In April I began reading bug stories with the pre-k classes. April is a short month for us, so I only read a few books with them. Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson (then we played a memory game using the bugs the frog ate) and Bubba and Trixie by Lisa Campbell Ernst. We also learned our new spring song, called “Bumble Bee.” The song is from Simply Super Storytimes, which I just used tons this year with pre-k.

So this month I moved on to my Eric Carle author study, which I love doing. I did it last year with the kids, too, but much earlier in the year. I saved it for May this year, and the timing was perfect because all the kids were learning about bugs in their classrooms. I also beefed it up a lot. I use Carle’s “Very” books, which all feature bugs. I didn’t use all of them this year because several of them were checked out to pre-k teachers who were also doing Eric Carle bug projects with their classes!

First we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Then we spent 2 weeks making “food chains” of all the things the caterpillar eats. I used this site to get pictures of all the foods with holes in them, then I shrunk them down so I could fit them onto 1 sheet per student. First we colored in all the foods together. So I gave all the kids a red crayon first and we colored in all the red foods. Then a yellow crayon, an orange crayon, and so on. It took a lot of patience and guidance to keep them on the food we were coloring; give them a crayon and they want to go to town on the whole paper. And it hadn’t occurred to me that they would all color in the hole in the foods, not the entire foods. But they came out really well, so then the kids cut out the foods (with grown-up assistance as needed).

Then I punched holes in their food piles. Then they strung the foods on yarn, and I tied them together to make the chains.

It was clear pretty early on with this that getting all the foods on the chain in the order the caterpillar ate them would be an impossible task. But I thought they were really neat, we pretended the yarn was like the caterpillar munching through the food.

Then we read The Very Quiet Cricket, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and The Very Busy Spider. The main element I use to get the kids talking about 1 author/illustrator making all the books is the sun. In each of these stories there is a distinctly Eric Carle-like sun, so we compared all of the suns in the different books to other pictures of suns around their classrooms. And we talked about how Carle’s suns look the same but still different from others (he uses rectangles for rays, his look painted yellow and orange together, the faces look different). But by the last story of his we read, the kids were saying things like, “That’s an Eric Carle sun!” So I thought that was pretty great style identification for pre-k.

After we read The Very Busy Spider, we did what is possibly my favorite activity with pre-k all year. We get in a circle, and I stand in the middle. I tell them they are each going to be spiders, and I am the fly from the story. We’re going to spin a web just like the spider in the story does, and we’re going to see if we can trap me (the fly) inside. And then I unwind a skein of yarn, giving each student a section to hold. Once our “web” is finished, I try to get out from every direction. The kids just go nuts for this, and I ask them what they’ll do with me now that I’m caught. “Eat you!” they yell. Then I go backwards and wind the yarn back up. When there’s no more web, I ask the kids if I can get out now. “Yes!” Then I ask, “Well, is anyone going to stop me?” And then they all move in and pretend to chomp on me. It’s a little twisted, but I love it. And so do they.

That’s my brown shoe, once I’ve been trapped in their “web.”

I really have a ball with this unit. I never appreciated Eric Carle’s books until I began teaching them to pre-k. They are so perfect for that age, and the kids are just riveted by them. Plus, they have so many opportunities for interaction and little teachable moments. “Very” cool.