Elephant and Piggie: The Best Book Buddies a Teacher Could Ever Have

Sunday, 26 May 2019

April is rain, and mud, and worms and the month that I bring out the Elephant and Piggie books.

Spring fever has set in and engaging my kindergarteners is a bit harder than it was a few months ago.

Elephant and Piggie to the rescue!

elephant and piggie books

By now we are all especially fond of the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny, but many have not yet met Elephant and Piggie, and I'm literally giddy with excitement about introducing them!

elephant and piggie plush

Every minute spent with these adorable characters is pure joy for both parties involved, and while that might be enough incentive to run to your library and clear the shelves, here are 10 more reasons why they are my number one top pick for your kindergarten bookshelf!

1) Elephant and Piggie Show Good Character

The theme that runs through this entire series is friendship.  These characters dually model what it looks and sounds like to be a good friend.  They live #otherpeoplematter.

In, Listen to My Trumpet, Elephant struggles to find the best way to be honest with Piggie about her trumpet playing.

elephant and piggie friendship theme

In, A Big Guy Took My Ball, Elephant sticks up for Piggie when someone bigger takes her ball.

In, Elephants Cannot Dance, Piggie encourages Elephant to try something he thinks he cannot do.

These are just a few examples, but you'll find many more opportunities throughout the series to engage in character conversations with your children.

2) Elephant and Piggie Teach Feelings 

I can't think of a better book series to teach children about emotions than this one!

The illustrations clearly show expressions and body language that make it easy for young children to infer what the characters are feeling and expand their vocabulary to include words like disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated, excited, anxious, nervous, and remorseful.

In, My Friend is Sad, Piggie notices what Elephant is feeling and tries to cheer him up. Throughout the book, readers notice that Elephant's feelings are changing, giving adults the opportunity to ask, How is Elephant feeling now? How have his feelings changed?

3) Elephant and Piggie are Relatable

The experiences that these characters have are ones in which young children can easily connect.

Children will see themselves in Waiting is Not Easyand share about times when they too had to wait for something.

In Should I Share My Ice Cream?, children relate to Elephant's mixed feelings about sharing something that he didn't really want to share, but knew was the right thing to do!

4) Elephant and Piggie Teach Text Features

Throughout the series, readers experience many intentional variations in text type and punctuation marks to show how the characters are feeling.

For example, in Pigs Make Me Sneeze, to show that Gerald is feeling very small and withdrawn, the words on the page are written in very small type.

Mo Willem's comic book style also introduces many children to talk bubbles and think bubbles.

Punctuation is also used effectively to show feelings.  When Gerald is feeling very angry or excited, the text type is very large and often followed by numerous exclamation points.

elephant and piggie teach concepts of print

In Elephants Cannot Dance, Elephant and Piggie both say the same words, but the punctuation is different, teaching children how to read the words first as a command and then as a question.

5) Elephant and Piggie Support Early Readers

elephant and piggie early readers

These books contain a controlled vocabulary and were written to support children as they are just beginning to read.  Willems says of this kind of book, "Early readers have exact technical requirements; the vocabulary must be controlled, the syllables limited, the sentences must have forward thrust (and repeatability)."

In my humble opinion, he has mastered this genre!

What is most impressive is that the books don't "read" like many stilted early readers of the past.  They make engaging read alouds and are as much fun for the adults as they are for kids!

6) Elephant and Piggie are High Interest

The true test of a good book is whether or not your kiddos want to spend more time with it after you have read it aloud.

I have yet to meet a class of kinders that have not fallen in love with these characters and returned to the books over and over again (and again and again and again!)

Think of the fluency practice this yields!

elephant and piggie kindergarten readers

And unlike Fancy Nancy or Fly Guy, they appeal to all genders, because with 5 and 6 year olds, silly humor is where it's at!

7) Elephant and Piggie Make Great Character Studies

In this video, Mo Willems describes these characters as "such good friends and really so incompatible."  He says, "For elephant, the cup is half full of yuck and Piggie is just so exuberant."

And because there are 25 books in the series, children reeeeeally get to know the characters well and are supported in identifying and comparing their character traits.

Find out more about these characters, such as their birthday, favorite color, and hobby, by visiting Mo's Pigeon Presents website using the Pals Tab. (You can find these cute puppets there too!)

elephant and piggie coloring page puppets

You can also extend your character study to include an author study, as Mo Willems is a really interesting author to explore (Did you know he was once a stand-up comedian and wrote for Sesame Street?) and has created other great characters including the Pigeon!

8) Elephant and Piggie Make it Easy to Read with Expression

Elephant and Piggie are dramatic.  They are full of emotion!  While many controlled texts produce robot readers, these books almost dare you NOT to read them with expression. It just can't be done!

As mentioned above, the text type and punctuation clues beg readers to use their "story voices" and the consistency of the characters' traits make it easy for children to know and "become" the characters.

Imagine trying to read this page using a flat, monotone voice - it's just not going to happen!

Elephant and Piggie book

9) Elephant and Piggie are a Good Classroom Investment

The downside to well-loved books is that they fall apart easy!  Yet, these books were made to stand the test of time even after being thrust into many little hands.

The hardcover versions of these books are reasonably priced (around $7 on Amazon) and very durable for all the mileage you will get out of them.  I have yet to have any Elephant and Piggie books end up in our "book hospital!"

