Eric Carle: It’s not Love, but it is Messy

Each year I try to plan an illustrator or author study for each grade level. I planned Eric Carle for Kindergarteners during March to kick off their spring science topics of animals and plants. I have facilitated an Eric Carle unit for Kindergarten in the past, but I didn’t want to do everything the same. I picked some new stories and made a plan.

Week 1: House for Hermit Crab paired with the nonfiction text Hermit Crab Moves House (currently out of print). I made laminated characters that I could clip to kids. As we read the story, I assigned parts and the students acted it out. Each character clipped their badge character to our hermit crab as he collected decorations for his shell.

Week 2: I read 10 Little Rubber Ducks and then we watched ten minutes of the Eric Carle Picture Writer Video where he demonstrates painting his tissue paper and then creating a page of the hungry caterpillar. You can find more information about how he paints at his website.

This is the week when I discovered that I really don’t like Eric Carle books.


It’s true. He does very nice illustrations. But his text? Really? An editor let some of this drivel go to print?

I know that’s librarian heresy.

But the video segment we watch is great and the kids love it!

Week 3: Mister Seahorse and his adventures visiting other ocean creature fathers and characters hiding behind things. I like the design of Mister Seahorse. It reminds me of the Seahorse exhibit at Shedd Aquarium I went to one summer in Chicago. I had my tissue paper seahorse craft hanging on my fridge as a magnet for years.

So we read Mister Seahorse (and I read it in a nice voice even while I was thinking “really? this is the text?” I think I block it out each time I read it.).

And we painted!

Yes! In the 40 minutes I have with Kindergarten, we shared good news and personal updates with each other, read the story, painted, and checked out books.

I’m still exhausted, and that was last week!

Here’s how I did it…..

Materials: half-sized construction paper with a blob outlined on it, paintbrushes, cups, several bottles of glue, water, box of chopped up tissue paper.

I traced the seahorse pattern I wanted to use, then added a half inch border to it. I traced this widened pattern onto the kids paper. They sat down at the tables, wrote their name in the middle of the back of their paper. They used paintbrushes to spread a glue/water mixture onto their paper, and they tried to stay in the lines. I didn’t need for them to paint the entire paper. Then they stuck tissue paper on to their paper. They used the glue/water and their brush to paint over the layer of tissue paper. After I checked it (and yes, I did add some glue to a few on the top layer), they checked out books.


The custodian avoided my space for a week and then when I was done I gave 2nd graders clorox wipes at the end of one day and asked them to clean. And then our custodian helped out and hit the tables with the good stuff. But really, the Kinders were NEAT. Really! No newspaper, or anything and they really did an awesome job.

Moving on (gosh, this is getting long!). My plan was to trace my seahorse pattern and do the cutting myself. But then I couldn’t bring myself just to turn over the craft back to the kids. Because otherwise…what good was the craft? I’m not in the habit of reading the story and having the kids do a cutesy craft in response to the book. So I decided to stretch my four week unit to five weeks.

Week 4: Mister Seahorse: the Sequel. Each class was given their seahorses back. And let me tell you, this is a craft that looks Fantastic even done by the most disorganized of 5 year-olds. They were very excited to see how they had turned out. It didn’t take a lot of time to do the tracing and cutting myself. I think 30 minutes per class. After I handed out the seahorses and gave ‘custody’ of the seahorse belonging to absent students to the ones who were sick, but now are better, but missed last week, then we got down to business. We write a quick story sharing the adventures of Mister Seahorse’s babies in the ocean.

Week 5: Pancakes! Pancakes! And that means….yes! Pancakes! Yes, I’ve done it before. Yes, I am crazy. And, YES, it can be done. It is possible to make pancakes in a 40-minute window and do book checkout. You have to be super fast, kind of organized, and slightly insane. And no, I don’t have help for this stuff. Just me. I won’t bore you with the details, but it mostly involves Bisquick, a large griddle, strawberry jam that does not have red dye (always check for food allergies), and a big mess.

I love teaching this Eric Carle unit. I wish I liked some of his books better. I really do. Oh oh, one more cool fact and then you can blog surf elsewhere. One of my Kinder teachers came to me today and said, “the kids were in centers and I heard ‘this book is by Eric Carle!’ I turned around to see what it was and it was one boy showing the book to another. It turns out it wasn’t an Eric Carle book, it was a Leo Lionni one, but  the art styles do look similar, don’t they? I was impressed!”

So I think that one week this spring I’ll make sure to pull out a book by each illustrator and compare artistic styles. How cool that the kids are applying what they learn in library to their classroom experiences?!

April 1, 2011
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