Extending The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

So, this time I have given it all away in my title. I will be writing about how The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry is a FABULOUS resource for teachers as a read-aloud, and how to extend this book in at least one (very fun) way.

I have read this book several times now, and have developed a pattern for when to ask what questions and how to get the most out of it. Cherry has masterfully crafted a book where young children are walked through the process of recognizing the importance of nature, step-by-step. The book opens with GORGEOUS illustrations depicting the Amazon Rain Forest. Teachers, you can easily do an introductory lesson on geography, and get your students to look up where the Amazon Rain Forest is located, and develop a sense of the setting in this book.

The reason I like this book so much is because it breaks down the benefits of nature and the importance of preserving it, page by page. Students can also widen their knowledge of flora and fauna through the pictures of birds, animals and plants that they see. You see toucans and sloths, monkeys and anteaters, jaguars and macaws, and your students will LOVE identifying and learning about these animals.

Various concepts you can touch on briefly or extend in detail are: camouflaging, the role of trees in providing oxygen, the importance of preserving trees for future generations, the food chain, animal habitats etc. This book is a FANTASTIC jumping platform for other concepts that you want to introduce to your class. Typically, I have read this to grades 2 and 3, but this can be stretched to the lower junior grades as well, 4 and 5.

A great extension activity that we used to avail of the wonderful cross-curricular opportunities this book offers, was doing an art project with tissue paper. We used cut-up tissue paper in different tree-colours to make trees. I further encouraged my students to note down in one word or phrase, the importance of trees to emphasize the literacy component of their learning, and to help with summarizing skills.

The following materials were used:

For this project you will need tissue paper of yellow, red and orange, and different shades of green and brown, cut up into neat little squares, glue, pencils and blank sheets of paper with tree outlines drawn on.

I took a video to best illustrate the process, as below:

And here are some finished products. Such artists the kids are!

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So what are your waiting for? Go on! Give this INCREDIBLE book a read aloud and then do this COOL activity. You will convert even the most inattentive and hard-to-manage student in your class, as (s)he sits down quietly and completes this (almost) therapeutic project. Happy art-ing! And, you’re welcome.

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