Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beyond the Book(s): Mo Willem's Pigeon Books

I am a huge fan of author and illustrator, Mo Willems. His characters capture early childhood in a cute, amusing and playful light. They are also easy to relate to for children (and adults alike)! I could not wait to introduce his books to my own children, and Knuffle Bunny was one of the very first we owned when S was just an infant. Fast forward 3 years, and we are frequent flyers in the W section of the children's fiction department at our library. (Sorry if you were there this week and looking for any books by Mo Willems...) When S asked last week to do our story stretcher this week with a Pigeon book, I thought, why stop at just one? Let's do an author study, grab a bunch of Pigeon books, maybe a bus, a hot dog, or even a cookie, and GO!
Rather than starting with a target book, I set out a variety of Pigeon books around the room with corresponding activities. If the Pigeon drives a bus today, he will have many fun and playful stops to make along the way!
Here are a few of our favorite Pigeon books by Mo Willems:

  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  • Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late
  • The Duckling Gets a Cookie?!
  • The Pigeon Needs a Bath
  • The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog
  • The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!

and in board book form for Pigeon fans in training:
  • The Pigeon Loves Things That Go
  • The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too
We loved Mo Willems' website,, where Pigeon fans of all ages can enjoy games and activities featuring their favorite characters. This is a great way to introduce computer use to young learners!

For my pre-writer turned preschooler, we are working on letter and name recognition. S saw these giant googly eyes in the craft store a while ago and wanted them. I admittedly really liked them but couldn't think of how we would use them. As soon as I came up with our plan for this week, I knew I wanted to make some Pigeon hats and drove right back to the craft store to grab a set!

So I may be crafty, but I'm not the best engineer! I used blue poster board and white and yellow cardstock, a giant (and heavy) googly eye plus some staples, glue, tape, and black marker for details. Even with the addition of a wooden craft stick for support to the back of the Pigeon head, these were a bit too top heavy. No problem--we used them for a photo op, printed off the photos and created this next activity: 

* If you want a Pigeon hat that doesn't flop down, leave the giant googly eyes for another day and stick to card stock or paper for your eyeball!

Don't Let _____ Drive the Bus Collage
For this playful little picture, I printed off an image of a schoolbus and the text, "Don't Let ______ Drive the Bus!" S is already able to verbally spell his name and recognize his name in text. In advance, I wrote his name at the top of one page and Y's name at the top of the other. I printed off photos of each brother in his Pigeon hat and S went to work figuring out whose bus was whose! He glued on the photos to each bus and decorated the scenery with crayons.

We didn't let those giant googly eyed Pigeon heads go to waste either--I just added a body and some pipe cleaner legs for this next game--a great one to accompany Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late and help little ones practice visual recognition of morning and nighttime routines. 

Good Morning, Pigeon & Good Night, Pigeon Sorting Game

In addition to my makeshift Pigeons, I added a sentence strip with the text "Good Morning" and one with the text "Good Night." I also printed and cut out a variety of morning routine and bedtime routine clip art. I liked many of the ones available on the free printable Good Morning and Good Night Checklists at A Jewish Homeschool Blog, and to fill in any relevant gaps, I did an image search online. I also printed off pictures of a sun and a moon to help my pre-reader identify which Pigeon was featuring which routine. You can play the game in a variety of ways with your little ones. We set out all of the pictures and I talked S through the tasks and activities we do each morning and each night so he could find the pictures. He placed a bit of glue on the back of each picture to glue it on to the correct Pigeon. You could also have a more advanced child carry this out more independently or for more independence at an earlier stage, you can eliminate the sorting aspect and instead just set out pictures and the Pigeon for one part of the day at a time. The best part of the game is that you automatically win two giant Pigeon posters for your child's bedroom to help him navigate his morning and bedtime routines. Just remember, don't let your pigeons stay up late...or be late for school!

Readers and Writers Unite!

Pigeon books bring up all kinds of familiar feelings about following rules. The world of a child is full of things we adults won't let him do. Incidentally, much against my own childhood imaginings, adulthood is not much different! Even I can't drive a bus. Nonetheless, your little reader may already be thinking about things he feels the same way about as the Pigeon. He may even want to write or illustrate about it like Mo Willems!

For writers who are still in the doodling and scribbling stage, check out this "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the ___" free printable available at Teachers Pay Teachers

For more advanced writers or illustrators with a longer attention span, check out this free printable "Don't Let the Pigeon..." book! It's guaranteed to earn an honored space on your bookshelf next to all of Mo Willems' books!

The Pigeon Gets a Bath

Whether he likes it or not, the Pigeon is going to get a bath with this activity! I printed off an image of our beloved Pigeon, laminated it and made him nice and dirty with some dry erase marker doodles. S got to scrub him clean with a little wash cloth and had lots of fun getting him dirty again! Don't forget your rubber duckling...

And Happy Playing!
Dramatic play is a big part of our story stretchers. We got out our toy buses, cookies, hot dogs, and some makeshift Pigeon and Duckling stick puppets I crafted from printed and laminated images of the characters. I also set out a discovery basket aimed for Y with props from the board book The Pigeon Loves Things That Go! Now that S and Y were in charge, anyone could drive the bus, eat a cookie or have a hot dog!

Want to Do More?
  • Have a hot dog taste test!
  • Bake and share your favorite cookies!
  • Take a field trip on your local city bus
  • Talk about and write down the rules in your own house on a poster board. Involve your early writers and illustrators. When you're done, hang up the poster for all to see!
  • Read the book The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! and play "The Make a Face" game: invite all the players to "make a happy face," or "make an angry face," and so on. Make sure to end your game with "make a silly face." That is always our favorite! This is a great way to introduce language and facial expression recognition to young children.
  • Make a wish list. It can be as wacky as you want. The Pigeon wants a lot of things and we all know some kids who feel the same way. Sometimes naming it, writing and drawing it are enough to quell the deepest toddler desire for a puppy, a hot dog, a bus or whatever else the moment calls for...just don't show it to his grandma!
Well, that's a wrap--we'll be back with some more story stretchers after the craziness of the high holiday season. We will be sure to share some of our favorite holiday themed play activities in the weeks to come and until then...

Happy Playing!

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