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.

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