Tag Archives: Eric Carle

Revisiting The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Recently, in a post introducing the idea of S.M.A.G. (Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude), I reflected upon my blogging journey and the gradual growth of readership and development of a S.M.A.G. over time. With this reflection came the realisation that many have missed earlier posts. That realisation, along with a comment by Sarah Brentyn, prompted me to share a few of my favourites.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The first posts I will revisit are from a series about using Eric Carle’s picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar for educational purposes in an early childhood setting.

The series of four posts;

  • explores benefits of reading picture books to children
  • questions the place of factual information in fictional texts, and
  • suggests the importance of teaching critical literacy from a young age.

Nor and Bec reading

I will provide a brief overview of each post. I would be delighted to have you  follow the links to read the posts in full.

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

In this post I explained that sharing picture books with children has many benefits, including:

At home:

  • It can help strengthen the parent-child bond, becoming a special time of togetherness and of sharing stories and ideas.
  • It has a very positive effect upon their learning, helping them develop language, knowledge of print and books, and exposes them to new ideas and concepts.

8-12-2013 7-38-33 PM

In early childhood classrooms, The Very Hungry Caterpillar provides opportunities for work in many subject areas including:

  • Literature appreciation
  • Reading
  • Maths
  • Visual arts, and
  • Philosophical inquiry, but not Science (as I will explain later)

 

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

In this post I discuss some purposes for using picture books and raise some questions about their content.

A sampling of purposes:

  • encourages a love of reading and books
  • develops vocabulary and knowledge of language
  • provides a link between the language of home and the language used in the wider community and in education
  • supports beginning readers
  • inspires imagination
  • provides opportunities to discuss feelings, emotions, ideas, responses
  • develops feelings of empathy, identification, recognition, hope
  • instils an appreciation of art

spiderswirl2

Some questions:

Do fictional picture books have a role, and do picture book authors have a responsibility, in imparting factual information in their books?

Does it matter:

  • that, although lions don’t live in jungles, they are often referred to as “King of the jungle” and appears in that setting in many stories?
  • if animals that don’t co-exist, for example penguins and polar bears, appear in stories together?
  • if the portrayal of animals in stories is not anatomically correct, for example spiders shown with legs joined to their abdomens rather than cephalothoraxes?

Do errors such as these influence children’s understanding of the world?

How should adults handle the misinformation when sharing books with children?

 

Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C

In this post I refer specifically to inaccuracies in The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the pervasiveness of the misconceptions, if not totally attributable to the book, then at least in part. I suggest how acknowledging the inaccuracy can help develop critical literacy.

In his book Eric Carle writes that

“He (the caterpillar) built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and . . . he was a beautiful butterfly!”

Monarch butterfly

However, as this (hopefully correct) information from the Australian Museum shows, butterflies do not spin cocoons around themselves. Moths do. Some butterflies and skippers do form a silken shelter, but not a cocoon as in Carle’s picture book.

Unfortunately many articles found in an internet search share the same misinformation. I wonder how many adults grew up believing what Carle shared through his picture books. Even teachers have been surprised to learn that butterfly caterpillars do not spin cocoons.

In the original post I share some lovely videos related to butterfly and moth metamorphosis. It is worth taking a peek at them.

Does it matter if children (and adults) think that butterflies hatch out of cocoons? Eric Carle didn’t seem to think so. Do you?

Finding power in a picture book – the main event

In this post I argue that The Very Hungry Caterpillar has no place in a science lesson because of the misinformation contained therein: caterpillars do not eat many different foods and butterflies do not come out of cocoons.

ryanlerch_thinkingboy_outline

The greatest value of the book is as a tool for teaching critical literacy; for teaching children that just because something is in print, doesn’t make it true. It is also important to realise that misinformation is not restricted to picture books, and that they need to question all sources of information for the author’s credentials and purpose in writing.

I suggest that teachers and parents:

  • point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies
  • encourage children to evaluate what they are reading and hearing against what they already know
  • support children to verify the source of the information and to check it against other more authoritative/reliable sources
  • help children to recognise that every author has a purpose and to identify that purpose
  • invite children to ask questions about what they are reading and to interrogate the content
  • encourage them to question, question, question.

