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Elmer Comes to Life

Context for this Lesson


Lesson written by: Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Assistant Professor of Theatre, UT Austin

Classroom: KIPP Austin Comunidad

GRADE LEVEL: 1st Grade (20 students)



§110.12. English Language Arts and Reading, Grade 1

(b) Knowledge and Skills

  • (4) Reading/Beginning Reading/Strategies. Students comprehend a variety of texts drawing on useful strategies as needed. Students are expected to:
    • (B) ask relevant questions, seek clarification, and locate facts and details about stories and other texts; and
  • (9) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Fiction. Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to:
    • (A) describe the plot (problem and solution) and retell a story's beginning, middle, and end with attention to the sequence of events; and
    • (B) describe characters in a story and the reasons for their actions and feelings.
  • (27) Listening and Speaking/Listening. Students use comprehension skills to listen attentively to others in formal and informal settings. Students continue to apply earlier standards with greater complexity. Students are expected to:
    • (A) listen attentively to speakers and ask relevant questions to clarify information; and
    • (B) follow, restate, and give oral instructions that involve a short related sequence of actions.

Common Core State Standards:

Reading Standards for Literature 1st Grade 

Key Ideas and Details 

  • (1) Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • (2) Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • (9) Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.

Speaking and Listening Standards 1st Grade

Comprehension and Collaboration

  • (1) Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
    • a. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
    • b. Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.
    • c. Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion.
  • (2) Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.


  • Elmer puppet
  • Book: McKee, David. Elmer. New York: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books, 1968.
  • Tape for floor if necessary
  • Fabric for activity

This is Not a...

The teacher holds up a roll of tape and explains the she has an imagination challenge for the group. The object of the game is to transform the tape into something it is not. The only thing that it cannot be is roll of tape; anything else that is appropriate for school is okay. The goal of the game is to explain what the object is and to use it in the appropriate manner as the phrase “This is not a roll of tape, this is a . . .” is spoken.

For example, the leader begins by saying “This is not a roll of tape this is my new, shiny camera.” Then the leader then takes a picture of a student with her “camera.” The leader may ask for volunteers or challenge the group to see how quickly they can make it all the way around the room without repeating an object. Discuss what choices students saw other people make that really helped them to see the object.


Read the book: Elmer. Stop to ask for input about sounds of animals and other dramatic concepts.

Dramatize the story/ Narrative Pantomime:

Go back through the story and ask your students to act it out at various parts. Ask them what they remember happening next, act out some of Elmer's actions. narrorate specific parts and ask them to act it out silently while you are reading. 

Think, Pair, Share:

In order to prepare the students to be hotseated give them time to think about how it feels to be Elmer. Ask them to turn to a partner and talk about it among themselves for a few minutes. Then with the full group together, ask the students to share some of the things they talked about in pairs. 

Hotseating Elmer:

Ask for a few volunteers to go into role as Elmer. It's a good idea to have more than one Elmer's because it takes the pressure off of one student. Ask Elmer questions that the class is curious about after reading the book. Give opportunities for the students to ask Elmer questions.

For example:

  • How are feeling right now, Elmer? Why?
  • Why did you make that choice? How did you feel about it?
  • How do you feel about yourself?

Reflect on the hotseating experience and the book:

  •  How did it feel to be Elmer?
  • Why does Elmer feel the way he does?
  • What will happen to Elmer now?
  • Who do you know that has ever felt like Elmer?