Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder
The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader
Social Studies – Neighborhoods and Community Helpers – Sylvester and his family live in a neighborhood on Acorn Road in the town of Oatsdale. A neighborhood is a group of people living within a certain range. Familiarize your children with your neighborhood. Do they know their street and town names? Take a walk or a drive around your neighborhood, with children noting street signs, pointing out familiar sights, and soaking in the surroundings. Show them where the police station and firehouse are, explaining to them how they are community helpers. Maybe they would like to try their hand at making a map of the neighborhood. Sometimes your neighbors can be community helpers too.
Does your child remember who tried to help Sylvester’s parents find Sylvester? All of the neighborhood dogs went looking for him. Reminisce about a time that you or your child may have been community helpers. Maybe you helped to find a runaway dog or picked up trash along the street. Maybe you helped the people of your neighborhood in a time of natural disaster. Share these adventures with your children.
Feelings –Sometimes we act out in anger or frustration because we don’t know how to express our feelings. This is especially true with children. The Donkey and other characters went through many, many different feelings throughout this story. Have your child act out these various feelings: excited, surprised, startled, frightened, confused, perplexed, puzzled, bewildered, scared, worried, helpless, hopeless, miserable, or unhappy. Discuss with children how a problem can be helped more quickly if they are able to express their feelings.
Science – Animal Babies – Sylvester’s parents asked all the animal children if they knew where his son was. Does your student know the adult and baby names of the various animals? The story mentions puppies, kittens, colts, and piglets. Have student name the parent animal (dog, cat, horse, pig). Does he know anymore? You could mention cow/calf, bear/cub, sheep/lamb, lion/cub, kangaroo/joey, etc.
Animal Babies Matching Worksheet
Animals in Winter – As the weather was growing colder Sylvester went into a deep sleep. This deep sleep during the wintertime is called hibernation. While donkeys (or rocks!) don’t usually hibernate, there are many animals that do. Can your child think of any animals that hibernate? Bears, groundhogs, and bats are among those animals that will sleep all winter. Other animals, such as birds and butterflies, will migrate to warmer areas during winter, where food and shelter are more plentiful. And others will store up food and stay inside their cozy homes when the weather turns cold. Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft and Richard G. Van Gelder is part of the “Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science Book” series and is educational and enjoyable.
Another good go-along book could be The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, winner of the 1949 Caldecott award. Weather and Seasons – This picture book gives very good examples of the changing of seasons. Discuss with your child the different seasons, and the months they fall under. Does your child know what causes the seasons? The earth takes 24 hours to spin on its axis, to create day and night. And it takes 365 days for the earth to rotate around the sun, to create a year. The seasons tell us how far the earth has traveled around the sun since the year began. What happens to the plants and animals in spring? How about fall and winter? What is your child’s favorite season? Why? Go outside and observe your surroundings, noting the changes specific to the seasons.
Read this Months, Days of the Week poem out loud to your children.
Rocks – This story lends itself perfectly to the study of rocks. There are so many good resources available. You may want to have your child collect up rocks and pebbles and have him identify them using a good resource book. If you want to discuss the rock cycle you could use this Rock Cycle explanation and diagram. If you are using Considering God’s Creation, Lesson 6 is very fun and informative. Just grab some books about rocks from the library, and have fun!
Math – Billion – Sylvester thought that the chance of someone wishing that a rock was a donkey was one in a billion at best. How much is a billion? It is a one, followed by nine zeros, reading like this: 1,000,000,000. Have the child write out the number and identify the place value of each digit. Ask him if he thinks that 1 in 1,000,000,000 is a good chance or bad?
Counting – Look with your child at the picture of the dogs searching for Sylvester. Have child count all the dogs. How many brown? How many gray? How many spotted? How many different kinds can your child find?
Graphing – using the pebbles and stones your child collected in the science lesson, have the child make a bar graph of rocks by color, texture (smooth, rough), size, etc. Have him group the rocks in different ways, and look for his input as to how he would graph each one.
Language Arts – Abbreviations –An abbreviation is the shortened form of a word or phrase. Abbreviations are sometimes used for common words, and most are followed by a period. In this story, Sylvester’s mother is called Mrs. Duncan, and his father is called Mr. Duncan. If your student is not familiar with these abbreviations have him locate them throughout the story and practice writing them. Can your student think of any others? Some more familiar ones would be Dr. for Doctor, Rd. for Road, or Ave. for Avenue.
Personification – It is a literary device in which the author gives an animal, object, or idea the characteristics of a human. In Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, William Steig has humorously dressed the animals and given them names and even occupations! Can your child think of any other stories with personification? Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton is another story with a winter theme featuring good examples of personification.
Creative Writing – have your student write or narrate a story about a magic pebble. Show how every story needs an introduction, middle, and conclusion. After writing the story, you may want to have the older student revise it for content and style by reading it out loud listening for the overall sense and sound, and then proofread it for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors.
Art – Caldecott Award– Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is the winner of the 1970 Caldecott Award. Have the child find the medal on the front of the book. In 1937 the secretary of the American Booksellers Association, Fredric Melcher, proposed that a special award should be given to the artist of “the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year”. The award was named in honor of Randolph Caldecott, a 19th-century picture book illustrator. The winner is selected and announced in midwinter by the American Library Association. As you examine the pictures of the story with your child, discuss reasons it may have been selected as a “distinguished American picture book”. Have child design his own medal, using foil, to award to his favorite picture book. Just for fun – see if children would like to paint a rock bright red just like Sylvester’s.
Bible / Character – What does the Bible say about being a good neighbor? Read Luke 10:2-37 to your child, Jesus’ parable about the traveler. He tells us that a neighbor is a person of compassion, helpfulness, and thoughtful care, not just someone you live close to. Ask your child to brainstorm how he might be a good neighbor. Some other verses about neighbors: Leviticus 19:18, Proverbs 3:29
Game – Sylvester and the Magic Pebble game.