Eric Carle says “If we can accept giants tied down by dwarfs, genies in bottles, and knights who attack windmills, why can’t a caterpillar (sic) come out of a cocoon?”

 

What do you think? Do picture book authors have a responsibility to be accurate? Is a butterfly coming out of a cocoon in the same realm as giants tied down by dwarfs? Would we accept a child hatching out of an egg? What parts of a story should be based in reality and which parts can be imagined?

 “Why can’t a butterfly come out of a cocoon?” asks Eric.

Well, Eric, they just don’t.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any of issues I have raised in these posts.

 

Empowerment – the importance of having a voice

In a previous series of posts I wrote about science inaccuracies in a picture book and questioned with whom lay the responsibility for providing young children with correct information.

While this post builds upon those posts, it also takes a divergent path: the need for children to have a voice; to be empowered to ask questions, to state their needs and report wrongdoings.

On a highly respected educational website Scholastic, with the by-line “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.”, in an article about Eric Carle author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, children are told that

“Eric already knows that a caterpillar emerges from a chrysalis, not a cocoon! So don’t bother writing to tell him.”

This seemingly innocuous statement may be easily overlooked but packs a powerful message.

What does it tell children?

The author has been told many times, already knows and isn’t going to do anything about it.

The author is tired of being told he is wrong and doesn’t want to hear it any more.

The author is “right” and not to be questioned. (The book, with its misinformation, is highly acclaimed by millions around the world. However if, in answering a question on a test, children were to write that a butterfly comes out of a cocoon, they would be marked wrong. Explain that to them.)

For me the most insidious part of this message is

He already knows, “so don’t bother writing to tell him”!!!!!!!!

You can’t change it.

You know it’s wrong, but you can’t change it, so don’t bother trying.

Although many societies are now moving to eradicate it, child abuse is still far too common worldwide. Not only must the attitudes of societies change, but children must be empowered, they must be encouraged to speak up and they must be listened to: their voices must be heard.

In a recent child abuse case that occurred at a Queensland primary school, the student protection officer reportedly said that she couldn’t understand why the children who had been sexually abused did not come forward.

couldn't believe 1

The accused had continued in his role as child protection contact for a year after the first complaint was made. The student protection officer found it hard to believe that her colleague was a paedophile;

couldn't believe 2

and still she says she doesn’t understand why the children didn’t come forward!

Click here to read the complete article.

It seems to me the children did come forward if the first (indicates there were more) complaint was made more than a year before anything was done about it.

The children tried to say, but were not believed. The predator was believed and protected while the plight of the innocent victims was ignored. The report states that parents who complained about the abuse of their children were ostracised by the school community and made out to be the “bad guys”.

Is it any wonder that, if not listened to and not believed, and if more is done to protect the offenders than the abused, the children become increasingly reluctant to tell?

After the first children had come forward and not been listened to or believed, may not they have said to others, “There’s no point in saying. They already know. They won’t do anything about it?”

Or what about the parents who were ostracised and made out to be the bad ones?

Doesn’t it make the message very clear – you are powerless. Your voice won’t be heard. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

Carry this message over into countless other situations and you have a population who is afraid to speak up, fearing the disdain of reproach, the embarrassment of being unvalued and the helplessness of one’s message being unheard.

How many times have you felt you must remain silent for fear of ridicule, rejection, or worse?

How many opportunities for creating a positive change have been missed because the task seemed insurmountable or the personal repercussions too unpleasant?

When have you stepped up and made that change happen because you were not afraid to speak up or speak out when faced with an issue you felt strongly about?

What changes can we make to empower children (and adults) everywhere?

By the way, in that article on the Scholastic website, it is reported that Eric Carle believes that “the most important part of developing a book . . .is working with editors to revise it.”

Would it make any difference to the magic of The Very Hungry Caterpillar if, after all these years, Eric Carle rewrote a corrected version with a butterfly emerging triumphantly from a chrysalis?

