"Anansi the Spider" by Gerald McDermott puts to paper the story of a trickster spider who often has a key role in African folklore. In this particular story, Anansi gets himself into trouble and relies on his six sons and their specific talents to help him. Extension activities help students from kindergarten through third grade to better understand the story and explore African folklore.
Each of Anansi's sons has a talent, which is reflected in that son's name, such as River Drinker and Stone Thrower. Use this idea to help the students identify their own talents. Each child should come up with his own nickname that shows a particular talent. Examples could include Goal Scorer, Problem Solver, Friend Maker or Computer Fixer. Have the kids draw themselves as spiders in the Anansi style, with a connection to the nickname. A child who chose the nickname Goal Scorer might draw the spider on a soccer field scoring a goal.
Other Anansi Adventures
The kids get a chance to hear about other Anansi adventures when you read additional stories to them. Check out other books that feature Anansi, including "Anansi and the Pot of Beans" by Bobby Norfolk, "Anansi and the Magic Stick" by Eric A. Kimmel, "Anansi and the Tug o' War" by Bobby Norfolk and "Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock" by Eric A. Kimmel. Compare the features of the different Anansi stories. A Venn diagram is one way to compare two different Anansi stories at a time. The diagram uses two side-by-side circles that overlap slightly. The details that are the same for the stories go in that shared area where the circles intersect. The details unique to each story go in the outer sections of the circles that don't overlap. Another option is to create a chart with columns for features such as characters, setting, problem and moral of the story.
African folk tales, such as the Anansi stories, are traditionally passed from generation to generation and told aloud. Give the kids a chance to practice storytelling by recounting "Anansi the Spider" without using the book. Start by having the kids retell the major events in the story. Once they have the plot of the book down, focus on the aspects of storytelling. Practice using voice inflection to enhance the story. Demonstrate how to talk quickly or slowly, depending on the action of the story. Changing the volume of your voice also aids in telling the story. Another way to incorporate African traditions is to use drums. Drum beats can help create tone in the story. Let the kids practice adding a drum beat when retelling the story. String stories are another way to tell the stories. The storyteller needs a loop of string. She holds the string, twisting it and moving it around to help tell the story. She might manipulate the string to make it look like a spider crawling, for example.
Art projects with the Anansi theme add a creative component. Use the cover art for "Anansi the Spider" as the inspiration for art projects. Geometric shapes come together to create the spider. This eyes are yellow circles with blue triangles on top, for example. This body is a triangle with smaller triangles on his chest. Have the kids cut out geometric shapes from construction paper to create a collage-style spider like Anansi.
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