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November 19, 2008

Eric Carle

In our pre-school year planning, my colleague and I decided to make November "Eric Carle month."  We wanted at least a three week period in which we could use the literature and illustrations of Eric Carle to teach our early childhood concepts.  The classics “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and “The Secret Birthday Message” provide exposure to colors, days of the week and shapes, respectively.  However, as you begin to share these stories with students, much more is happening.  The repetitive text supports early literacy development.  Students are able to read stories on their own and feel successful.  In addition, the bold pictures and predictable text help students create practice plot lines and character profiles. 


One of my favorite aspects of teaching is the opportunity to witness students transferring information from one domain to another.  For example, after reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” two of my students went to our calendar to consult which days the caterpillar ate his food.  With my help, they were able to use our calendar to retell the story to each other. 


We have spent the last few weeks working with shapes.  “The Secret Birthday Message,” written and illustrated by Eric Carle, is full of great shapes.  I was amazed when one of my English language learners made a star out of play dough and brought it to me exclaiming, “star, present!”  He recalled that the gift at the end of our Secret Shape Hunt was marked with a star. 


One of the most important reasons for author and illustrator studies is to allow students to relate to real life authors and illustrators.  After exploring Eric Carle’s website together we learned that he is just like us.  He has a family, a house, a dog and loves to paint.  This has inspired my students to be authors and illustrators.  We know that we can write stories and share our creations with others.  We have even written to Mr. Carle to find out more about him and his work!


These kind of connections are so important for our students.  It invites students, even at the young age of four or five to be involved in their own learning.  It challenges them to look beyond their school day to see that what they are learning affects their lives! 


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