What would that act tell all the countless children who have written to tell Eric about his mistake, and the many others who wanted to but were told there was no point?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Please share your thoughts.

Related posts:

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C

Finding power in a picture book – the main event

Finding power in a picture book – the main event

Teaching critical literacy through picture books

This is the fourth is a series of posts about the role of picture books, especially The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

The purpose of this post is to discuss the importance of critical literacy and the necessity to teach children to

  • think critically
  • not accept everything that is presented in text (oral, visual or print)
  • evaluate the source of the information and the intent of the author
  • match incoming information with prior knowledge,  and
  • question, question, question.

In these previous posts

Searching for meaning in a picture book – Part A

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C

I suggested ways of including The Very Hungry Caterpillar in an early childhood classroom and discussed the responsibility that authors have in differentiating between fact and fiction in story books.

In Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C I pointed out the inaccuracies in The Very Hungry Caterpillar and the pervasiveness of the misconceptions, if not totally attributable to the book, then at least in part. This is verified by Jacqui who, in 2011, wrote on the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust website

“When speaking to teachers I often find raised eyebrows when I explain that butterflies’ larvae do not make cocoons. The teachers refer to Eric Carle’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, where he refers to a ‘cocoon’.”

Note that Jacqui refers specifically to this book, rather than to sources in general.

As shown by Jacqui, though, it can be difficult, even for teachers without specialist entomological knowledge, to sort out fact from the fiction.

These are two pieces of misinformation contained in the story:

Misinformation 1:

Caterpillars eat a lot of different food

Fact

Most caterpillars are fussy about their diet, some eating only one specific plant, others eating a variety of plant foods.

Misinformation 2:

Butterflies come out of a cocoon.

Fact

Butterflies emerge from a chrysalis.

Moths come out of a cocoon.

Watch these two videos:

This one by Strang Entertainment shows the caterpillar becoming a chrysalis.

This one shows a silkworm caterpillar spinning a cocoon (about 2 mins in).

They are two very different processes.

However a quick glance at these Google search results shows just how pervasive the misconceptions are:

Cocoon to butterfly

butterfly cocoons

Even seemingly authoritative educational websites misinform. Look at the way these two websites promote themselves, and consider the misinformation they are peddling.

The website Math & Reading Help

Maths and Reading Help

states that The Very Hungry Caterpillar is “factually accurate . . . teaches your child to understand this biological process … a butterfly. . .(is) a caterpillar that has emerged from its cocoon”

Primary upd8 which promotes itself as “UKs most exciting science resource”

primary upd8

also suggests using The Very Hungry Caterpillar for teaching about the life cycle of a butterfly.

primary upd8 knowledge

If self-professed “authorities” can’t get it right, how are we laypeople meant to make sense of it. Suggestions like these reinforce the need for the skills of critical analysis to be developed.

Unlike those above, I contend that this book has no place in the science curriculum. Its greatest value is as a tool for teaching critical literacy.

When children have learned about the life stages of a butterfly and then listen to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, they are very quick to pounce on the inaccuracies and immediately want to write to the author and tell him of his mistake.

When told that he already knows and that he isn’t going to change it, as confirmed in an interview reported on the Scholastic website, they are incredulous.

“Why would he do that?” they ask.

Why indeed.

When told that he doesn’t care that it isn’t right, they are indignant.

But herein lies its value:

I am able to affirm their learning: they know more than Eric Carle; and, more importantly, I am able to reinforce with them that just because something is in print, doesn’t make it true.

In addition, it is important for them to realise that misinformation does not occur only in picture books, nor only in this picture book. It is just as common in news media, as shown by this article from Brisbane’s Courier-Mail on December 7 2013

Butterfly emergingtext for photographs

Nor is misinformation restricted to caterpillars and butterflies.

This article, again from the Courier-Mail, on January 26 2014 also contains inaccuracies:

Deadly thirst for glidersFurry flyers text

Squirrel gliders don’t fly, and they don’t have wings.

