With so many mixed messages in the media, kids need to know who they are. So we reach for every opportunity to learn from our children. We ask questions. We talk about our days. We give examples and act as role models. But, sometimes, we can learn more by watching them.
Upon enjoying Lois Ehlert’s Snowballs with my kindergartner and preschooler for the umpteenth time, we needed a change. The kids loved pointing out the many materials used to decorate each snowman in the short story. After reading it yet another time, I asked them if they’d like to create their own snow people.
Snowballs, which is written as a brief poem using site words and simple prose, is a collage book. The author illustrates her story as a snow family is built and embellished with household items. As we focused on the pictures, Little shared that she didn’t like the snowcat because of his ears, and Middle told us he liked the dog—Spot, who was covered in buttons—best.
I asked the kids what Snowmiddle and Snowlittle would look like. Middle wanted his to have pockets to hold important things like phones and money. And it needed a hat to wear during the inevitable snowball fight. Little explained her snow person would need a tutu and a pink phone.
When I asked them what supplies they would need to make their snowpeople, they looked at me with wonder. “Paper?” Middle asked. I led them to our craft closet where we found paper, glue, scissors, pipe cleaners, and stickers. And then I explained I wasn’t finished. I reached into my pantry, curious to see what I’d find. We unloaded pasta, beans, peas, sprinkles, and even chocolate chips.
While the kids were anxious to jump right in with crafting, I slowed them down with a thought. “This time,” I said, “let’s try something new. Let’s try to plan what we’re doing first.” We made lists and brainstormed what our snowpeople would need. “Eyes, mouth, tutu, pink phone, and pink bow,” Little listed. “A giant snowball!” said Middle. “And a phone, and a wallet. And remember? My snow person needs money!” While I helped Little with the writing, Middle wrote his own, learning to brainstorm with words that he did his best to write.
Finally, the crafting began. When Big came home from school, he jumped right in to make his own.
The next reading of Snowballs was different as we rewrote the Ms. Ehlert’s story, this time using our own snowpeople in place of hers. The story is new again. It’s familiar, exciting, and a little more special.
Educators often use picture books to inspire lessons, we call these books Mentor Texts. Snowballs by Lois Ehlert can become a mentor text for teaching character creation.
© 2016, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.