Kate DiCamillo Book Study

One of my all time favorite children’s authors is Kate DiCamillo of “Because of Winn Dixie” and “The Tale of Despereaux” fame. When I found out she also has several early chapter books as well as a few picture books, I knew we had to do a week exploring her stories! I chose a story per day to focus on, and we did activities centering around each story so the plans are organized by day this week, rather than by subject. We also read “The Tale of Despereaux” at bedtime (it’s longer so it took around 3 weeks to finish) which enthralled even my almost 3 year old. My 4 year old has also listened to me read “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” and “Flora and Ulysses” (also an adorable movie) which he loved. If your little isn’t used to listening to novels yet, you can skip the longer ones and just stick to the charmingly illustrated early chapter books in my plans. I’m also including some novel activities you can use if you do choose to read one with your little (in my opinion “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” is the best for preschool content-wise). Happy reading everyone!

Monday: Focus book- “A Piglet Named Mercy”

-Read and retell: We read “A Piglet Named Mercy” and I had my little retell the story. Then I retold it too as an exemplar.

-Pig and puddle letter match: I printed and laminated this pig and puddle letter match from Teachers Pay Teachers, laid out the puddles with lowercase letters in them, then gave each of my littles an uppercase letter pig in turn and had them find the puddle the pig belonged in (ie. the one with the matching letter).

-Pig roll and cover: I printed this set of 10 pigs, wrote the numbers 11-20 on them (you could also do 1-10 if your little doesn’t know those yet!), then had my little roll a 20 sided dice and cover the number he rolled with a chocolate chip. (if he rolled a single digit number, I just added 10 to it to speed things along…LoL)

-Pig fact and opinion: In “A Piglet Named Mercy” and the subsequent Mercy Watson books, their neighbor Eugenia has many opinions about pigs. I told my little what an opinion is (what someone thinks that can’t be proven) and also what a fact is (something you can prove by seeing it, hearing it, smelling it, touching it, or tasting it), then we reread “A Piglet Named Mercy” and he identified Eugenia’s opinions which I wrote on one side of a T-chart. Then I asked him to name some facts about pigs that he knew and we added those to our chart too. I got this idea from Smart Kids. It was a great mesh of science (pig facts) and reading (gathering opinions from a text.)

-Mercy Watson coloring page: I printed this coloring page of a pig and added some buttered toast (her favorite food) to the picture with a sharpie. I also drew on a party hat because another teacher had done a birthday celebration for Mercy, but that didn’t really go with the story so we skipped the actual party. I didn’t want to reprint the pigs and waste paper, so the littles got pigs with party hats which they totally didn’t mind!

Tuesday: Focus book- “Mercy Watson to the Rescue”

-Read and retell: Since this book is longer than yesterday’s we took turns retelling it (ie. my little started, I did the middle, he did the end- we used the pictures as a guide).

-Count and connect pig prints: I made a pig print matching page with even numbers, then tucked it in a page protector so both my littles could do it- my 2 year old needed help, my 4 year old did it independently. After my preschooler had finished, I asked him what he noticed about each set of prints- he immediately picked up that each print had a pair, so I used that as a spring board to discuss even and odd numbers. For my 2 year old, we mostly focused on the counting and number recognition part.

-Real “rescuers” and how they help: Since it tied to our story, we reviewed community helpers by making a t-chart of the helpers in the Mercy Watson series and how they help their communities. (If you read “Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride” and “Mercy Watson Fights Crime” both have either the police or firefighters or both).

-Paper plate Mercy: I had my littles paint paper plates pink, then they added circle noses, triangle ears, and googly eyes to make darling porcine wonders!

-Buttered toast snack: Mercy Watson absolutely loves buttered toast (it comes up in every story at some point!) so of course we had to enjoy some as a snack! Simple, easy, and super yummy!

-Other Mercy Watson books to enjoy:

Wednesday: Focus book- “Louise the Adventures of a Chicken”

-Read and retell: We read this story (a favorite in our house) and then my little retold it and I retold it afterwards as an exemplar.

-Story topic: “The Adventures of a ___________” Based on the title of “Louise the Adventures of a Chicken”, I had my little write his own story about the adventures of an animal of his choice. This week, I had him plan by drawing pictures for the beginning, middle and end, then he told me what was happening in the beginning, middle and end and I wrote it down above each line on his paper. I had him look at my words to write his words on the actual lines while saying each letter.

-Chicken egg counting: I gave my littles each a handful of mini marshmallows (which I said we were going to pretend were Louise’s chicken eggs), then had them count them. (I gave my 2 year old 10 and showed him how to make two piles to keep track of the ones he’d already counted. I gave my 4 year old 34 since he’s working on accurately counting larger numbers.)

-Chicken addition: I printed this chicken addition page then had my little use white pom poms (which we pretended were chicken eggs) to help him add each equation. Then we colored the chicken by number according to our answers.

-Pig and chicken compare and contrast: Since we read about Mercy the pig earlier in the week, I thought it would be fun to do a chicken vs. pig Venn Diagram. I had my little think of ways chickens and pigs are different and how they are alike, and I wrote his answers on the diagram as we went. It spurred great discussion about the many colors of pigs and chickens (which we ended up googling) as well as a mini review of birds and mammals. (Pardon my tiny board and messy writing- our school room is under renovation because of ceiling damage!)