Suggestions for teachers and parents:

  • point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies
  • encourage children to think about what they are reading and hearing and to evaluate it against what they know
  • support children to verify the source of the information and to check it against other more authoritative/reliable sources
  • help them to recognise that every author has a purpose and to identify that purpose
  • invite children to ask questions about what they are reading and to interrogate the content
  • encourage them to question, question, question.

As demonstrated by the Google results shown above, there is a good deal of misinformation available, often cleverly disguised as fact. Being able to navigate one’s way through it is a very important skill.

Eric Carle says “If we can accept giants tied down by dwarfs, genies in bottles, and knights who attack windmills, why can’t a caterpillar (sic) come out of a cocoon?”

What do you think?

Do picture book authors have a responsibility for informing their audience? Is a butterfly coming out of a cocoon in the same realm as giants tied down by dwarfs? Would we accept a child hatching out of an egg? What parts of a story should be based in reality and which parts can be imagined?

“Why can’t a butterfly come out of a cocoon?” asks Eric.

Well, Eric, they just don’t.

Please share your thoughts.

Searching for truth in a picture book – Part C

Cocoon or chrysalis – what’s in a name?

In my previous post Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B  I conducted this poll:

If you didn’t participate in the poll, but would like to, have a go now.

What did you answer?

If you are familiar with this book

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

you may have chosen both statements as correct along with one third of respondents in the poll.

In his book Eric Carle writes that

“He (the caterpillar) built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and . . . he was a beautiful butterfly!”

If you either read or wrote one of the hundreds of thousands of articles about “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, or about butterflies and caterpillars in general, published on the internet, you probably also identified those two statements as correct.

butterfly cocoons Cocoon to butterfly

But if you did, just like Eric Carle, you’d be wrong!

A caterpillar that undergoes metamorphosis to become a butterfly does not spin a cocoon and does not nibble its way out. The fully grown caterpillar moults into a chrysalis and, when ready, it splits the chrysalis to emerge as a butterfly.

Monarch butterfly

For a series of beautiful photos showing the last moult of a caterpillar as it becomes a chrysalis, and another series showing a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, click here.

Or watch this video by Strang Entertainment showing the caterpillar becoming a chrysalis

or this one by Neil Bromhall showing a butterfly emerging

A moth’s caterpillar does spin a cocoon and does nibble its way out (think of a silkworm cocoon and moth).

silkworms24a

This video shows silkworm caterpillars nibbling hungrily away at the mulberry leaves. Then when a caterpillar is fully grown (about 2 mins in) it spins it cocoon.

Compare the process with that of a monarch caterpillar forming a chrysalis. It is a very different thing.

It is impossible to rely on the information provided by many of the websites to guide one’s use of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” when working with children.

For example, on the website Math & Reading Help, these suggestions are made:

“Many Teaching Moments

Though it’s a very brief picture book with sparse and simple language, The Very Hungry Caterpillar conveys an impressive array of wisdom and lessons for children. Most prominent among these is the life cycle of a caterpillar. The caterpillar in the story begins his life as an egg, then progresses through the larva stage. The time in his cocoon is his chrysalis stage, followed by his adult appearance as a butterfly.

This is a factually accurate portrayal of how lepidopterans (sic), an order of insects including butterflies and moths, grow and change. It teaches your child to understand this biological process. When you encounter a caterpillar, you can refer to The Very Hungry Caterpillar and ask your child about what it’s doing, since it’s likely to be looking for food. Likewise, you can reference the book when you see a butterfly, noting how it’s a caterpillar that has emerged from its cocoon after its transformation.”

You have already picked out the inaccuracies in that statement, haven’t you?

Another website, Primary upd8 also suggests using the book for teaching children about the butterfly’s life cycle, and look how it promotes itself!

Uks most exciting science resource

This misinformation is so common and insidious that Jacqui, writing on the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust website, said

“When speaking to teachers I often find raised eyebrows when I explain that butterflies’ larvae do not make cocoons. The teachers refer to Eric Carle’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, where he refers to a ‘cocoon’.

