It’s been a crazy, fun, and exhausting month for me and Escargot. Over the past three weeks, the gallic gastropod and I have visited more than a dozen schools. Talking with teachers and librarians gives me the opportunity to hear some of the creative ways school professionals are using Escargot to teach everything from science to persuasive writing.
Here are some classroom and library tips and tricks I’ve picked up in my travels. You’ll find more ideas and tools in my downloadable Escargot Story Hour Kit.
Share the Wonder of Snails!
My presentations for preK to 2nd grade students include a slide show of amazing snails and snail facts (some of which can be found in the Story Hour Kit.) I teach kids about snail radulas and tentacles and operculums, as well as some of the crazy and beautiful snail varieties found on land and sea (the one above is the Purple Bubble Raft Snail). Kids are fascinated by these familiar-yet-exotic creatures and always have dozens of amazing and perceptive questions.
Teachers and librarians tell me they are pairing Escargot with non-fiction books for science-based snail units and story times. One mom even brought some snails to school that she had collected in her backyard. You can emphasize the book’s healthy-eating theme by feeding backyard snails delicious vegetables and fruits (cucumber, watermelon, and strawberries are beloved by kids and snails alike).
Teach Persuasive Writing
Sheila Murphy, a first and second grade teacher in Maplewood, New Jersey, shared this lesson idea.
She teaches her students that persuasive writing relies on a thesis statement followed by reasons and evidence. (She doesn’t necessarily use these terms though.)
In Escargot, the thesis statement is, Escargot should be your favorite animal.
Then she asks kids to come up with reasons and evidence to support this statement. For example:
– He is beautiful
– He is fashionable
– He is charming
– He is affectionate
– He is fierce
– He knows how to relax
And so on. (Kids will come up with many more.)
Then she asks her students to write a letter (to Escargot, to their teacher, etc.) making the case for their own favorite animal using the same format: a statement (________ should be your favorite animal) followed by reasons.
“It worked well for me,” she reported. “All the children were engaged!”
3. Use Escargot to Write Odes
I do group writing exercises with children as part of nearly every presentation – even in assemblies with hundreds of kids. Often we write a story together, but sometimes we write a kind of poem called an Ode. Escargot provides a natural introduction to odes because he gives so many reasons why he himself should be loved.
When talking about odes, I explain that they are poems of praise used show how much you like something and why. We then choose something that we all like and jointly write an ode to it. Sometimes we write odes to ice cream, books, teachers, or shoes. But lately kids have wanted to write odes to snails!
Here is an ode written at an assembly this month. We had just talked about many amazing kinds of snails, so the kids were primed! While many odes are addressed to the object itself, I often don’t bother with this aspect when working with young kids.
Ode to Snails
by the PreK-2nd Graders at Lead Elementary School
We love your shell color,
your tentacles like bunny ears.
We love your bubbles
and your slime because
you can pass through sharp things.
We love your shimmery trail.
We love your eyes because
you can look at the dark.
We love your colorful shell.
You live under the sea
and can walk on the bottom of water.
We love how you eat,
how you share your food.
We love how you tickle us
when we hold you.
Note that the natural language of children makes it poetic. I didn’t have to ask them to be poetic — they are poetic. Simply asking kids what they like about something generally elicits wonderful results. When responses begin sounding too much alike, I ask a few leading questions. How do snails make you feel? What do they sound like? What colors are their shells? If they could talk, what would they say?
Children who can write independently can also write their own odes. I like this ode-writing lesson plan.