by Mary Lou Meerson
To focus attention and activate prior knowledge, ask students to list
the animals they have seen or handled. Then have them demonstrate how
each one moves. Help students find an action word that describes this
Read the book aloud and give students lots of time to anticipate and
enjoy the illustrations.
After reading the book, choose several activities from those listed below
to support and enhance your curriculum. Many of the activities call for
these students to re-visit the text.
FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN
- Take one or more of the action verbs from the book and have the children
show how they use this verb in their own lives. For example, if they
choose the verb "build", they might construct something from
blocks, Legos or sand. If they choose the verb "slide", they
could slide down the playground slide. In cold weather they could slide
on snow or ice.
- Look again at the page about beavers. Have students build a beaver
dam from Legos, clay or sticks. Ask them to show how the beavers live
and protect themselves.
- Look again at the page about "Touch". Explain that touch
is only one of the ways that all animals, including humans, exchange
information and interact with the world. Name all five senses. Explain
that in both humans and animals, touch can be used to show affection
or to show aggression. In pairs, have students touch each other on the
arm gently and then a bit harder. This might be a good time to discuss
playground behavior in which a misunderstanding about the force of a
"touch" can lead to fights.
- Look again at the "Flamingo" page. Read aloud the paragraph
at the end of the book. Focus on the section which explains why flamingos
are pink. To illustrate the principle of coloration, place several white
cut flowers into vases of various colored water. The students will observe
the petals tinged with color.
- Look again at the page for "Leopard", and read aloud the
associated paragraph at the end of the book. Discuss the term "camouflage".
Perhaps you or someone in class has military camouflage pants or shirt.
Demonstrate how this is difficult to see in a forest setting. Have students
make a list of other animals whose coloring or markings make them difficult
to see in their natural habitats. Some examples are moray eels, tigers,
many kinds of snakes, etc.
- Also after "Leopard", discuss why leopards, lions, tigers
and other large animals are called Big Cats. Bring a house cat to class
and have the students observe the similarities to the larger animals.
- Look again at the page for "Peck". Have students go outdoors
and observe a tree closely for any insects that they see on the outer
bark. Have them name or draw pictures of the insects. Then you (or any
adult) can carefully cut a small piece of bark away and have the children
look to see if any insects live under the bark.
- Look again at the "Elephant" page. Read or tell the old
story of "The Three Blind Men and the Elephant". Other elephant
books include Dr. Seuss' Horton Hatches the Egg and Disney's
- Look again at the "Penguin" page. Read aloud Mr. Popper's
Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater or The Penguin's Tale
by Audrey Woods.
- Look again at the "Snake" page. Read aloud Verdi
by Janell Cannon or Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling.
- Look again at the "Swing" page. Set up some relay races
on the playground climbing bars (monkey bars). Station adults or upper
grade children below the bars as "catchers" to guard against
- Look again at the ''Slither" page. Collect several old pillowcases
and cut a hole in the closed top, Set up a relay snake race. The first
child on each team must put their head through the cut-out hole and
team members pull the case down so that the child cannot use his/her
hands or arms. The child lies down on the floor and tries to "slither"
for a set distance. The pillowcase is passed to the next child who repeats
the process. Children experience an enhanced appreciation for the agility
of snakes when they see how difficult it is to maintain forward motion
with no arms or hands.
- Look again at the "Ape" page. Explain that the word ape
has come to mean imitate. Set students up in pairs facing each other.
One person is "it" and pantomimes a series of movements. The
other person tries to copy the movements quickly, as if they were a
- Look again at the "Reach" page. Arrange a chalkboard or
a large piece of poster paper just above head height of your students.
Give each child (one at a time) a piece of chalk or an ink marker. Have
them make a mark at the highest point that they can reach. Label each
mark with the child's name or initials. You may wish to label the display
"Room Reaches High". You can use this chart to compose math
- Look again at the "Hide" page. Have students draw a picture
in which an animal or object is hidden, Have them exchange pictures
and try to discover the hidden object in their partner's picture.
- Have students try using Suse MacDonald's "part to whole"
style of drawing. For younger children it will probably be easier for
them to begin with the "whole" picture. Then they can choose
a part to enlarge. They can use either animals or objects.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN
- Have students create strings of synonyms and antonyms for each action
verb in the book.
- Ask students to write a short story on a topic of their choosing.
Use as many of the action words from the book as makes sense.
- Have the students play a game in which they take words from the book
and try to see how many "little' words they can make of each.
- Ask each student choose an animal and create a poster report. Each
poster should include a picture or drawing of the entire animal and
a smaller "close-up" of an unusual feature. Print sections
should include information on habitat, food and behavior. Students can
present their reports orally and make a great "Open House"
- Look again at the "Leopard" page. Have students make a Venn
Diagram comparing leopards or other big cats to the domestic house cat.
- Look again at the "Peck" page. Have each student "Adopt
A Tree" for an extended period. This can be all year, but should
be at least three months. Students shall keep a journal about 'their"
tree. They should make formal observations at least once per week. They
should note any animal or insect life and what the tree itself looks
like as the seasons change. At the end of the journal they should observe
the surroundings. Can the tree get enough sun and water? Is it being
crowded by undergrowth, vines or humans? They should make a prediction
as to whether or not they think their tree will still be standing in
Challenge them to come back and see.
- Go on a bird walk/sketching trip. Have students draw and identify
the birds they see. Contact your Extension Office or a nearby University
to inquire about other birds in other seasons. Find out what trees or
bushes are favored by the birds in your area. Plant some!
- Use the Internet and the Library to find out if any of the animals
in this book are endangered species. Find out what is being done to
- Hold a debate on whether animals should be placed in zoos or left
in the wild. Do research on your opinions!
- Have students experiment with drawing in various perspectives. Have
them draw the same animal or object as it looks when it's near and when
it's far away. Then as it looks from the side and from the front.
Take a field trip to a zoo.