Why does this misinformation persist, and why did Eric Carle use misleading statements in his book?

Does it matter if children (and adults) think that butterflies hatch out of cocoons?

Eric Carle didn’t seem to think it did.

Unfortunately I was unable to locate for confirmation an article I’d read years ago. This article, if I recall correctly, reported a response of Carle’s to children enquiring why he had used “cocoon” rather than “chrysalis”. His response was one of disdain. What did it matter?

If you search Eric Carle’s current website for cocoon, this is the response you will receive:

Why a cocoon

While Carle concedes that most butterflies come from a chrysalis, he triumphantly states that one rare genus pupates in a cocoon! I confirmed this with the Encyclopaedia Britannica .

Does that one rare instance let Carle off the hook?

I think not.

In her article on the Monarch Butterfly New Zealand Trust website in response to Carle’s statement, Jacqui says

“Actually, the Parnassians pupate inside cocoon-like webs usually constructed among leaves or in rubbish piles.” (my underlining)

So not quite true and not quite off the hook Eric Carle.

In addition, although I couldn’t find the article I was searching for, I found this from Scholastic which shows that Eric was aware of the error and declined to change it.

“By the way, Eric already knows that a caterpillar emerges from a chrysalis, not a cocoon! So don’t bother writing to tell him. Eric explains how the famous “mistake” crept into the book:

“My editor contacted a scientist, who said that it was permissible to use the word cocoon. Poetry over science. It simply would not have worked to say, ‘Come out of your chrysalis!’ If we can accept giants tied down by dwarfs, genies in bottles, and knights who attack windmills, why can’t a caterpillar come out of a cocoon?”

There are many points for discussion in that statement:

  • His editor contacted a scientist – What sort of scientist? I would say one with questionable credentials or entomological knowledge.
  • Permissible to use the word “cocoon” – Why? For what purpose?
  • Poetry over science!!!!!!! Chrysalis is a beautiful word, specific to the butterfly. What could be more poetic than that? Poetic and scientific! What a great combination!
  • Why wouldn’t it have worked to say “Come out of your chrysalis”?
  • A caterpillar doesn’t come out of a cocoon. A caterpillar spins a cocoon; then a moth comes out of it; not a butterfly! (Except for the rare Parnassian butterfly.)

Is this issue, as Carle suggests, the same as giants and dwarfs, genies in bottles and knights who attack windmills?

What do you think?

Do picture book authors have a responsibility in imparting factual information to children?

Is it okay to choose “poetry over science”?

In his talk Reading and obligation (reviewed in an earlier post) Neil Gaiman said that

“We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth”

Not quite the same thing I know, but an obligation nonetheless?

Though not there now, when I first looked at the Reading Rockets interview with Eric Carle this quote was prominently displayed beside it:

 “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

— Dr. Seuss

A bit ironic, don’t you think?

How much of the responsibility should remain with the reader to verify the correctness/accuracy of what is read? How does one go about that?

I have always been a believer in the “question everything” approach. “Don’t believe everything you read,” I say. But sometimes knowing what to accept and what to question can be a difficult thing.

I’d love to know what you think. Please leave a comment in the comment box.

Here are links to some of the articles I referred to in this post:

Monarch Butterfly Website

Reading Rockets

Eric Carle

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Scholastic

Ask.com

Google.com

Neil Gaiman lecture in full: Reading and obligation

This post is the third in a series

Searching for meaning in a picture book – Part A

Searching for purpose in a picture book – Part B

 

Counting on the holidays!

algebra

When the topic “Maths” is mentioned in conversation among adults, including teachers, many of them moan, “I hate maths. It’s too abstract. I could never understand it. I can’t see the point in it.”

I think it is a sad situation that many such adults were turned off maths in school by teachers who didn’t introduce them to the beauty of maths, who didn’t teach maths in the context of real-life purposes and whose pedagogical kit bag was entirely filled with worksheets of meaningless and endless algorithms to complete.

