8 Ways to Incorporate Mo Willems's Books Into Preschool-First Grade Curriculum

8 Ways to Incorporate Mo Willems's Books Into Preschool-First Grade Curriculum

Mo Willems is one of the most popular children’s picture books authors and illustrators the past 15 years; he is most famous for 3 series of books:  The Pigeon SeriesThe Knuffle Bunny Series, and The Elephant and Piggie series. Here is his website :http://www.mowillems.com/

Below are some the ways, we use Mo Willems books as part of our curriculum in our Pre-K classroom.

1. We are learning about exclamation points!!!!! Mo Willems uses a lot of exclamation points in his books. While reading his books we are discussing with the children what exclamation points mean. We then often play a game where as we read the books, we ask the children if they see any exclamation points on the page; when they find one, the kids help us scream out whatever the sentence with the exclamation point is. For example, in the Mo Willems book Pigeon Wants A Puppy the Pigeon frequently says “I Want A Puppy!” The children love yelling along with the book when they see the exclamation point. In addition, to the concept of exclamation point, this activity teaches a basic version of the literary concept of reading with “stress and intonation.”  This is the concept of changing ones pitch and tone of voice when reading based on the context of the text; studies have shown that students who have an understanding of this concept do better at comprehending text that is read to them or text that they read themselves when they are older.

2. We use these books to teach “sight word” vocabulary. “Sight Words” are short words that are used at a hi frequency in text like Hi, I, The, A, up, and, or.  Many “sight words” can’t really be learned via pictures or via sounding out and thus have to be memorized by frequent exposure. Mo Willems books often have large print with short sentences of only a couple of words on each page. These words are often “site words.” When we read the Mo Willems books we will often point to each individual word we are reading in order for the children to get the correlation between the word we are speaking and how it is written on the page. Often times, this leads to the children memorizing many of the Elephant and Piggie Books and Pigeon books by Mo Willems because they have simple repeated texts. His Cat The Cat series is especially repetitive and great for learning to read words. 

3. We will read the Knuffle Bunny books a few times during the month. In these books the main character "Trixie" grows from being a toddler into a preschooler. As we read the books we will discuss the concept of  sequels and that stories can continue with the same characters. We will also have a discussion with the children relating the story to their own lives asking them questions if they have any stuffed animals that are special to them in the same way knuffle bunny is special to Trixie. We may also ask them how they are different now as a big preschooler vs how they were like when they were toddlers. 

4. We will discuss and try to emulate Mo Willems’ art. Mo Willems has a unique illustration style. One of his techniques which he uses in the “Knuffle Bunny series” is to use actual photos of location such a Laundromat and draw his characters over the actual photo which gives the appearance of having a cartoon style character living in the real world. We will try to emulate this style of art but having the children draw characters over photos of parts of the Pre-K classroom and playdeck. In addition, we will have the children attempt to draw their own version of Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie Books. 

5. We will also read and begin to learn to compare and contrast Mo Willems' parody versions of classic fairy tales such as Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs and That is Not A Good Idea 

6. Mo Willems books are great for labeling and and discussing emotions. Mo Willems characters experience big emotions. Sometimes it might be Trixie upset she lost Knuffle Bunny, or The Pigeon angry about not being able to drive the bus, or Elephant and Piggie worrying when their friend is sad or when their friend wants to play with someone else. While reading the stories, we can ask children to identify the emotions these characters are experiencing and also to spark discussions about times the children have been in similar situations and how they handled it.

 7. Character study: Characters like Elephant, Piggie, The Pigeon, and The Trixie have a lot of depth. We can use them as part of a character study. In a character study, the children can help to describe all the personality and physical traits of these characters they know and love. These character study descriptions can be kept hanging in the class and updated with new ideas the more we learn about the characters.

8. These Books can help us understand how books work. The Elephant and Piggie books titled “We Are In A Book” is especially good for this. n this book, Elephant and Piggie discover that they are in fact in a book and go on to explain how books work in a myriad of funny scenes. For example, Piggie informs Elephant that “a reader is reading us” which leads to the two characters trying to get the reader to say random silly words like “banana.” Concepts like page numbers and that all books end are also learned via the plot line.

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