deepen my students’ understanding of character. They are always paying such close attention to what character is doing the speaking.  

    I am always searching for new ways to engage my students in reading and writing. Willems has a wonderful understanding of kids, and his books actively engage my students as we read. Teaching craft and structure can take storytime up a notch or two!

    After a week-long author study, I wanted to do a little checking for understanding. We reviewed some of the features we found, and when I asked my kids to tell me about each feature, almost every hand went up. This anchor chart served as an informal assessment, and will stay up in our classroom for my students to reference in the future.

    Meet Mo Willems

    A few years ago, I started using Let’s Find Out and it has completely changed my classroom. I LOVE the magazine and I can’t imagine not having this resource to share with my students. Let’s Find Out is a highlight in our week and my kids always look forward to reading their new magazine. The Meet Mo Willems edition was a perfect accompaniment to our author study. To get your own weekly subscription, just visit the Let's Find Out web page. But to enjoy the activities and resources used in this blog post, for a limited time you can access the Meet Mo Willems edition right here.   

    Scholastic Resources

    Many of my books I got from Scholastic Book Club, using my bonus points. Here are a few of my very favorite Willems books:

    Here's hoping you and your students have fun spotlighting an author in your classroom. I sure hope you can use some of these activities and that you always remember, when you love what you teach, your students will love what they learn!

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for following my blog, and here’s to AWESOME authors that make learning so enjoyable!

    xo-Shari

    I wanted to do an author study with my kindergarten class and chose Mo Willems. As the writer of over 40 books, he offers plenty of titles to choose from. But the big draw for me are the many wonderful and beloved characters Willems has created — every one of your students is bound to find one he or she connects with.

    Following are some of the most popular Mo Willems titles, together with activities to reinforce the stories. I hope you enjoy them as much as my students (and I) did!

    Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

    The Pigeon book series just might be my students’ favorite of the Willems collection! They love how Pigeon looks directly at them, pleading for their sympathy and help. In Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, the author puts the children (readers) in charge, right at the beginning of the story. It’s almost as if the characters in the story are talking to you! It’s really fun when the kids discover this text feature, and let me tell you — they always do!

    After reading the book to my class, I taught my kids how to draw a pigeon during a directed drawing lesson. Directed drawing lessons are a great way to encourage listening and following directions, strengthen those little hands to improve fine motor skills, and most of all — their drawings always turn out so cute and make wonderful take-home items for parents!

    As this was their first time using chalk pastels, a little extra instruction had to be given before starting. Teacher tip: Remind the children to shade in lightly (they seem to always color with such force), and blow off excess chalk before rubbing and blending the colors into their papers. Each child was given a tissue to use for the blending. The end results made a beautiful bulletin board for all to see and enjoy.  

    Remember to put names on the children’s artwork. When parents come to school to volunteer, they will easily see what their child made in school. It takes a little bit of extra time to do this, but I am confident the parent reaction is worth it.

    Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

    We had a great debate after reading Don't Let the Let Pigeon Stay Up Late!. I asked my kids if they thought Pigeon should or should not stay up late, and got many enthusiastic responses. This gave me the idea to collect and analyze the data and charting their answers.

    I had the students draw small pigeons on blue paper, which I cut out. They then took turns putting up their artwork in the "yes" or "no" category on the chart. The students were totally engaged in the activity, and because our results were so close, it made the process even more exciting! After all the pigeons were up, we took the opportunity to count all the yes and no votes to the "staying up late" question. After counting, we discussed the concepts of greater than and less than.

    Please feel free to use materials I created for this chart!

    Pigeon Presents

    When prepping for our author study, I came across a wonderful resource! It’s called Pigeon Presents, and has all kinds of activities both you and your students will love! Whether you are looking for games, newly released books by Willems, or ready-to-draw videos — it’s all in there, and so much more!  

    Knuffle Bunny

    All children have a special something, and losing it would be devastating. When Trixie lost Knuffle Bunny at the laundromat, my students had so much empathy for how she was feeling. Text that children can relate and connect to have a natural tendency to draw them right in — and this book does just that. Cartoon character drawings set against black and white photographs of New York City have a such a unique quality and lend themselves perfectly to discussions of setting.

    After reading Knuffle Bunny, we talked about and shared some of our most special belongings. I gave my students the opportunity to help set the stage for their writing assignment, and it was nice to learn more about what things are important in my students’ lives. I learned that American Girl dolls, Barbie vans, and Spiderman and Tinker Toys, are among some of my kindergartners' most treasured items. If you would like to do this with your students, please feel free to use my Knuffle Bunny writing paper.  

    Paint Your Own Knuffle Bunny

    It’s a good day in kindergarten when we get to paint! Teacher tip: I would highly recommend painting in stages. We first drew the bunny with pencils and then traced over the lines with a permanent marker. From there, we painted the Knuffle Bunny with a very light green tempera paint. When the paint was dry, we added the blue to the ears, arms, and legs. We also painted two white circles for the eyes. Again, we let the paint dry. Finally, we added little black circles to the eyes, a nose, and a mouth. They were beyond cute, and what I think I loved most about them was the uniqueness of each bunny — much like the uniqueness of each of the artists!  

    Author’s Craft

    The text features in Willems’s books are just begging to be noticed. The ones my kids pay close attention to are motion lines, speech bubbles, and words throughout the story that are written in all capital letters. The students caught on quickly to changing voice levels when they came across words written in all capital letters. The use of speech bubbles in this collection has also helped to deepen my students’ understanding of character. They are always paying such close attention to what character is doing the speaking.  

    I am always searching for new ways to engage my students in reading and writing. Willems has a wonderful understanding of kids, and his books actively engage my students as we read. Teaching craft and structure can take storytime up a notch or two!

    After a week-long author study, I wanted to do a little checking for understanding. We reviewed some of the features we found, and when I asked my kids to tell me about each feature, almost every hand went up. This anchor chart served as an informal assessment, and will stay up in our classroom for my students to reference in the future.

    Meet Mo Willems

    A few years ago, I started using Let’s Find Out and it has completely changed my classroom. I LOVE the magazine and I can’t imagine not having this resource to share with my students. Let’s Find Out is a highlight in our week and my kids always look forward to reading their new magazine. The Meet Mo Willems edition was a perfect accompaniment to our author study. To get your own weekly subscription, just visit the Let's Find Out web page. But to enjoy the activities and resources used in this blog post, for a limited time you can access the Meet Mo Willems edition right here.   

    Scholastic Resources

    Many of my books I got from Scholastic Book Club, using my bonus points. Here are a few of my very favorite Willems books:

    Here's hoping you and your students have fun spotlighting an author in your classroom. I sure hope you can use some of these activities and that you always remember, when you love what you teach, your students will love what they learn!

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for following my blog, and here’s to AWESOME authors that make learning so enjoyable!

    xo-Shari

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