I am one of those adults too. In my final years of high school I had a “teacher” who could do the math but couldn’t teach the math; couldn’t explain the why or the how, or any of the steps required to achieve understanding. Maths became an impenetrable forest of meaningless algorithms, formulae and theorems.

As both a parent and teacher of young children, I was determined to not be an instrument of math torture. Granted this may be easier with young children than it is with older students, but I’m sure there are still ways of making maths fun and meaningful in high school classrooms.

The suggestions in this article provide parents of young children with ways of finding maths in everyday contexts and incorporating mathematical learning effortlessly into holiday activities. Of course, the activities are of benefit at any time, not just during the holidays!

If you don’t have young children to inspire, or inspire you, please move on to the end of the article for some suggestions to excite your own interest in maths!

Although the word “counting” appears in the title, it is important to remember that maths is not just counting.

The strands of maths as described by The Australian Curriculum include:

  • Number and place value
  • Patterns and algebra
  • Measurement and geometry
  • Probability and statistics

My list includes just a few suggestions for each of those strands to get you started. Need I say there is an infinite number of possibilities?

25 ways to keep children thinking mathematically during the holidays:

Number and place value

  1. Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  2. Count out the cutlery required for each person at dinner
  3. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
    • Recognise the coins and notes
    • Count the value of coins and notes
    • Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
    • Tender the money in payment for an item
  4. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  5. Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  6. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting
  7. Make up number stories e.g. “We had five apples in the bowl. I ate one, and you ate one, how many are left?” “
  8. Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle Rooster’s off to see the world  or Kim Michelle Toft One Less Fish

doorbell rang

Rooster's off to see world

One less fish

Patterns and algebra

  1. Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach, building blocks or toy cars
  2. Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
  3. Decorate cards and drawings with a patterned frame
  4. Make gift wrapping paper by decorating with potato prints or stamp patterns

Measurement and geometry

  1. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
  • measure the ingredientscooking-man
  • set the temperature on the oven
  • work out the cooking finish time

2.  A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:

  • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • pour from one container into another of a different shape to compare which holds more and which holds less

3.  Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g. compare an apple and an orange, measure the mass of butter required for a recipe

4.  Measuring length can be included by:

  • measuring and comparing height
  • cutting a length of string to tie a package
  • measuring who is closest to the jack in a backyard game of lawn bowls

5.  Use the calendar to

  • Learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
  • count the passing days or the number of days until an event

6.  Identify shapes in the home and environment e.g.

  • 2D shapes: tiles on floor and walls, shapes of windows, sections of footpath
  • 3D shapes: cereal boxes (rectangular prism), balls (sphere), bottles or cans (cylinder), dice (cube)

7.  Play games that involve shapes e.g. jigsaw puzzles, tangrams

8.  Talk about directions e.g. left, right, forwards, backwards and follow directions on a grid

9.  Play games that involve directions and movement in space e.g. battleship, Hokey Pokey, Simon Says, snakes and ladders, ludo

10.  Read and discuss books that include measurement concepts e.g. Pamela Allen: Who Sank the Boat? (volume); Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week) and The Bad Tempered Ladybird (time); Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean A Year on our Farm (months and seasons); and for looking at places on a map Mem Fox Sail Away The ballad of Skip and Nell or Annette Langen & Constanza Droop Letters from Felix

who sank the boat

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A year on our farm

sail awayLetters from Felix

Probability and statistics

spite_sun_rain

  1. When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible
  2. Encourage children to collect data about family or friends by asking yes/no questions e.g. do you like swimming, or making a graph of the family’s favourite colour or meal.
  3. Play games with spinners and dice and talk about the likelihood of spinning or throwing a particular number

This list is really just a beginning. I’m sure you will add many more suggestions of your own.

For your convenience, the list is available to download FREE in my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.

As promised I will leave you with a few suggestions to spark your own interest in and love of maths. Be sure to check them out:

These are must listen TED talks by Arthur Benjamin:

The magic of Fibonacci numbers

and A performance of “Mathemagic”

 And a fascinating one for the Christmas season “The 12 days of Pascal’s triangular Christmas” by Michael Rose on The Conversation.

