Kindergarten Activities: "Tops & Bottoms"
This Caldecott Award-winning picture book by Janet Stevens tells the tale of a clever hare who helps his family by outsmarting a bear. Young children can relate to the role of the small hare being told what to do by the larger, more powerful bear, and they enjoy seeing the hare triumph over the bear by using his wits. Activities for a kindergarten class can range from teaching reading skills to modeling healthy eating habits to discussing folk traditions.
1 Learning About Vegetables
The hare plants a number of vegetables in the book, and kindergartners may not be familiar with some of the varieties. Using the vegetables portrayed in the book, make a salad with the class and talk about how each one grows and the role it plays in the book. Bring the vegetables to class and let the children handle them and talk about how they feel, smell and look. Wash and dry the vegetables together, then carefully chop them, place them together into a big bowl, sprinkle them with a bit of olive oil and mild vinegar and toss the whole mixture. Give each child a portion and let them taste the different vegetables. Discuss why vegetables are healthy foods and how they grow.
2 Vocabulary Words
Talk about the meanings of some of the key words in the story, such as "cheated," "clever," "crops" and "wealth." The names of the vegetables may be too difficult for the students to learn to spell, but they can be used as aural vocabulary words for which students can learn the meanings. Make flash cards with pictures of the vegetables from the book on them and play a game that asks students to identify the pictures.
3 Reading Comprehension
As you read the story aloud to the class, ask students at various stages to predict what will happen next, and use their answers to introduce a discussion of cause and effect. Ask the children what they think Hare will do when Bear issues an order to him. And if Hare plants a certain vegetable, what do they think will happen next, and why? Emphasize that the "why" is important when they give their answers: Learning to support their views with evidence from the story is a pre-writing skill that builds on reading comprehension.
4 The Trickster Tradition in Folktales
The story of a smaller animal outsmarting a larger one is an old, common theme that runs through many cultures. Native Americans and African-American slaves, for instance, told tales of tricksters, and the slaves' tales, in particular, made the trickster a rabbit. In Native American folklore, the fox and the coyote often appear as tricksters. To introduce the trickster tradition to young students, read them some folktales from other cultures involving trickster figures. Talk about how Hare in "Tops & Bottoms" is a character in that tradition.