“Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas” by Aaron Blabey



For Book Week, I often use the new released books as a basis for drama and, in turn, introduce the kids to a great new book.

I used this book with my Year 2 class as a focus for following structure, learning some simple lines, creating their own version and use of space.

After reading books, I put kids in groups of 4 or 5. Each group then chooses a food group: fruit, veg, meat, dairy, sweets etc.  They then re-create their version of the book. One plays Brian, who offers the others different food…

“Hey, guys would you like some yogurt”

The others take turns to respond each time, and can use the phrases in the book:

“Are you serious, Brian? We eat…..” but they choose a different body part.

I found it a good one for those a little unsure as there is a clear structure to follow, but they can add their own littl bits. It’s safe and allows for a quick performance win.

I ask them to think about where they stand, and to face the audience.

They end with trying the food but then say”

” It’s very nice, Brian, but we still prefer bum!”

With a Year 1 class, I had them sit in a circle. I started in the centre (as a piranha) and the first student walks in. I model raising my hand to a stop sign and saying “Stop it, Brian. I only eat meat”. The student then has to offer me something else (great thinking activity and playing with food groups). I then pretend to try it – gobbling it, making lots of fun noises. The student (Brian) says: “Well,  is it yuck or yum?” I (the piranha replies) “Well, it’s nice but I still prefer bum”. I leave the circle, the student takes my spot as the piranha, and a new student walks in as Brian.

I thought this would be repetitive and boring but at this age they enjoyed knowing they would get a go as both characters. I encouraged them to ham it up and they had to come up with food suggestions not said previously.

And, without fail, every time ‘bum’ was uttered the class were in fits. Go figure! Good fun.









“All the Lost Things” by Kelly Canby

all the lost things

A text that can be used at different levels with various ages. My first attempt was with a Grade One class. Introduce the book by posing the questions of what all the lost things could be.  After reading the book, take the time to discuss the difference between concrete things (glasses, ball, pens) that can be lost or things like courage, patience, sense of humour (characteristics, feelings, ways of being). Young kids (like those in Grade One) may struggle with this but as they classes get older, the discussions could be really interesting.

As a drama activity follow up, have kids sit in a circle and then step into a living picture simply stating things (concrete) that they have lost. “I have lost my favourite jumper”, “I lost my sister’s head band” (with an action).  Next do a living picture (this will be easier for older kids) stating things the child (or maybe family members) have lost that are not concrete things. Encourage them to take the statements further by saying what the effect may be “I lost my confidence when I crashed my bike”, “I lost my stage fright when I danced at the concert and everyone cheered”, “I lost my patience when my sister kept coming into my room so i hit her”.

Into a writing activity, younger students can draw a picture of them filling a jar of something they think someone in their family has lost and that would make their lives better.  Once they have done this, (while they do so circulate asking them to tell you what and who they have drawn to check their understanding) write up on the board:  I would give ______________ a jar full of ____________________.  For older or more capable Kids (grade 2/3) add: because they _________________________ (describe behaviour or action). They then write these under their picture.

Older kids could be encourage to write a poem style piece covering al their family members. A nice opportunity for them to think beyond themselves and possibly become aware of how they can help/be kinder to their family members.

“If Kids Ruled the World” by Linda Bailey


This is a great book to explore the idea of “what if?”.  Questions like this provide a great starting point for creativity but also a point of reference for then to jump into thinking really differently. This book in particular, while aimed at younger kids can be used at different levels. With the younger students (Grade 1 – 3) you could either ask kids to create short scene showing an idea or wish they would have of kids ruled the world. After watching their short scenes, you could read the book and see if there were similar ideas. This could then lead onto a living picture of the book and other ideas.

With older kids, it works well to pose the question and have them create a scene showing one way the world would be different if kids ruled the world. Depending on what they present (fun/cute ideas or more thoughtful), the book can be read and then students could have another go where they explore the question again but with an added statement. ‘How would the world be different/better if kids ruled the world”. I’ve seen some great scenes, especially with older kids (Grade 5 -7) who can use their limited but real knowledge of the adult world to explore ideas.

“The Quiet Book” and “The Loud Book” by Deborah Underwood

quiet book loud book

This book is simple, lovely and funny. I had “The Quiet Book” for a while and was so excited to come across “The Loud Book”. And then an activity was born. This is a great pair of books to introduce the idea of opposites to young children, and then have them come up with ideas for each category.

