“Shoes from Grandpa” by Mem Fox


Mem Fox is one of my favourite authors to use. She comes from a drama background and I think this shines through in all her books. There are so many ways you can use Mem Fox books to introduce your students to drama, language and patterns.

This book is great in getting kids to get involved with the reading. Apart from the usual prediction that can be done with the cover and illustration, once the story gets going, kids can easily see a pattern. As you read, invite kids early on to finish the line “to go with the shoes……..”. Gradually, add the ends of other lines. By the end of the book, they are completely involved in the story.

One thing that bothered me about this book (and funnily enough after reading Mem Fox’s blog, she also would concur) was the lack of rhyming of blouse and bows. It does affect the rhythm somewhat. But – it can open a great discussion later….which word would better rhyme? Flowers? etc…. Taking this one step further, the kids could create their own “Shoes from Grandpa” where the gifts are different (maybe not clothes) and have a different rhyming end. This would be a great activity for Grade 3 – 5. In groups of 5, students help each other create this new story, and then get up and present to class their five new ideas. This could develop into a whole class reworking of the book, with illustrations and all (drama into English)! You have to love to Mem!

If you want to keep it simple and more accessible for PP – Grade 1/2, a great idea is to grab some costume props in a big box – a hat, some shoes, a scarf, etc. Volunteers could then take on the roles of those in the book and bring the book to life, having fun with pieces of clothing that may not be the right size. This is a good one for those a little shy – as props always help the nerves as the focus is on something else.



After a vocal warm up, kids get into pairs. WE play Knife and Fork – but all the items are clothing: pair of shoes, a jacket with a zip, a scarf, a wedding dress, a suit of armor, a hat, bathers, pair of jeans. Afterwards ask them what the theme was.

Read an interactive version of the story with them – having them finish off sentences as they get the rhythm and rhyme.

Explain to them that a visitor will be coming to see them and that when you have a scarf, glasses or hat on you are the visitor. When the prop/costume comes off you are the teacher. I turn around and put on my costume, and come back as granny – slow moving with an appropriate voice- very excited to see the kids. I introduce myself as Granny May and say how happy I am to meet them as Jessie has told me so much about them.

IN character, ask kids questions and get some answers: What is your favourite thing to wear? Do you have a lucky shirt or hat? Has anyone given you a special item of clothing?

Granny then tells them that they have been having some trouble getting the right clothing for Jessie. And she would love some help. She tells them that she will come back in a little while to get some advice about what to buy Jesssie (or what to tell family to buy).

Teacher takes off costume and returns as the teacher. Ask students – so who was your visitor? Shall we help her come up with some ideas?

Place students in groups of about 4 -5. Tell them that each group will come up with ideas depending on the occassion of things to buy Jessie.  They will perform it for Granny May when she returns.

  • Clothing/accessories for a trip to the beach
  • Clothing for playing sport
  • Clothes for a rainy day bushwalk
  • Clothes and accessories for a trip to the snow
  • Clothes/outfit for a fancy night to the theatre

They have a couple minutes to work out their little scene.

Granny May returns and sits in the centre of the room, and all the groups are places around the room. Granny then says…”I would love ideas of what to buy Jessie for sport” – that group will get excited with hands up. They get up and each one steps forward with their idea (being the item) – creating a little picture of appropriate items. Granny makes comment and then goes onto the next thing she need help with.

Once all done, costume off and tell them Granny loved all their ideas (maybe pick out a coupe of really clever ideas).





“Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae

giraffesThis is a wonderful book to use on many levels with different age groups.  I credit Carol Read (2008) for these ideas as she explores the notion of scaffolding children’s learning through literature.

Before even reading the story have the students create a Sound Collage of the jungle. Brainstorm, break up the class and then conduct the jungle orchestra….animal footsteps, insects, birds, trees rustling etc.

Another pre-reading activity is to explore the dances the animals do. Use different pieces of music and have some fun with movement, culminating in musical statues.

Once the story has been read to the class, the teacher can work with the class to re-create the story. There are different options for this. In a large class, small groups can be formed with each group, given a four line stanza of the book. They will be in charge of presenting it with movement and using appopriate emphasis.

As a fun, class activity, students can form small groups and be given one of the animals (maybe there are more). A piece of music is played and each group has a few minutes to come up with a little dance.  Re-create a group drama, with their own twist as they show the group’s animal dance.

Another re-telling option, is to have groups choose three of their favourite moments from the book. They then present them in tableaux form with one word per freezeframe describing how Gerald felt in that scene.

“Cleversticks” by Bernard Ashley


This book embraces the idea that everyone (even little people with fewer life experiences) is good a something. It is also a great multi-cultural text, as it’s clear through the pictures, names of children and the teachers that various cultures are represented in this class.

I have used it most successfully with PP – Grade 1.  With scaffolding at the start, it allows students to consider their own strengths as the story is read. Great self esteem boost!

