Penguin Problems in the classroom

Penguin Problems by Jory John

Penguin problemsWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Penguin Problems
  • A “snow cave”

Age Level

The words in the story are short and simple but the lesson it teaches would benefit children of any age.

Teaching from a cave

If, like me, you feel the need to spice up your online learning a little, I can highly recommend creating a cave and teaching from there for the day. You don’t even really need to do much. Make a cave, sit inside and see what happens. Add a few books to the mix, a torch, some snacks. The class could discuss what they think you’ll find outside the cave. Maybe they could make their own caves and write instructions teaching others how to do the same. The possibilities are endless. 

Inspired by a pile of white sheets that looked a lot like an ice cave I decided to head to Antarctica with my class. Luckily on the day lockdown seemed imminent, I grabbed a pile of books from our school library to take home just in case and amongst the treasure was Penguin Problems.

Reading Penguin Problems

Penguin Problems is a quirky wee tale that I’ll admit didn’t instantly grab me. A small penguin, wanders along moaningpenguin 1 about everything. “I waddle too much.” “The ocean smells too salty today.” “It’s too bright out here.” Eventually he meets a very wise Walrus who suggests that maybe his life isn’t so terrible, that there are things he could really enjoy. There’s a great juxtaposition, after pages of simple single Penguin sentences to reach a page full of Walrus’s wise speech, including gems like, “Have you noticed way the mountains are reflected in the ocean like a painting?”

What was so perfect about Penguin Problems is that just this week there’s been lots of chat in my class about how bored everyone is and how they want to go back to school. We’ve shared ideas for things we can do when we’re penguin 2feeling a bit sad, lonely or bored. My school also ran some great professional development this week on student wellbeing, including activities based around the book, How full is your bucket?

Penguin Problems lends itself perfectly to discussion around looking at the positives rather than the negatives and thinking of all the things you’re grateful for.

Antarctica Activity Ideas

Because we were going somewhere cold, before we left for Antarctica everyone put on warm clothes. I had my ski gear including, beanie, jacket, goggles and gloves and my class all got wrapped up in puffer jackets and woolly hats. We sang anPXL_20210914_225738266 (1) action song, Cold Hands to get ourselves warmed up and then we headed off to the snow. For no logical reason, we Row, row, rowed our boat there. On arrival in Antarctica we discovered blizzard conditions but luckily we found my ice cave and went inside. Penguin Problems was there ready and waiting for us and so from my ice cave we learnt about poor Penguin and all his problems. I’ll admit now that my well planned lessons often go astray, and in this case my plan to have a great follow up discussion about what we’d learned from the story was derailed by the fact that my class had spotted Squeaky (my mouse) in the cave by this stage and all they wanted to do is see what Squeaky could do in the ice cave. I’m sure you will manage to wrangle your class into worthwhile discussion much better than I did! To finish this nonsensical adventure we went outside of the ice cave and danced to Boogie Wonderland from Happy Feet.

Other Possibilities

Seesaw_15-09-2021Use an online drawing video to learn how to draw penguins with your class.

Because we’re in lockdown, I set my class the task of building their own caves at home. I showed them how I’d created my ice cave and shared pictures of other ideas. The photos that came through of the home caves were delightful, in some cases, the whole family got involved. Thanks Wei, for letting me share this gorgeous photo of your boys in their cave.

Borrow a copy of Penguin Problems from Auckland Libraries.

Buy a copy of Penguin Problems from Fishpond.


Take away the A in the classroom

Take away the A by Michael Escoffier

take awayWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Take away the A (My review)
  • Art supplies

Age Level

Any aged class will happily listen to this story. For follow up activities and the ability to grasp the clever language concept, you probably want to reserve it for Year 4 and above.

Reading Take away the A

plantsThe concept is seemingly so simple and so clever. Each letter of the alphabet has its turn and pairs of words create a sentence. The second key word is the first key word minus a letter. I’m sure this could be explained more precisely using a mathematical formula like wo(A)rd + word = a hilarious sentence. Actually, let me just give some examples.

“Without the G the GLOVE falls in LOVE.” “Without the L PLANTS wear PANTS.” For some of the letters, the genius is in the sentence, and for others theglove illustration cleverly adds all sorts of additional meaning.