Following the same structure as a few of the other books, this is a great one to do a living circle to determine how much of the book kids remember (recall and retell). Sitting in a circle, one by one, kids enter and say and act out one of the ‘quiet’ or ‘loud’ actives from the book. I would do the book separately in two lessons, but then maybe bring ideas together in a third to play around with opposites.

The idea can be developed further in Grade 1/2 by having kids come up with a short scene where one student is doing something quietly, and another walks in doing something loudly. What happens next to solve the problem?

Younger kids can have a go at creating a little story of their own in groups of 4 or 5, using the same structure as a book. Firstly in groups, kids brainstorm other quiet/loud activities (not in the book) that they like to do or put together crazy ideas (getting chased by a lion, swimming with dolphins) and then present by speaking one line each. When I’m feeling quiet I like to…….

I have also done this as a 3 part / 3 lessons. First lesson introduce The Quiet Book and during this whole time speak in a loud whisper. It’s actually really nice to do this – changes the tone of the class. Then into a Living Picture “when I’m Feeling Quiet I like to…..”. Into a group piece where one person starts doing something quietly, then the second enters asking”Why are you being so quiet?” They answer with what they are doing. The second starts their thing and then so on…..each student enters with a new thing. At the end they all say (in a stage whisper): “Sometimes we just like to be quiet”.

Second part/lesson, read The Loud Book. As you read let kids do he noises of each page. They have so much fun with this. Into a Living Picture of Good and Bad (do 2) kinds of loud. They act out and show with noise before freezing and the picture builds.

Into groups to create Soundscapes. Each group chooses whether to represent good loud or bad loud. They then create a sound scape of different sounds that match this.  For example one group of 4  in Grade 2 , made sounds of: crying baby, gun shot, scream and loud car. They began with one, adding to it until al 4 sounds could be heard. When it comes to performing these, the audience just keeps their eyes closed. Good fun and very focused.

The third part/lesson is bringing the two ideas together in an improvisation. They will create a scene that is either loud or quiet (so many different options from playground, library, funeral, etc). The scene is performed but one person is so clearly the opposite – so a LOUD (in action or voice) kid enters a quiet situation or vice versa. Rehearse, Perform and give feedback.




I love it when a book I just enjoy for it’s homour or quirkiness translates beautifully to a literacy/drama lesson.


“Friends” by Eric Carle



This is a great self contained lesson with a focus on friendship and has the lovely surprise of kids finding common ground with classmates.  Lovely for kids in PP – Grade 2/3. I begin this lesson with some warm ups, getting kids to move around and working with lots of different people. Face to Face is a great one to begin, leading into Knife and Fork where they make different quick formations with a partner. I begin with concrete objects then get them into creating frozen moments in pairs, showing what friends like to do together. This is a physical brainstorming activity and works really well.

Gather the kids and show the cover of the book – take this opportunity to chat about the style of illustration (collage) and discuss Eric Carle – a few kids will recognise the style and realise it’s the same author as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Opening it up to the title page with the bouquet of flowers, ask kids what they think the significance of the flowers could be – you’ll get some great ideas and thoughts.

Read the book, showing the illustrations. No interactions needed during this reading.

Afterwards, do a guided narrative pantomime. All the kids find a partner and as you read they will mime out the story. When the friends separate, early on, they both become the main character, regardless of gender.  Encourage them to just focus on their own movement and not to interact with others. In the end, as the story describes, they will end up back with their original partner. Kids love doing this – it’s a safe and fun creative play exercise. Debrief asking which parts they enjoyed most.

The class then sits in  a large circle.  Explain that they will do a living picture. Each student entering the circle saying “I like playing_____________with my friends”. They show it and then freeze. As kids get an idea, they raise their hand and you invite them to join in the living picture. End with all are in or ideas have run dry.

Last activity is the opportunity for kids to work together and perform. This is the structured performance, modifies,  as used with many of the  other books on this blog.  In groups of 4 or 5 kids come up with a performance where the group will stand in a line beginning with “We love playing with our friends (in unison)”. Then one child steps forward with their contribution, but the whole group then acts it out (can be mimed or with voice). In between each idea, the whole group repeats “We love playing with our friends”. They also end with this. Kids only need about 5 minutes to prepare it. The strength of this exercise is that every student contributes, they all have the opportunity to speak and the group needs to work well together to create a polished performance.

Perform and reflect.


“The Greedy Triangle” by Marilyn Burns

greedy triangle

This is a wonderful book to use in a cross-curricular context when teaching kids shapes and basic geometry. It particularly introduces students to new, correct names for shapes. This broadening of their vocabulary is another learning outcome from simply enjoying a clever story and then playing with the story through drama games.

