Another Old Favorite: Click on the link at the end to view/print the activity templates for this story.
Background: I use this book to introduce my post office theme the week before Valentine's Day. That week we make a Valentine for our families and then we walk to the post office to mail them. I send an envelope home with a note asking parents to address and stamp the envelope. The town our school resides in is pretty small, so the post office is just 2 blocks away. On a sunny day in February it makes for a nice day of exercise. We hold hands to cross the street and the children are quite joy-filled and excited about the adventure. I have several adults volunteer to help walk with us so I have "big people" at the front, middle and end, being a "caboose". We're not mailing any elephants that day, but we do have a grand time stuffing our valentines in the big blue box on the corner. The children are quite amazed when their card arrives at their home. The entire process is very intriguing to a 5-year-old, and one of my favorite events of the year.
The Gist: The main character of the story is a little boy who decides to mail an elephant to his cousin Dilly for her birthday.
Why I LOVE it: The illustrations are hilarious. Even the dog gets involved licking the stamps and then getting his tongue stuck. The elephant and dog are quite adorable and the emotions that they exhibit on the pages bring you right into the story and make you laugh and sympathize with their predicaments. My students giggle at the antics of all 3 characters especially when the elephant is being stuffed into the mailbox. Mailing something and the post office process, is reviewed in a fun way, so it's a great lead-in for my post office theme. The ending, which I have my students predict, is quite nice and delights the children. It's one of my favorite post office books.
Magic Trick: I show my students that there is nothing in my change bag, then I produce an elephant finger puppet that helps me tell the story.
Story Telling Tip: Whenever I come to a section of the story where the boy is having problem with the elephant I poke the elephant finger puppet above the book and have my students say the title: "You should never mail an elephant." If you don't have access to a finger puppet you can use a small stuffed animal or you can print off the elephant clipart, laminate it, cut it out and mount it on a Popsicle stick with a glue dot and use it as a storytelling puppet-prop.
Art Extension: "I love you enormously!" valentine note. Run off the master on gray construction paper. Have children cut it out. Run off the heart master on red construction paper; fold the papers. Remind students to keep them folded. Children cut out their hearts. (My Y5's are always amazed when they unfold their papers and they have a heart! It's almost "magical"!) Students glue their elephant to the heart and write "I love you." and then sign their names.
Writing Extension: "I love you enormously because..." Children color the elephant and then write on the back "...because... and fill in why. They can tuck this note and their elephant heart in an envelope or simply take both activities home and give to a loved one. To make things a bit more dramatic and exciting, like the story, I tell my students to leave their notes somewhere special so that their parents can find them and be surprised! We brainstorm for a few minutes where fun places to leave "paper love" might be like on their pillow, on the car seat, in the glove box, in a kitchen drawer or cupboard. Some funnier ones that get the giggles going are on a toilet seat, in a pocket etc. It all adds to the fun of the story.
Go-Together Books: My other favorite book that I read after this one is The Jolly Postman by Janet & Allen Ahlberg. It's a bit pricey starting at $17.95, but you can buy it used on Amazon for $7. It's just one of those books that's "worth it" because you can do all sorts of things with it and my students LOVE LOVE LOVE this book and so do I. In a nutshell, the Jolly Postman delivers mail from well-known fairy tale characters. The verse is in rhyme which makes it a fun read aloud. "Once upon a bicycle, so they say. A Jolly Postman came one day. From over the hills and far away..."
My students can't wait for me to reach into the pocket pages and pick out an envelope and read the apology letter from Goldilocks to the 3 Bears, or others addressed to the Wicked Witch, Giant, and the Big Bad Wolf. The illustrations are wonderful and give you insight into the characters. My students come to realize that much can be learned from delving into people's mail. I use the book as an introduction to letter writing. My students are very excited, and highly motivated after I read this book, to choose a fairy tale character and write their own letter. We make their letters into a class book that becomes one of their favorites.
February's #2 Book of the Month Elephant Activity Templates
This February, snuggle up with with your sweetheart and a good book!
For Black History Month I want to mention ...
“And the winner is…” The Caldecott Awards were announced and future Dave The Potter books will be printed boasting a sparkling silver stamp! Illustrator Bryan Collier can be proud. Author Laban Carrick Hill tells a story of a gifted African American slave during the 19th century in South Carolina, who was a potter that could make 20 gallon pots at a time that wasn’t very common. His were extra special because he added lines of poetry to the clay. “I wonder where, is all my relation, friendship to all—and, every nation.” Outstanding images, coupled with minimal text, mold maximum effects.
Here are a few other great reads for your students/children (5-9) for a Black History month theme:
Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton -This is about the youngest daughter of Andrew Young who was a civil rights leader. She shares about the time she moved to Atlanta from New York with her two older sisters to protest the unfair laws. They effectively changed the laws with the help of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion by Walter Dean Myers -This is the story of Cassius Clay’s rise to boxing fame as the Golden Glove’s champion all the way to Olympic fame.
March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World by Christine King Farris -This book is written by Martin’s older sister who watched his famous speech on TV with her parents in Atlanta.
Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares “Hank” had a dream of playing baseball and he did just that in a time when black athletes weren’t the norm. His career spanned from 1954 through 1976. He was a vocal spokesperson for equality between black and white players.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Pinkney -Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words inspired four students to protest in a way that some say changed the United States. These “Greensboro Four” began a sit-in on February 1, 1960 in North Carolina at a segregated lunch counter, which helped contribute to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This is their compelling and courageous story.