As soon as you get your hands on a copy of this book, it’s worth spending lots of time poring over the illustrations so you figure out all the jokes. There’s a couple of pages where you can pause for ages and eventually you start getting laughs as kids realise what’s happening in the illustration.

fourBefore reading, I usually explain that this book is very clever. I don’t spell out exactly how it works, but after a few pages some of the kids start to get it. If you’re going to use it for a follow up activity you might want to read it once, just enjoying the nonsense, and then work through a second time, really explicitly talking through how the pairs of words work.


Have the class come up with their own sentences. Some will catch on straight away and will be already creating them before you finish reading the first time through. Others will need a bit of guidance. It’s not a bad idea to come up with some initial simple words of your own (hill, bus, face) that you could work through with less confident kids.


This part can fill as much time as you have. You could have the class sketch a possible illustration to go with their sentence. Or it could be a full art lesson where you explore a medium like pastels, dye and crayon, sharpies and coloured pencils, or mixed materials like the book. The class could then create a full colour illustration to go with their sentence and these could be combined to create your very own version of Take away the A.

20190226_105321Here is one I loved, created by a Year 5 student. “Take away the L and the WORLD is a WORD.”

I have a confession to make. I’m done! That’s it, that’s all the picture book examples I had up my sleeve that I’ve actually used for lessons in the classroom.  So for now, I’ll have a bit of a break. But never fear, there are plenty of other ideas percolating. The next round of reviews might contain non-road-tested ideas. We’re still in Level 4 in Auckland so it might be a while before I can try them out myself, but feel free to share any wonderful successes you have here. Thanks for dropping by, see you soon!

Since I first reviewed this book, Auckland Libraries no longer has copies but National Library School Collection has copies, as do other libraries across New Zealand.

There are still copies for sale on Fishpond luckily!


The very cranky bear in the classroom

The very cranky bear by Nick Bland

very crankyWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of The very cranky bear (My review)
  • Musical instruments
  • A talking stick

Age Level

This book is hilarious, but probably more suited to a junior classroom.

Reading The very cranky bear

I’m sorry to tell you that after the peacefulness of yesterday’s, Pool, we’re back to chaos. The very cranky bear is one of those madcap adventures with big voices and crazy outfits. The lovely cast of characters include Moose, Sheep, Lion, Zebra and of course cranky old Bear himself. I have used this book for a series of sound lessons. We came up with different body percussion sounds to represent the different animals and retold the story incorporating these sounds. The class could be split into four and they could each work out a sound for one animal, with everyone joining in when it’s Bear’s turn. If you have access to a music room, you can up the ante slightly and choose musical instruments to represent the animals. Try playing the instruments in different ways depending on how the animal is feeling. What will you do when it’s Bear’s turn and he’s yelling?



One of the challenges I set my class yesterday (we’re still online) was to create a shaker or maraca as suggested by our lovely music teacher. My own examplePXL_20210906_230403095 involved a toilet roll (or paper towel roll if you’re in the classroom), filled with rice. I stuck a bottle top in one end, although in other online versions I’ve seen both ends were squeezed shut in different directions. Instead of using musical instruments to retell the story, you could make and decorate your own noise makers. Different outer shells, like glass or plastic jars would create a different sound and could represent the different animals. Or you could experiment with how to make the shaker create a variety of sounds using long slow movements, short sharp snaps, or little tiny shakes.

Circle Time

Circle Time, or sharing circles are a really good way to share ideas, learn to listen and develop language skills. My current school ran our staff through training and encouraged us to incorporate circle times into our weekly timetable. I wasn’t sure how my class of new 5-year-olds would respond, but I gave it a whirl. A talking stick is passed around the circle. Each child responds to a question and hands the stick on. You can pass on your turn, but at the end I ask anyone who passed if they are ready to share. The very first time we tried this I was mind-blown as about 6 children passed on the first round and on the second round they all spoke and their ideas were lovely, honest, varied and showed genuine engagement with the questions. It just goes to show, that there are far smarter people out there who know a lot more than I do.

The very cranky bear raises lots of lovely issues around friendship and differences and seeing things from someone else’s point of view. There’s also nice discussion to be had about what you can do if your friend is cranky, or if you’re feeling cranky yourself. If you’re a circle time skeptic, give it a go and let me know if the experience changes your mind.

Check out The very cranky bear at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy The very cranky bear from Fishpond.


