The Lesson Plan
Book: Jennie’s Hat
Themes: Expectation, Disappointment, Solutions
Subjects: Language Arts, Visual Arts
Students will be able to:
- make and confirm predictions
- identify and discuss elements of the story
- read in groups and complete story maps together
- work creatively by themselves
- paper hat instructions
- decorations (feathers, ribbons, plastic jewels, stickers, etc.)
- Story Map Organizer
- A few days before the lesson, introduce the students to the book Jennie’s Hat and share the main points of the story. Say that you will be reading the story to them later, but first they have some homework: to make their own newspaper hats! This ties in with the “plain” hat that Jennie receives from her aunt. Send the children home with paper hat instructions and ask parents to provide any items they have on hand for decorating (such as feathers, ribbons, plastic jewels and stickers).
- Collect the hats and decorations, including material that you’ve gathered.
- Before the lesson, pass out the hats to the children to keep at their desks or tables. Assemble all the collected decorations and glue sticks (or white glue) at a couple of big tables.
Read and discuss
- Gather the students into a group while you read the story to them. For younger children, a picture walk would be a nice way to start. Follow up with comprehension questions, such as:
- What did Jennie want as a present from her aunt?
- What type of hat did Jennie receive from her aunt?
- What silly items did Jennie put on her head and why?
- What did Jennie do for the birds?
- What did Jennie wish for out loud?
- How did the birds help Jennie?
- Name the items that the birds placed on Jennie’s hat.
- On a whiteboard, create a Story Map Organizer for a discussion of the characters, problems and solutions. Write the children’s remarks on the board.
- Show the students the items they can use to decorate their hats any way they like. Demonstrate how to glue things on a sample hat. Have the children come up a few at a time to select materials and return to their desks to begin.
- When the children are finished, gather them into a circle to show their hats. Then end the lesson with a hat parade!
Why We Like It
- I love to start a lesson with the class working as a group, learning to listen, share ideas, hear what others think and see how it relates to their own ideas. There is nothing better than having a great discussion about a book!
- After working together, the students work creatively on their own, with an opportunity to show off their efforts. Jennie’s Hat lends itself to a literary study followed by a fun art project—a very Keatsian combination.
- I should add that the boys as well as the girls loved the book and the hat-making. We all had a great time!
Julia Montoya, a teacher at Robinson Elementary, in Trabuco Canyon, California, conducted the lesson in her first-grade class. Afterward, she talked with Gayle about the students’ reactions.
What is the most important lesson your children learned from Jennie’s Hat?
The children learned that you can take found items and make a simple object beautiful. They were able to see that by adding, and sometimes taking away, decorations you could create a hat that was unique. We also discussed what happens when you receive a gift and it’s not what you expect—how do you handle that?
How did the students respond to Jennie?
The students loved how Jennie’s friends, the birds, helped her make her hat special. They noticed the different papers, cutouts and textures used to create the hats and clothing in the book.
Why do you think Keats’s books are still so popular with students and teachers alike?
Because the language he uses and events he portrays are perfect for beginning readers. The children can see themselves in the stories and relate to the problems of the characters.
A Note from Gayle
This is a lesson I recently devised for a first-grade class. I adapted part of the lesson plan “Creative Problem-Solving with Ezra Jack Keats,” a multi-session program by Vanessa Udry that I have used for other books, and followed it with an art project. A perfect fit for spring, this plan also works well any time of year.