“A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?”
“A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know? He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”
And so begins the story of a quick-witted mouse as he encounters a host of predators who seem to think he might make a tasty treat. As he ventures deeper into the deep dark wood, stumbling across a hungry fox, a not-so-wise owl, and a slimy snake, spinning ever-extraordinary yarns about the scary, scaly gruffalo, he quickly realises that the hungry beast he has been talking of isn’t imaginary after all.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson belongs to the Pattern Story category of the Touchstone Books. Pattern Story books are ones that have many repeated events and scenes. A very similar category to that of Repetition, a Pattern Story will help children to predict what comes next through knowledge of the previous scenes in the book.
One of the best rhyming children’s books I’ve ever read, The Gruffalo tells the story of a mouse who scares away predators by claiming he is going to have lunch the a Gruffalo (an imaginary creature). When the mouse actually runs in to a Gruffalo (not so imaginary after all), he scares him off by showing the Gruffalo how all the other animals are afraid of him (in reality, the other animals are afraid of the Gruffalo behind the mouse). The same scenario is repeated every time the mouse comes across another predator, and then repeated with the Gruffalo and each predator. After the first one or two times of the scene being repeated, the teacher can ask the students what they think will happen next and they should be able to make an informed prediction based on the repeating events of the story. This repetition of events and scenes will help students get used to the layout of a story in a familiar way, and get them used to using prior knowledge to better comprehend the text of a story.
Time: 1 hour
Worksheet – e-mail me if you would like the worksheet.
The Gruffalo is a very entertaining story for students, due to its song-like rhyming pattern and repeating words and scenes. The Gruffalo himself is a very unique character who will delight young readers.
In a group, read the book out loud to the students. Using the rhyming nature of the book, check frequently to see if students can predict which word might come next. Check as well if they can picture which scene comes next through the repetition of events present in the story. Because the story includes so many wonderful describing words, use chart paper and markers to write them down and talk about adjectives – how they describe a person, place or thing.
– Terrible claws, teeth and jaws. Knobbly knees, turned-out toes, purple prickles.
Brainstorm other describing words and body parts (eyes, hair, etc.). Draw a rough outline of a Gruffalo on the chart paper and have students apply adjectives to different parts of him. Explain to the students that they will be using paint to create their own Gruffalo. They are to draw a picture of what their Gruffalo looks like, and use the provided worksheet to describe it, just like had just be done as a class. They can name their creature, as well as list where it lives, what it eats, etc.
Encourage students to use their own describing words, not just the ones brainstormed as a class. Let them know they can ask a friend for help if they get stuck on an adjective for their own Gruffalo.