I love, love, love the Elephant and Piggie books by author, Mo Willems! These books are FABULOUS to use with students working on basic notions of perspective taking. The simple text, expressive illustrations, and the strategic use of THINKING and TALKING bubbles in the text are perfect for your work with young learners working on social cognitive skills.
I used these books this past fall as my first set of read-aloud books during social skills groups. We spent many, many group periods with my Kinder – 3rd grade students reading these books, and exploring how expressive the character’s face is, making predictions about how Elephant or Piggie is feeling at the time, and looking in the text for actual thinking and talking bubbles. At first, for my young students, we were simply identifying the shape of a thinking or talking bubble, and then reviewing the descriptors of what these are (see my previous post on 1/6/2013 for visuals to use for this). Most of the time, I would spend one 25 minute group period with one book. The kids got so excited to see which book we would explore that day. My purpose for using the books was to introduce what Talking and Thinking bubbles might look like in text, as well as to have a simplistic – yet shared social context to explore basic thoughts and feelings. While exploring each book, I would post questions to students such as:
1) “What is Piggie thinking right now?” (If the student makes a noise, sound-effect or re-enacts an emotion with his body, rather than using language to describe the likely thoughts or intentions – prompt them with something like...”Yup – I bet that is what they would do, but what words might be in their thinking bubble?”)
2) “If our author, Mo Willems chose to draw a talking bubble on this page, what do you think Elephant might say? What words would Piggie say back if he had a talking bubble?”
3) “Look – our author, Mo Willems, gave his readers a clue about how Elephant is feeling! Look carefully at the lines by his eyes – what do you think Elephant might be feeling right now?”
4) “What do you suppose Piggie might do next? Lets make a smart guess about what Piggie is going to do…”
5) “Oh boy……look at Elephant’s face and body! His body is sending us a clue about how he is feeling! See how his arms look like they are waving around, and his eyes are wide open. I wonder how he is feeling? Hmm….Mo Willems didn’t put a talking bubble on this page. Lets make a talking bubble for Elephant and tape it on this page. What words would Elephant say right now?”
6) “Does Piggie know what Elephant is going to do? Do Piggie and Elephant have the same information in their thinking bubbles?”
These are just a few of the questions I might pose while exploring the books.
I also borrowed the plush stuffies of Elephant and Piggie from our media specialist to use with actual Thinking and Talking bubbles to have students re-tell the stories. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, as well as their social skill teacher – I am always looking for activities to incorporate receptive/expressive language tasks for kids that are targeting these skills, as well as the social/emotional skills my students are working on. We would tip a table over on it’s side, sit behind it and create an instant puppet theater!
Watch for another post soon about using the Elephant and Piggie characters to teach about emotions, and connecting language to emotional states. - Jill