Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is the tale of a very lucky donkey who finds a pebble he thinks will be perfect for his collection. He soon discovers it is magic and learns a lesson in cause and effect that you can teach your own students through these classroom activities.
Main Idea of the Story
Although most known for being the creator of the original Shrek tale, William Steig's enchanting story about a lucky donkey who finds a pebble he thinks will be perfect for his collection, until he realizes it is magic, entrapping him and keeping him from his family. His family searches for him for years, asking all their friends and neighbors for help. Yet, no one had any clue where Sylvester was. Sylvester wanted to go home more than anything in the world, but it wasn't until a strange coincidence that his family was able to find him. Elementary students will enjoy the openness of being able to make a wish of their choice, the thrill of Syvlester trying to escape from the lion, and his desire to return home to his family.
Here are some Sylvester and the Magic Pebble activities on cause and effect and exploring imagination that can be accomplished after reading this book to the class.
Teaching Cause and Effect
Begin by explaining or reiterating the meaning of the concept of cause and effect to the class. Then, have the class create a chart demonstrating the causes and effects of events in the story of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.
Bring in a bag of shiny stones (marbles will also work) to represent the magic pebble in the story. Give each child a marble or stone. They should hold it in their hands, closing their eyes to feel its texture and imagine that it is a magic pebble. They should take a moment to think about what they would wish for if they could wish for anything in the world.
Students in the primary grades should be instructed to draw and write about what they would wish for and why. They should be able to tell you what the effect would be if their wish came true.
Older elementary students should be asked to discuss how changing Sylvester's wish would change the ending of the story. They should each then, rewrite the ending of the story in accordance with Sylvester's new wish. Each student can share their new wish and outcome with the class. The class can then determine what the new effect is on the story and identify the cause.
As a class, they can then change the chart they previously constructed to show the new causes and effects of the story.
Assessing the Learning
Kindergarten and primary students should be assessed on their ability to express their wishes and justify their reasoning behind choosing their wish as well as their participation in the cause and effect chart.
Older students should be evaluated on their understanding and ability to reason through the cause and effect concept based on their new story endings and participation in the development of the cause and effect chart. Fifty percent of their grade should come from the cause and effect chart, and the other fifty from the new story ending. Their story ending should show more than one example of cause and effect. Students should be able to justify each of their examples.
Students who cannot either justify the cause of the said effects, or explain the concept itself, should be retaught or allowed to edit their stories with a partner or small group.
These Sylvester and the Magic Pebble activities are great for keeping students motivated throughout the editing process.