We begin by looking at the cover and discussing why it may be called “Cleversticks”. Guide kids by looking at the pictures and main character. brainstorm some ideas.

As the story is read to the class, I have used the technique of putting the book down and asking them a question about each page – usually an observational question and the pictures etc. With older kids, some discussion surrounding culture can be introduced.

Once the story is read, students get into groups of 4 or 5 and create a performance called “We are Cleversticks”. Each child comes up with something they are good at doing – may be something at home, at school, sport related, arty, anything! Try to steer them away form using the ideas from the book.

They practise their piece. All together they will say “We are cleversticks!”. They then each take a turn at saying their own special thing (with an action) to which the others in the group respond with “What a cleversticks!” – which is the last line from the book. This is a structured performance that still allows each child to contribute in a meaningful way.

It’s hard to not feel good after performing a piece celebrating your strengths. Win!

You can also end with a living picture of things the class can do 🙂 ” Yes, Let’s” is also a good warm up game to use with this book.

“On a Tall, Tall Cliff” by Andrew Murray

On a Tall cliff

I used this book as in introduction to a science lesson with a Grade 4/5 class with the topic being erosion.  I wanted to explore the idea of picture books as more than just springboards for drama but also to stimulate interest and get kids involved in a story through observation.  Of course, there is also the opportunity to go further with drama based work, also.

So, I began by simply gathering the kids and reading the story – not explaining why – that will come later.  As I read, obviously with animated voices for the two main characters, I also stop after each page and ask a question about the picture. This quickly gets kids focussed and looking at the pictures more intently as they know a questions will follow: ‘What colour was Puffle’s top?”, “How many rats parachuted down together?”

At the end of the story, I asked “So, how does this relate to Science?”. It’s okay if it takes a while to get the kids to get there – give leading questions, ask them to think about parts of the story etc.  This hopefully leads into a natural discussion based on what would have caused Puffle’s part of the cliff to fall.

This can be left here and onto Science or it can go further into drama based. Three freeze-frames from the book or groups create a tableaux of the objects that were taken to Busby’s house……

The Very Lazy Ladybird by Isobel Finn and Jack Tickle

ladybirdThis book is from the Little Tiger Press range and comes with an audio CD which gives you a little flexibility with how you can use the text.

This is great for Kindy – Grade 1. Good to start with a warm-up or activity based on animals. I team it with Carnival of the Animals (see other posts). Students gather and listen to the story being read by the teacher – animated voice essential. Students to participate by being the different animals – just a simple movement while they are sitting (or ask for their best impression) and then saying back the Ladybird lines.

At the end of the story put up pictures of the animals that were in the story.

They then get into small groups and make one of the animals. Make sure they are around the room. When they are all set, put audio CD on and children sit waiting for their parts, as the teacher (with a suitable puppet) is the ladybird and travels around the room acting out the story while it is being told.

The strength of this is students take part in recounting the story, creating a representation of an animal and all have their time to shine 🙂

“Quiet” by Paul Bright

quietThis book has a great audio CD that can be used. The sound effects of the jungle really add to the atmosphere. Play the CD and show the book.  Afterwards discuss the plot with the kids : have them recount the order of the animals who almost wake up baby lion.

If you choose not to use the CD/Audio, it’s fun to let the kids do a soundscape, being the various noisy animals. Be sure to have a signal so they know when to stop and you can continue the story. It’s also a good opportunity for prediction….”Which animals are making the noise next?”.

The class then gets into 6 groups. Give each group a different part of the story to re-enact. This is a good story to do in this way because of the repetition in dialogue and it has lots of characters : Baby Lion, Ma, Pa and the other animals. Each group has a different part : beginning, monkeys, hippos, hyena, parrots and the end.

Rehearse and present.

Another option: if you have access to some percussion, or a simple drum, you can have kids pair up and create a dance/movement for each animal (have volunteers). Talk about the type of movement for each animal.

“Beware of the Storybook Wolves” by Lauren Child

wolvesSuitable for Grade 1 – 4. This is one occasion where I like to use the audio CD available with the book. Hugh Laurie does such a wonderful reading of the book that the kids are completely engrossed. Well worth it. I like to show the book, as the CD is being played.

Afterwards, we talk about the characters and the students’ favourite lines and parts. In groups they are then to choose their favourite scenes and create a series of tableaux to represent the story. This is also called a Comic Strip Impro. Depending on how capable your kids are, give them 3, 4 or 5 scenes to show. They should also choose one word per scene to sum up the main idea. Ideally, it also offers the opportunity for shared leadership. If students are in a group of 5, each student chooses their favourite scene. The group then orders the scenes. Each student then directs their scene – placing students in position, deciding which characters to show etc. They also come up with the word to sum up the scene. The choosing of the word can be quite a challenge as the students really have to think about the main point of that scene/part of the story. By the end of this process, all students have had say, have had to follow direction and memorise the order of scenes and what they need to do. A valuable process.

A simple group activity that uses many skills.

Present and discuss.