Pool in the classroom

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

poolWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Pool (My review)
  • Massive dollops of imagination and wonder

Age Level

Any aged primary class will love this book.

Reading Pool

After the chaos and loudness of yesterday’s Whoops, today I’m gifting you silence. Pool is entirely word-free. As you’ll have read in my review I was pretty skeptical about how a wordless picture book could possibly work. I’m a fairly noisy person and it didn’t really make sense to me. But, I have used Pool in the classroom and there is something so delightful about turning pages in silence. Initially the kids look slightly skeptical themselves and then the wonder of the images unfold and you start to get responsive noises, which are all the more special because of your silence. There are obviously plenty of opportunities to discuss what’s happening as the story progresses but it’s a fun challenge to try to stay silent through the initial “reading” and then discuss it during a second “read-through.”

pool 3


With a couple of slightly older classes I have given pairs of students a photocopy of a double-page spread frompool 4 the book. It is their job to write the words to go with the picture. If you wanted to add an extra element of challenge, you could choose names for the children and creatures as a class. Model writing the opening sequence as the boy arrives at the pool and dives in and and then see how well the pieces of story go together at the end.

Younger children can do a simplified version where they choose and describe one of the underwater creatures.


Once again, I’ve never made it this far, but creating your own versions of the creatures to hang from strings in the classroom would make for a very happy afternoon.

Check out Pool at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Pool from Fishpond.


Whoops in the classroom

Whoops by Suzi Moore

whoopsWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Whoops (My review)
  • Musical instruments or noisy things
  • A dog, a cat and a mouse. These could be puppets, toys, drawn pictures or even just random objects that represent each animal

Age Level

Any junior primary school class will love it.

Reading Whoops

Whoops is a lovely noisy romp full of bangs and crashes and muddled up animal noises. Make sure you’re in a place where you can unleash the mayhem. This one isn’t such a great choice in a shared teaching space, maybe take it outside, or even better, see if the music room is free.


whoops 2Retelling the story with props and noise makers is the best. I’ve used it with classes online where they brought along three soft toys and something noisy. In the classroom it would be even better. Probably the easiest option would be to split the class into groups of 4. Everybody either makes a dog, cat, mouse or a lady. These could be drawn and cut out, or an entire art activity could revolve around character creation. Use crayon and dye, cut out a front and back in an oven mitt shape and staple them together for a hand puppet effect. In addition you could make noisy things. This could also be an entire art/music lesson. There are loads of ideas for making homemade shakers online.

drumsRead the story and the characters join in at the appropriate times. The house turns around and around several times so get everyone up and spinning. For the lovely noisy parts, let it rip!


Full of bangs and crashes, Whoops is the perfect introduction to talking about onomatopoeia. I’ll letWhoops ono you come up with your own lesson for this one because I’ve got a pie hot out of the oven waiting for me. Share your ideas in the comments.

Check out Whoops! at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Whoops! from Fishpond.


Leaf Man in the classroom

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

leaf manWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Leaf Man (My review)
  • Art supplies, leaves and “nature” objects

Age Level

The creativity of this book makes it suitable for an audience of any age.

Reading Leaf Man

Ideally, you would read Leaf Man outside, surrounded by mounds of crunchy autumnal leaves. My timing however is terrible and as we’re currently in spring you’ll have to settle for sunshine and blossom instead.

Lois Ehlert includes information in the book about how she makes her leaf art. Before reading, with an older class you could discuss this process.

IMG_20200602_162135Art Possibilities

There are endless activities and they could quite easily fill a day.

Creating a tree

Last year I started a new entrant class in autumn and we spent a lot of time that year talking about seasons. In our classroom we created a tree covered in autumn leaves. Each child had an ice cream container and we merrily wandered the school collecting interesting leaves. Our goal was to hunt for leaves that showed autumn colours. Back in the classroom the class drew and coloured their leaves using an autumn-coloured selection of crayons. They dyed them green and cut them out. This tree was a lovely addition to our classroom and in spring we added flower blossoms. 

IMG_20200529_120845 (1)

Nature art

fire swordIf autumn leaves are light on the ground, you can head in a slightly different direction. Let the kids collect any interesting things they find outside (you’d be amazed how many pieces of rubbish get collected as “treasure”). This can then be turned into a picture using a hot glue gun, with extra detail added using a black pen. Or like Jack they can just write the word, “detail!”

