These books are great fun for new readers – and older readers! As with all Mo Willems books, they are funny, easy, and enjoyable right from page one. As you get to know solemn, somewhat shy Elephant, and enthusiastic, outgoing Piggie, you will wonder how you ever survived without them in your life. All of them are great, but I will briefly overview two today.
“My Friend Is Sad” tells a sweet (and funny of course) story of friendship. Piggie sees that Elephant is sad, and tries to cheer him up by dressing up as all his favorite things. Elephant is at first ecstatic to see robots and such right there in front of him, but as each character leaves, he is sad again. Come to find out, Elephant was sad because he missed Piggie, and because he couldn’t share all these fun things with him.
“There Is a Bird On Your Head” is hilarious, and works great as a read aloud or reader’s theater. Two birds land on Elephants head. They build a nest. They lay eggs. Then there are lots of birds on elephants head. Piggie helps him out in the end, but then the birds land on his head instead. Mo Willems does a great job with the expressions on the characters faces! You can tell exactly how they feel about everything.
I highly recommend all of these books. They are very funny, and great for beginning readers because they are simple and mostly phonetic. Older kids enjoy them too, especially if they get into them or read them aloud with “voices”.
Check out http://www.pigeonpresents.com/index.aspx for more ideas and tons of fun!
Literature: Reader’s Theater
Type up what the characters say.
Have students make puppets or masks of Elephant and Piggie (paper plates with paint sticks for handles work great).
One student will be Elephant, and one will be Piggie. If you only have one student, you can be the other character.
Have the students read their “part” and act out the story.
We did this at Apple Creek with the second graders, and everyone loved it. Us ‘big people’ had as much fun as the kids! This is the puppet I made to be Piggie. I will try to find the pictures I have of the actual ‘performance’ but I don’t have them with me today.
Art: The Many Expressions of Elephant and Piggie
Mo Willems is quoted to have said he won’t draw anything a young child couldn’t draw. In one interview, he said he actually has to redraw his characters sometimes to make them simpler. Yet, he always manages to convey just what they are thinking – through the way they are standing and there facial expressions. This could be two different activities.
Print, copy, or draw pictures of Elephant and Piggie with different expressions shown in their books. Write on the back of the picture what emotion they might be feeling in that scene. Use them like flashcards and see if students can interpret the picture accurately.
Write an emotion or scenario on the back of a piece of paper. Have students see if they can draw Elephant and Piggie with that emotion. Then they could play a guessing game with you or other students.
Math (and Art): Adding Birds
Start with a large sheet of blank paper. Draw four Elephants, going across the page. Under each Elephant, draw a blank line, and put a plus sign between each one and an equals sign between the last two. Read through the story, and have students put a bird on Elephants head each time another one is added in the story. It will look different from the book because you are only drawing the most recently added ones! The first picture should have one. Then one more joins, so the second picture should have one. Then the eggs hatch, so you draw in the little birds on the third picture. The last picture of Elephant should have all the birds on it. Then on the lines of course they write in 1+1+the number of little birds (I can’t remember and I’m not looking at the book right now). The last blank of course will be where they add the birds together and right in their answer.