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Strega Nona: Activities for First Grade Students

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 2/8/2012

First graders love Tomie de Paola's series of books about Strega Nona and her slightly incompetent assistant, Big Anthony. Your students will fun have learning with these Strega Nona activities.

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    Strega Nona is a book in a series about Strega Nona, which means Grandma Witch, and her assistant Big Anthony. In this first book, she warns him not to touch her magic pasta pot, but when Big Anthony sees what it can do he just can't resist. Unfortunately, he doesn't know all of the tricks to using it. You can teach a whole unit based on the Strega Nona books or just use them as part of a Tomie de Paola author study.

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    Learn About Calabria: A Social Studies Activity

    Use the book to practice some map skills with your students. After reading to your class, talk about the setting of the book, a town in Calabria. Explain that Calabria is a region in the southern part of Italy.

    Show the students a map of Europe and ask if anyone knows where Italy is. Point out Italy on the map and point out the region, Calabria.

    Ask the students what they know about Italy and talk about anything they might know. Tell them a little about Italy - the language, the food, the flag etc. When you are finished give the students a map of Europe and have them find and color Italy on it.

    Depending on how much time you are planning on spending on the book, you may want to teach your students even more about Italian culture.

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    An Activity to Identify Character Emotions

    Strega Nona is a perfect choice for teaching your students about characters and how their feelings change throughout a story.

    Use Big Anthony as an example and discuss how he must be feeling during different events of the story, such as when the townspeople made fun of him for telling them about the magic pasta pot, when he made the magic pot work and when he couldn't make it stop.

    Then have each student choose one feeling and draw a picture of a time in the story when either Big Anthony or Strega Nona felt that way. Have the students draw and write a few sentences about the part of the story and the emotion they chose. Let them share with a partner, in a small group or present it to the class.

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    Sorting, Patterns and Counters, Oh My!

    After reading Strega Nona, use dry pasta for some fun math activities.


    Provide students with several different types of pasta and have them sort it into groups. They can start by sorting the pasta by type, but can also sort by size and other features, like which types have holes and which don't.

    Pattern Making:

    The pasta can also be used to practice making patterns. Have the students make several different patterns out of the pasta and then pick their two or three favorite patterns to glue onto a piece of paper. Students can also play a game with the pasta called "What Comes Next?" where one student starts a pattern and the other has to add the next three or four pieces of pasta to the pattern.


    Pasta can also be used as counters when the children are practicing addition and subtraction or solving story problems.

    These activities are a great way to use Tomie de Paola's book in different areas of the curriculum.


  • Teaching experience.

Strega Nona: Lessons and Activities for First Graders

Use these first grade lesson plans and activities with Tomie de Paola's book Strega Nona.
  1. Strega Nona: Activities for First Grade Students
  2. Strega Nona: Lesson Plans for First Graders
  3. A Lesson with Big Anthony and the Magic Ring on Prediction
  4. Finish Your Strega Nona Series with Fun Follow-up Activities