Lois’ leaf art

Lois takes photos of leaves and then uses these to make her art. With an older class this would be heaps of fun. You could create a whole class-full of leaf images and then digitally use these to make your own pictures, maybe your own picture book. The main app I’ve used for image manipulation is Pics Art where you can cut around images. You could then use something as simple as Google Slides to move the leaves around to create a picture. I have limited experience of app-use with seniors, so feel free to share your favourite app or programme that would work in the comments.

Check out Leaf Man at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Leaf Man from Fishpond.


Watch out! Big Bro’s coming in the classroom

Watch out! Big Bro’s coming by Jez Alborough

big broWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Watch out! Big Bro’s coming (review below)
  • Jungle themed pictures or puppets
  • A cardboard steering wheel (optional!)

Age Level

It’s a classic suspenseful picture book with a great surprising reveal; entertaining for any junior class.

Reading Watch out! Big Bro’s coming

In an unprecedented move, I have selected a book that has not previously been reviewed on myfriendlucy. Jez Alborough is such a legend, he featured on the blog several times, but I’m guessing Watch out! Big Bro’s coming didn’t quite make the cut. To get you up to speed, here’s the missing review…

2017080212062355308A small mouse runs into the jungle warning all the animals that Big Bro is on his way and “he’s rough, he’s tough, and he’s big.” In a classic game of Chinese whispers, each animal then passes the message on to a much bigger animal. By the end, a jungle-ful of animals are quaking in their boots, waiting for the arrival of Big Bro. When he finally arrives, it’s something of an anticlimax as he turns out to be a slightly-larger-than-normal mouse. Don’t worry, he cements his position as a tough guy with a ground-rocking, “Boo!” This book is a marvel for its illustrations. The perspective shifts, often with the audience at ground level, waiting with anticipation for Big Bro to arrive. It’s a hoot to read with fear, followed by disdain, followed by fear. Plus there’s plenty of opportunity for you to attempt a range of animal voices.

This week, I used Watch out! as part of a 30 minute online session with my class. I (well actually me as Miss Frizzle)the jungle went on a bus ride to the jungle. As an ex-storytelling librarian I had plenty of rhymes and songs up my sleeve so today’s classroom ideas will be storytelling themed and could work equally well for in class or online. 

The bus ride

To set the scene we all got on board a bus to go to the jungle (of course!) I made a very simple cardboard steering wheel and off we went. 5-year-olds are still okay with singing The Wheels on the bus (just) so we merrily sang our way into the jungle. I was delighted by the 10-year-old brother in the background joining in with actions. I flicked off my camera briefly and relocated to the “jungle” created on my sofa while we were driving there. (I will admit that I recorded the session and watching it back has given me so many laughs!)

Rhymes stories and songs

Once we made it to the jungle we spotted some interesting creatures hiding and so we investigated.

There’s a spider on the floor

This is a classic kids song. Using my spider puppet (or use your hand and encourage the kids to do the same) we abridgedspider on face 2 the song and had the spider on the floor, on my leg, on my neck and on my face before he jumped down again. This is another one that can make kids scream when you’re doing it in person, so proceed with caution.

A hunting we will go

We went hunting for things in the jungle. The rhyme is sung to the tune, The farmer in the dell.

A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go, (swing your arms)

We will catch a [insert creature] (scoop up a creature)

And then we’ll let it go. 

We caught all the creatures in my jungle and then the kids took turns pretending they had caught things at their houses.

One day in the jungle

This is a classic jungle story by Colin West that sadly is no longer in print. Adapt it to the creatures/pictures you have. Have all the creatures on display. Get the kids to join in with the sneezing. I realised I hadn’t told this story for such a long time when I encouraged them to sneeze into their hands. Yikes! Obviously elbow sneezing is the only way these days.

“One day in the jungle there was a teeny tiny sneeze. “Achoo!” “Bless you Caterpillar,” said Butterfly.

The next day in the jungle there was a little sneeze. “Achoo!” “Bless you Butterfly,” said Mouse.

The next day in the jungle there was a medium sneeze. “Achoo!” “Bless you Mouse,” said Parrot.

Keep going, increasing the size of the sneeze and the size of the animal. Until…

One day in the jungle… there… was… a… STUPENDOUS sneeze. “ACHOO!” (Using your elephant – a grey sock on your arm works – swipe all the animals away.) “Bless me,” said Elephant, “I’ve blown away the whole jungle.”

