Dec 16

Talking about A Caterpillar, a Bee, and a VERY Big Tree in the Classroom

children's picture book“A Caterpillar, a Bee and a Very Big Tree,” written by brother and sister pair, Dicksy Wilson and D. B. Sanders.

This rhyming picture book teaches cadence and rhythm and has a sing-song feel in places. The charming characters and illustrations will inspire young minds and immerse children in the action from the first page through the last. The main and recurring theme in the book is simple: “You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

Throughout the tale, readers learn a few different important life lessons. Each of the following lessons can be used as a talking point for group discussion in the classroom or by parents as they read the book with their own child or children:

Lesson 1 – BE YOURSELF

In the earliest part of the story, a brief lesson in individuality comes from the main characters – a caterpillar named Gus who is a self-proclaimed procrastinator and not like the other “green fuzzies” and a bee named Shoo who is allergic to pollen and unable to work with the other “buzz-buzzies.” While they discuss the fact that they are different from their own respective kind, they decide that they can be friends with one another regardless of how they are viewed by others.

Discussion Tip:

After students have read or listened to the story, have them list the ways the main characters were unique. Have them next make a list of their own unique qualities. They can also list the unique qualities of their best friend and decide which (if any) qualities they share with their best friend.

Lesson 2  –  HELP OTHERS

When the pair is faced with the conflict of the story – a huge storm coming straight for the mighty oak in which all of the other diligent caterpillars have already spun their cocoons – a lesson of helping others becomes the theme of the book. Gus and Shoo decide that they have to take a risk to save all of the others who may not have tied their cocoons tightly enough. They work together to overcome a multitude of obstacles in order to save the day, and, although they sometimes get a little panicked and overwhelmed with the task at hand, they always find a way to cooperatively solve the problems before them.

Discussion Tip:

Have students discuss all the obstacles the characters have to overcome, then have them tell about obstacles in their own lives that they’ve had to overcome.


Both characters deal with their own self-doubt along the way, but they rely on the gentle encouragement of each other and embrace a positive thinking approach. When Shoo doubts his ability to carry Gus to the top of the tree, Gus smiles at his friend, “I just know you can do it… you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” In the end, Shoo helps Gus overcome his fear of flying after he transforms into a beautiful butterfly.

Discussion Tip:

Have students discuss the techniques the characters used to think positively. Next, have them create or list some techniques they can use themselves to think positively in trying times.

Lesson 4 – NEVER GIVE UP

Throughout the book there are lessons about taking the time to slow down, think things through and never give up.

Teaching Tip:
Have students point out scenes in the book where the characters slow down to think things through and never give up. Have students talk about times in their own lives when they’ve felt like giving up. What kept them going?


Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory
Writing Children’s Books – Genre Differences
How Do You Make a Good Story Worthy of Getting Past the Gatekeeper

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Aug 12

Back to School Basics for Teachers

Back to school tips for kidsBy Karen Cioffi and Robyn Feltman

Well, so much for summer break. The teaching grind is just around the corner. Yeah, yeah, two months off isn’t long enough, but hey, it’s pretty good.

So, now it’s time to start getting in gear to go back to the professional attire and mindset, early morning rising, and don’t forget to get your bladder in shape so that one daily visit to the rest room will be enough.

Okay, let’s go down the checklist for the things you’ll need to get prepared for the inevitable day:

1. Don’t forget to wait until the last minute to get your teacher supplies at the teacher store so you’ll have time to make an hour worth of phone calls while you’re waiting on line, because all the other teachers waited for the last minute also.

2.  Get started writing your lesson plans for the first couple of weeks, but don’t get too attached to them, because you know they’ll change once you get in the swing of things.

3. Remember to agonize over picking that first day’s book that you’ll read to your class. Of course, they will be absolutely enthralled and give you 100% of their attention – they’ve been waiting all summer to have this book read to them.

4. Create a new schedule plan. No more beach days; no more waking up at 10am or later; no more having the use of a restroom ANY time of the day; no more use of the phone anytime of the day; no more eating whenever you want; and no more peace and quiet.

5. Start working today to get your body and mind prepared for 30 or so restless kids with different personalities, strengths and weakness; for 30 or so sets of parents with different personalities; for the school administration, and for your co-workers. Start building your strength, stamina, and inner resilience – you’re going to need it.

6. Get your mindset in order. Repeat the following mantra 100 – 1000 times a day:
My days in class will be productive and calm; my students will not affect my well-being; I will remember my teaching skills; my students are great and I love them; my students enjoy learning; all my students will pass the State tests with flying colors; my students’ parents are wonderful as is my school administration.

7. Calm your nerves. You will be able to teach again; you will be able to get back into your professional mode; you will be able to concentrate on what you’re doing.

8. Watch those late nights. Be sure to start at least a week before school and go to bed at a reasonable hour. You will definitely need your rest.

9. Mark the calendar: 180 working days from the first day of school to go until next summer’s vacation – let the countdown begin!


How Do You Make a Good Story Worth of Getting Past the Gatekeeper
Characters or Story – Which Comes First?
Writing a Fiction Story – Walking Through Walls Backstory


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