When his parents move to a new house, Gregory has to cope with a lot of new things. First, he has to share his room with his least-favorite family member, Uncle Max. Then, he has a hard time making friends at his new school. To cheer himself up, Gregory draws a garden on the walls of an abandoned chalk factory. Eventually, Gregory learns that the pictures he draws do more than make him feel better. They also help him get along with Uncle Max, his classmates, and a special new friend.
Before Reading the Book
At first, Gregory finds it difficult to make friends at his new school. Talk with your class about some of the ways that they could make a new student feel welcome. You might want to post questions like these: If you went to a new school, how could other students make it easier for you? Have any of you changed schools? If so, what did the teacher orstudents do to help you feel welcome?
Suggest that students each write a welcome letter to Gregory. In the letter, they might include information about the school and some of their favorite activities.
Flowers, Fruits, and Vegetables
Gregory gets excited about gardens when he meets Mr. Hiller from the nursery. You might want to arrange to take your students to a local nursery, where they can see a lot of different plants growing. If you live close to or in a rural area, you may want to visit a farm, where students can see plants such as corn or potatoes. If you have fruit farms nearby, you could take students to a local orchard, where they can see how apples, peaches, or cherries grow. If you live in a city, perhaps you can visit your local flower district or arrange for a florist to show your students how they work with flowers. Encourage students to draw pictures of all of the plants that you've seen on your trip.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
When Gregory sees Mr. Hiller's plants, he's inspired to draw a garden. Inspire your students by creating a classroom garden. Bring some vegetable plants and flowers to the classroom. Tell students about each of the plants and how they grow. Discuss with students which plants they would like to try to grow, and start a small windowsill garden in the classroom. Herbs such as basil might be a good choice if you have limited space. You might try growing wildflowers from seeds to decorate your classroom. You might also try growing sweet peas from seeds, like Ivy did.
Bring books into the class so that the students can learn how to take care of their garden. After students have taken some time to read about gardening, work with students to list all of the jobs that need to be done to take care of the plants in your classroom. Post the list of garden chores on the bulletin board, and work with students to make a schedule of who will do what when. Keep a large notebook next to the garden so that students can write and draw about the changes that they see.
Students might enjoy learning the song Inch by Inch by Arlo Guthrie. They can sing it as they care for their garden, and log its progress.
Clean Up Your Act
When Gregory starts playing in the burned building, he doesn't just scramble over the filth. He cleans it up! Pick a place such as an empty lot or a park where you have seen a lot of litter. Plan a day when you and your students can clean up the area. Talk with students about why it's important to keep places clean and how it can change the way you feel about a place
Gregory copes with many changes in his life. As a class, make a list of the challenges and changes Gregory faces. Then, have each student pick a problem, and write an advice letter to Gregory suggesting how he or she would handle the problem.
Drawing For Happiness
Gregory cheers himself up by drawing pictures for the walls. Encourage students to draw their own pictures that will cheer them up on a bad day. Then post these pictures around the room.
What I Like About You
Gregory feels alone at school because he's not sure the other students like him. Later he finds out that Ivy took special notice of him from the start. Explain to students that we can make each other feel better by giving compliments and by saying what we like about each other.
Write the names of all of the students in your class on the left side of a few sheets of paper, leaving a couple of spaces between each name. Make copies of these class lists for each student. Ask students to write what they like about each student next to his or her name. (For example, next to the name Marni, a student might write, "I like you because you are always cheerful.") Collect all of the lists from the students. Then, write each student's name at the top of a sheet of paper. Copy the nice things that the students have written about each student. Hand these lists back to the students so that they can feel good, just like Gregory.