One source for obtaining copies of these books is past students, who while in kindergarten, might have talked their parents into buying the books to feed their insatiable interest.  By now they may have outgrown Elephant and Piggie (sad, but true!) and would be willing to donate books to your classroom to feed the hunger of your newest groups of kinders.

elephant and piggie book collection

elephant and piggie series

10) There is a Pigeon at the End of Every Book

Say what? As if reasons 1-9 weren't enough, Mo Willems embeds a "Where's Waldo?" search and find pigeon on the endpapers of all 25 books.

As soon as you turn the last page, the children will all shout, "Pigeon," when they spy him, creating a fun reading ritual that they will anticipate with each new book.

11) Elephant and Piggie are Easy to Draw

Okay, so I said, 10 reasons, but I couldn't resist squeezing in one more!  Mo Willems purposely made Elephant and Piggie easy for young children to draw.

And they love to draw them!

Here's a video where Mo shows how to draw Piggie!

Once they have the basics down, challenge them to draw one of the characters moving. 

Encourage them to draw facial expressions on the characters to show how they are feeling.

Invite them to respond to one of these books and include their own character drawings.

The possibilities are endless! 

Elephant and Piggie: A Perfect Pair

Amid test scores and data, it's sometimes easy to forget that our job as teachers is to foster a LOVE of reading!  

This dynamic duo pairs engaging text with a gold mine of teaching opportunities and early reader practice. 

Elephant and Piggie books are like a healthy meal and dessert all rolled into one! There are "vegetables" in there, but the kids would never know it! 

Wishing you many joyful adventures with Elephant and Piggie!

Thanks for stopping by!

If you found this post helpful and think others might too, please consider sharing it on your favorite social media platform!
teaching character with elephant and piggie books

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The Kindergarten Countdown: Simple End of the Year Fun

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Once May hits, I find myself doing double duty preparing for the arrival of next year's kindergarteners, while still trying to wrap up loose ends with the current group.

Sound familiar?

Yet, it's always important to me that our last days together be meaningful and marked with special memories as I send my kiddos off to summer and eventually the next grade. (Read about my worst, last day ever HERE!)

So I needed something simple and flexible, knowing there would be many end of year, school-wide events (i.e. Slide Ceremony) competing for our time!

Enter the Kindergarten Countdown!


I created this using a "sliding scale" of activities that work well no matter how much time I have to devote to it each day.

Here's how you can make this work for you!

Step 1:

Gather 10 small gift bags (Dollar Tree sells them in a 3-pack) and label them with your countdown numbers.


Step 2: 

Choose a theme for each day and create activity circles equal to the countdown number for each countdown day.  For example, if day 5 is Dance Day, you would create 5 circles that list 5 dances for your kiddos to do. Color-code them to match the numbers for quick and easy storage.


Step 3:

Brainstorm additional activities for each themed day that you might do if your time allows.  

On some days we are jam-packed and on others I find myself looking for things to do!


Step 4: 

Tack up the bags on a bulletin board in countdown order. Add a "balloon pop" for extra pizazz! 


Send home a Countdown Calendar to let families know about your end of year fun!


If you are short on time or have your own ideas for themed days, try the EDITABLE Kindergarten Countdown and make it your own!

You'll find this bundled together with a Kindergarten Moving Up Plan to help ease some of the anxiety your kiddos might have about going to the next grade! 


Wishing you all a smooth and joyful end to your school year!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Are Trees Alive?: A Mini Inquiry

Thursday, 18 April 2019

With Earth Day and Arbor Day just around the corner, I thought I'd share a tree inquiry we did a few years ago. 


It began with this book!


After reading the title, I asked children what they thought the answer was to this question.  We talked about it and then they wrote down their ideas.

There was a lot of uncertainty and a few misconceptions and I decided it would be a great question to explore further.

So, we got busy investigating! 

I brought in some tree artifacts and challenged the children to look for evidence that might help them answer the question.







The children made many concrete observations, but their thinking really took a turn when one student shared that the branch he was holding didn't start out that way and that it had to grow to get that big.  


Through this, they began to see that living things grow and change.  

Some children noticed and commented on the "swirls" on a tree slice. 


We gathered on the carpet to look at the tree rings on a mat we had in our classroom. 


I shared that these rings were evidence of growth and that a tree gains one ring for every year of its life.  We counted the rings to see how old the tree would have been if it were real.  

They noticed the cracks in the tree and wondered about those. We read Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel and learned how trees can become damaged over time. 


Eventually, we found our way back to the book that inspired our investigation and went beyond the cover to actually read the book.  

Are Trees Alive by Debbie Miller is a really wonderful book.  Not only does the title pose a great question, but the text invites readers to compare their own bodies to trees to show similarities and differences between these two living things.  

I played the song I'm a Tree by Bev Bos (which is sadly unavailable) that invited children to move like a tree.

But here's a great tree mediation that could also be used:

And of course, we did the tree pose!

From there, we broke into small groups (trunk, roots, branches, leaves) to create a life size tree, which we then built and labeled outside our classroom.  






Lastly, I asked children to respond in writing again to the question, "Are Trees Alive?," so I could see how their thinking had changed.

That's as far as we got in that school year, but in my notes I had written down that there were some great connections made between trees and breathing that we could have explored.  Never enough time in the kindergarten day or year!

If you are planning any Earth Day or Arbor Day projects this spring, you might try this mini-inquiry!

Or consider taking a Tree Walk!


Spring can be a challenging time of year (spring fever is for real!) and taking learning outdoors might be just what your kiddos need!

Happy spring and as always...

Thanks for stopping by!

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