The crocodile

crocodile visit 2My class had been warned, we might spot dangerous animals, so they would need to be ready to roar really loudly to try to scare animals away. Several times my crocodile puppet made an appearance and the kids roared the house down. 


For my class of 5-year-olds I had them record themselves telling the story of what happened when we went to the jungle. A slightly older class could write a recount of the same thing. Or you could use Watch Out! as a starting point for talking about perspective. I’ve seen a great lesson where kids told a fairy tale from different characters’ perspectives. The possibilities are endless!


A jungle full of various sized animals creates a lovely segue into talking about height and measurement. There are some great measurement activities on NZMaths which are about comparing lengths and heights of objects and people. The classic drawing around feet and putting the lengths in order is always a goodie. As is lengths of string representing heights of kids hung up somewhere in the classroom with a circular label attached identifying each child.

Check out Watch out! Big Bro’s coming from Auckland Libraries. (There is only one copy, but I’ve put in a suggestion for them to purchase more)

Or buy Watch out! Big Bro’s coming from Fishpond.


How to catch a star in the classroom

How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers

starWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of How to catch a star (My review)
  • Paper, stapler, hole punch and string

Age Level

Kids of all ages will love this story equally. 

Reading How to catch a star

My review skirted around the big reveal in this book but for practical reasons I’ll kill the suspense and explain whatHTCAS_07_UC_F_1200x happens. A little boy is trying to catch a star, he tries and tries, unsuccessfully. Eventually he sees one in the water but can’t reach it. “Ahh…” you think, “a reflection, how delightful, but sad. He’ll never be able to pick that up.” But wait… on the sand, the little boy spies a star and he picks it up. (I have to confess I don’t have the book in front of me, but hopefully I have the basic premise correct here.) The kids fairly quickly realise that he’s found a starfish and it all feels very sweet and satisfactory.

This is the perfect picture book to have in your Matariki kete. It’s a lovely introduction to talking about stars and the night sky.


Twinkle twinkle little star both in English and Maori are always a quick win, particularly with juniors. Lots of the class will also probably know some version of the Matariki song. There’s the Matariki macarena and this updated version of a favourite which includes the names of all 9 stars. For a simple music lesson you can put the names of the stars to the tune Frere Jacques. This song can be played entirely on a C note/chord so if you can get your hands on xylophones or individual chime bars you can have the children banging away on the note C while also learning the names of the stars. Try singing it as a round for an extra challenge. The stars can fit the tune in this order, or make your own:



Waiti, Waita



Ururangi, Ururangi


I haven’t tried this as a lesson, but I was thinking about the way a starfish looks like a real star but isn’t actually a real star. I feel like this could potentially be a nice lead in to talking about and using similes. It is as sparkly as a star for example. I’m afraid you’re on your own with this one. (Feel free to add any suggestions in the comments below!)


So many possibilities. I have made puffy stars by having each child decorate two blank stars. We then stapled them together and stuffed them with newspaper. This was a bit labour-intensive, particularly with 5-year-olds who quickly got bored with screwing up newspaper and couldn’t manage the stapler, so possibly save this for a slightly more independent class.

And of course if you’re following the Matariki theme, there are kites. You can get as simple or as complex as time and skill levels allow. The super quick and easy one here (paper, hole punch, staples and string) works well; I can highly recommend it. It’s not a bad idea when you launch the kites to take a stapler, hole punch and sellotape with you for the inevitable disasters. Also, discuss beforehand how you can avoid head injuries!


Check out How to catch a star at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy How to catch a star from Fishpond.


Home in the classroom

Home by Carson Ellis

home1What you’ll need

  • A copy of Home (My review)
  • Pictures of interesting places people that people live
  • A snail puppet
  • Lots of coloured paper (scraps are fine)

Age Level

This book is visually stunning and could work for any age. It’s heavy on the wackiness-scale so if you’re reading to an older potentially more cynical audience, you might need to lead into it by talking about the wonderful way the author has used her imagination. In saying that, with minimal introduction, I read this to a class of 10-year-olds and they sat spellbound.

Reading Home

I’ve lived in some interesting places which is why this book gives me such joy. I usually have an introductory chat,home5 (I’m embarrassed to admit how long this can go on for) talking about the time I lived on a boat and on my bike.