A common technique before reading a book is to predict what the story may be about. The title of this story, along with the front cover provides lots of room for speculation and prediction.  It’s also an opportunity to introduce the idea of maths before the story begins.

So as to not kill the flow of the story, I read this book with little interruption. While you could stop at every page and ask kids to point out the way the shapes are used and offer more suggestions, I believe there’s time for that later or on the second read. As my daughter often reminds me, sometimes kids just want the story to be read as is.

A couple of good follow up activities:

With younger students I would start with a living picture to review the book. Students sit in a circle, and once given the title of the picture, they enter the circle one at a time (usually when they are ready it will just happen or you can ask for volunteers) and state what they are while creating the object/shape with their body.  To highlight the flow of the book and transitions of shapes, I call each living picture the new shape. When the title is “Triangle” kids jump up as the triangular objects from the story. You can then encourage them to think of more. Then on to “Quadrilateral” and so on. 

With older students you can have them, in groups, come up with freeze frame for each shape. Every group member could come up with their own (with help from their group) or they could work on items as a whole group. On the call, they would transition to the next shape. This is a wonderful group working, problem solving and creativity activity.

If students are enjoying the process, this lesson can develop further where each group is given a different shape and they create (with preparation time) an improvisation using as many objects of that shape as possible. The objects can be mimed, or made quickly and easily using paper, scissors, pencils to represent. Normally I would stay away form creating props but in this context it makes sense and is useful as the students explore the shapes. It’s also a great group working activity as they try to find links between the objects and create a story. Once prepared, students present to the class who then can give feedback and discuss how many ways the shape was used.

If the shape focus is not of interest, or the class is able to look further, a discussion about how this story parallels with people and their greed would be really interesting. Students may be able to find examples of “Greedy Triangles” in their own life and wider. Possibly another opportunity for some script writing or prepared improvisation.


“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff

mousecookieThis has been a household favourite for many years, and eventually I decided to test drive the following activity with my daughter’s pre-primary class. It went down a treat. This is a good one to link in with a food type theme, as well.

This one has a little prep work.  Create little cards with pictures of all the items the mouse asks for: straw, glass of milk, broom, scissors, crayons etc. Laminate if you can so you can use this activity again and again!

This book automatically lends itself to a prediction activity. Begin by showing the cover and predicting about what the book could be about.  As you read the book, ask the children to guess what the mouse will ask for next. This really tests logical thinking, and creativity. When you get an interesting suggestion, ask the student why they think that. It’s great to see the line of thinking.

Once the story has been read, ask the kids to sit in a circle. Hand out the cards you have made up. If there are more kids than cards, reassure them that they will still have a role/job to play. Choose a child to be the mouse, and one to be the boy. Then re-enact the story, side coaching. Begin with “If you give a mouse a …..” and then ask the child with the first card (they will need to remember) to hold it up and call out the item. The “boy” takes the card and gives it to the mouse.  The mouse then asks for the next thing – with help from the child with the next card, This may sound difficult but it does all flow, as each child has a little reminder of what comes next. You can use the students who don’t have a card to get up and create things, like the bed, the fridge, the house etc.

A follow up to this could be to create a living picture of things from the book.  All the students still sit in a circle, then one by one get up and assume a pose saying “I am a…..cookie, glass of milk……etc”. A round of applause when you feel like the picture is complete,

I also did a”Instead of” activity, taking the idea of food. I stood in the middle and said “I am a cookie”. Invite a student up to say “Instead of a cookie, eat me instead! I am a ……banana”. This can go for quite a while, with the teacher coming up with the junk food/not so healthy option. Kids really get into this – a lovely incidental learning activity that has sprung from a book!

Laura Numeroff has also published others in this series.


I have discovered “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”. The style and flow is the same, with different ‘things’ that the pig wants. I read my Grade 1 class the mouse version, and did the card activity. I then asked kids to get into groups of 4. I explained we were going to read another book similar to “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” but this time I wasn’t going to show them pictures as I read it, but instead I would stop and their group had to predict what the next thing would be that the pig asked for.

I encouraged them to have a couple kids play the pig and person. The others, objects or narrator. They simply presented their bit in the style the book is written. Takes a couple minutes to organise and a few seconds for each group to perform. This means you can allow a few opportunities to predict. Kids loved problem solving and coming up with new ideas – especially as they then got to see if they were right!