-States of matter/physical and chemical changes EGGsperiment: Knowing the states of matter isn’t technically a prek/kindergarten standard, but I figured why not dive in- it can’t hurt, right? Plus this hands-on activity/discussion is lots of fun! First I went over stove safety with my little since I let him do the cooking (please use your discretion here- not every almost 5 year old is ready to cook on a hot stove top!)…ie. always have a grown up standing with you when you cook, only touch the pan handle and the spatula. Then we reviewed the 3 main states of matter- solids, liquids and gases (there are actually 5…something I was taught by one of my very bright 2nd graders years ago! I didn’t believe him so I googled it and he was correct! Who knew!) We discussed which state of matter the raw egg was and why. We also discussed how the egg shell changed when he cracked it into the bowl (it was still an egg shell, it just looked different: ie. it was physically changed) and how the raw egg changed while my 2 year old mixed it up (it was still a raw egg, but the yolk and white part were mixed together…we only changed how it looked: ie. another physical change). Then we poured the raw egg into the hot pan and watched it change states before our eyes! We discussed how it became a solid and how it was something completely different…it was no longer a raw egg and could never go back to being a raw egg because the cooking chemically changed the egg. Eggcellent!

-Chicken craft: We made Louise by gluing white feathers to a chicken cut out (my preschooler cut his own out). Then we added feet, a beak, an eye and a comb to finish up our not so chicken chickens!

Thursday: Focus book- “Bink and Gollie”

-Read and retell: We read “Bink and Gollie” and took turns retelling the story.

-Character name spelling: As a culminating activity I put out the scrabble tiles to spell Bink, Gollie, Mercy Watson and Louise- our main characters for the week. (I accidentally spelled Gollie with a y at the end…woops!)

-Friends of ten math game: Bink and Gollie are best friends, so I printed this “Friends of Ten” math game from Teachers Pay Teachers. To play, I gave my little a ten frame and some pom poms to help him, then we took turns picking a number, making it on the ten frame with the pom poms, then counting the blank spaces to see how many more we’d need to get to ten. Once we had the answer, we’d cross off the other number (ie. if we crossed off 6 we’d also cross of 4 because they make a ten). Alternately, you can teach your little to do the “counting on” strategy where they tap their head and say the number they picked, then count on using their fingers- the fingers tell you the answer. We played until the board was covered with X’s.

-Friend questionnaire: I did this “Friendship Interview” with my littles with a twist- I had my littles answer the questions for each other, then the person they were answering for had to say if they were right or not- kind of a “how well do you know your friend” activity. You could also do this over FaceTime with a friend outside the home. (P.S. my 4 year old hasn’t seen Jaws… but he still says it’s his favorite movie! LoL)

-Crazy sock decorating: In the first “Bink and Gollie” book, Bink buys crazy socks at a sale, so I had my littles decorate a printable sock coloring page however they liked!

-Other Bink and Gollie books to enjoy:

Novel activities: These can be done with either “The Tale of Despereaux” like we did, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” or “Flora and Ulysses”…just change the mouse activities for a rabbit or a squirrel depending on which you choose to read.

-Character mobile: I talked to my little about character traits (ie. shy, bold, sneaky, kind) and had him name a few for each of the characters in the book. It helped if I asked him what each character’s personality was like because he tended to describe what they looked like otherwise. I also asked him how he knew they were kind/brave/etc. Then we tied them into a mobile.

-Shape mouse: We made Despereaux with shapes- I cut the shapes out then gave my littles instructions on how to put them together.

-Despereaux snack: I made Despereaux snacks for my littles (which you can eat while watching the movie if you read that one too or “Flora and Ulysses”) by putting whipped cream and Vanilla Wafers in a pudding cup. For a squirrel you could use Rolos for ears and for a rabbit you could cut bananas to fit! I got this from Where the Magic Happens.

Extras:

-Letter of the week: Bb, each day we do a different activity focused on our letter- introduction/have your little practice it on the chalkboard (or white board), think of words that start with the letter and make a list, workbook letter writing practice, workbook word writing practice.

-Word of the week: is, each day we do a different activity focused on our word- introduction/sound the word out/have your little practice writing it on the chalkboard or whiteboard, word family list- think of other words that rhyme with your word of the week, use the word in a sentence (have your little come up with the sentence and write it for them) then have your little illustrate the sentence, and workbook writing practice.

-Bible verse: This month’s Bible verse is “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14 I write each word in the verse on a post-it, stick them to the wall then have my little point to each word and read it each day all month.

-Character trait of the month: Responsibility…this word is reviewed and posted at the start of the month then each time one of my littles freely demonstrates responsibility I use the word to specifically praise what they’re doing and encourage the trait in them. (ie. “Oh wow! You put your plate in the sink and all of your trash in the trash can without being asked! That is SO responsible!”)

Supply/shopping list:

  • scrabble tiles
  • “A Piglet Named Mercy”
  • “Mercy Watson to the Rescue”
  • “Louise the Adventures of a Chicken”
  • “Bink and Gollie”
  • mini marshmallows
  • pom poms (white or yellow)
  • egg
  • white feathers
  • bread
  • butter
  • paper plate
  • vanilla wafers (or a banana or Rolos)
  • Jello pudding cup- chocolate, butterscotch or vanilla
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate chips

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