The book totally speaks for itself. You can linger on every page. There’s a lovely sort of meta element to the final couple of pages where Carson Ellis has drawn herself and Home into the story. Some observant small person might figure this out before you mention it.


There are lots of follow-up writing and oral language activities that will work for a range of ages

  • show pictures of a variety of homes. The class imagines who might live there. This could be completely whimsical and full of toadstools and tree trunks, or it could be educational and include houses like igloos or reed houses.reed Make it work for you. 
  • for an older audience they can write about their dream home and try to sell it as the best place to live to the audience (I’ve discovered that a lot of kids dream of living in a motorhome!)
  • younger classes are happy writing and drawing their literal home. Model sentences like, “My home is tall.” “Four people live in my home.”


I am lucky enough to own this glorious puppet and I can honestly say that he is happiness personified. I tell a very simple story that goes a little something like this.

“One day, Sammy the Snail was walking slowly down the road. “Isn’t it a lovely day,” thought Sammy to himself. All of a sudden in a burst of wind a butterfly appeared above his head, “Mr Snail, Mr Snail,” she called, “hurry up and get home, it’s going to rain and you’ll get wet.” Sammy looked up at the place where the butterfly had been, but she’d already flown off in a rush. “Gosh,” said Sammy, “that butterfly was in such a rush, I didn’t even have a chance to say, hello.” {Add as many additional characters as you like, all hurriedly passing on the message that the rain is coming. Each time Sammy is too slow and doesn’t get to talk to them.}

All of a sudden, a giant raindrop plopped down on the top of Sammy’s head. “Oh,” said Sammy gazing up into the sky. “I think that was a raindrop. Everybody was right, it’s going to rain and it’s time for me to go home.” And so… he… did. {Slowly pull Sammy’s head inside and turn the puppet so all you can see is the shell.} You’d be surprised at just how enthralled an audience can be at this simple story. You can have great discussions about how clever it is that snails have their houses with them all the time, and what people might look like if they did the same thing.


With one class who I spent a lot of time with, and so they’d seen all my tricks, I slightly desperately grabbed a mound of corrugated cardboard and scraps of coloured paper. These kids were 5 and 6 and I was pretty stunned that in an afternoon we managed to create this wee beauty! Once again, I’m sure you have lots of wonderful creative ideas of your own for making “house art.”

house art

Check out Home from Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Home from Fishpond.


Not a box in the classroom

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

not a box coverWhat you’ll need

  • A copy of Not a box (My review)
  • A collection of 2D shapes (check out the maths section in the classroom or beg a neighbouring teacher for theirs).

Age Level

This book definitely appeals to a younger audience, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use it with a class of 7 and 8 year-olds. Just increase the complexity of the tasks you get them to do.

Reading Not a box

This is a simple book with minimal words, but you can really draw out the reading of this story. Each page sets up anot box question, “Why are you sitting in that box…” which leads to a reveal on the next page, with the bunny saying, “This is not a box,” and doing something delightfully imagination-y like pretending the box is a racing car. For each page you can have the kids guess what new and exciting object the bunny has come up with. There is a spread of four images at the end. It’s fun before turning to this page to brainstorm all the other things the box might be.


This is a pretty simple sorting exercise but you can use this book at as anbox introduction to talking about shapes; numbers of sides, corners etc. You can then sort a giant pile of shapes by various methods. Your end goal is to have a pile of rectangles that you can use for writing.

With an older class you could get them to create a 3D box either using a template (if you have the ability to print) or you could talk through the process of making their own template by tracing around some of the squares you’ve sorted from the maths shapes into a t-shape with four squares going down and two across.


Each child takes a rectangle and traces around it for their “box.” This outline is then turned into their very own not-a-box. They can write a story about what their box has turned into. This can be explicitly modelled for younger children, “Here is my box. It is a car,” or they can get as creative and interesting with their writing as their imaginations and abilities allow.

Artshape art

  • Following on from the 3D box idea the class could make their own boxes and then decorate them to create something else.
  • I’m a huge fan of shape art. My version mostly involves tracing around a variety of shapes, colouring them in, then cutting them out to create pictures of things. I’m sure you have a favourite art shape activity of your own.

Check out Not a box at Auckland Libraries.

Or buy Not a box from Fishpond.