If you want to delve a bit deeper, here are some interesting reads to get you started:

Charles Seife Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Mario Livio The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, The World’s Most Astonishing Number

Rozsa Peter Playing with Infinity: Mathematical Explorations and Excursions

I listened to the biography of zero on audiobooks this year. It was a fascinating listen.

What do you think of maths? Do you love it or hate it?

I hope you enjoy your adventures in maths! A world of possibilities awaits!

Searching for meaning in a picture book — Part A

Do you recognise this book?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Chances are you do.

According to the website of the author Eric Carle, since its publication in 1969 it has been published in over 50 languages and more than 33 million copies have been sold worldwide. It ranks highly in the Wikipedia List of best-selling books.

Most primary schools, preschools and kindergartens would have numerous copies in their libraries with a copy in most classrooms as well as in teachers’ private collections. Most homes with young children would have a copy in their storybook collection.

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In addition to the books, many of those schools, classrooms and homes would have some of the associated merchandise; including toys, games, puzzles, posters and colouring books, which are now available.

When I typed ‘the very hungry caterpillar’ into the Google search bar about 5,640,000 results were listed in 0.33 seconds!

 Google search the very hungry caterpillar

There are activities, lesson plans, printables, videos, and advertisements for merchandise. There is a plethora of suggestions for using the book as a teaching resource, including counting, days of the week and sequencing.

I think you would be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t at least heard of the book. That is quite an impact, wouldn’t you say?

For a book to have done so well, it must have a lot going for it. And it does.

There are many things I like about this book, including:

  • The bright, colourful, collages with immediate appeal
  • The natural flow and rhythm of the language making it easy to read, dramatize and recall
  • The sequence of numbers and days encouraging children to predict and join in with the reading and retelling
  • The match between the illustrations and the text supporting beginning readers as they set out upon their journey into print
  • The simple narrative structure with an identifiable beginning, a complication in the middle with which most children can empathise (being ill from overeating) and a “happy” resolution with the caterpillar turning into a beautiful butterfly.

Reading to children

 Nor and Bec reading

Sharing of picture books with children from a very young age has a very powerful effect upon their learning.

There are many benefits to both parent and child of a daily shared reading session.

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It can be seen as a special time of togetherness, of bonding; of sharing stories and ideas. It can be a quiet and calming time; a time to soothe rough edges and hurt feelings; a time for boisterous fun and laughter; or a time for curiosity, inquiry, imagination and wonder.


Whatever the time, it is always a special time for a book
; and all the while, children are learning language.

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© Bernadette Drent. Used with permission.

They are hearing the sounds and rhythm of their language. They are being exposed to new vocabulary, sentence structures, concepts and ideas. They are learning important understandings that will support them on their journey into literacy e.g. they are learning that the language of a book differs from oral language and that the words in a book always stay the same.

They begin to realise that it is the little black squiggly marks that carry the message, and they may even start to recognise some words.

Robert 2

Many of these, and other, features make “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” suitable for incorporation in an early childhood curriculum, for example:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • Literature appreciation – love of language, knowledge of story, interest in books
  • Reading – the clear, simple and predictable text make it an easy first reader
  • Maths – counting and sequencing the numbers, sequencing the days of the week
  • Visual arts – learning about collage and composition of a picture
  • Philosophical inquiry —sharing interpretations and discussing feelings about the story, asking questions raised including the ‘big questions’ of life

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Eric Carle, in an interview with Reading rockets, describes it as a book of hope. He says:

You little, ugly, little, insignificant bug: you, too, can grow up to be a beautiful, big butterfly and fly into the world, and unfold your talents.”

He goes on to explain that,

I didn’t think of this when I did the book, but I think that is the appeal of the book.”

But I’m not going to let him have the last word!

While “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has always been one of my very favourite picture books, I do have some misgivings about the impact that this book has had.

In future posts I will share what I consider to be some limitations of the text, and what I consider to be the most powerful use of all.

What do you think?

What appeals to you about this book?

What questions does it raise for you?

Please share your ideas. I look forward to hearing what you think.