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Using Sylvester and the Magic Pebble in the Classroom

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 1/5/2012

A children's favorite, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, is a great way to reinforce the reading comprehension skills of first and second graders.

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    Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is about a small donkey who learns that the pebble he has found to add to his rock collection is magic and will grant him wishes. Unfortunately after making the wrong wish, he is turned into a rock and can't change himself back. When he doesn't return home, his distraught parents begin looking for him. Eventually with a little luck and a little magic the family is reunited.

    Use these Sylvester and the Magic Pebble lesson plans after reading the book aloud to your first or second graders. It 's reading level is a late grade two or early grade three, so you could also use the lessons with a small guided reading group.

    You can use some of these discussion questions as you read the story with your students.

    • If you found a magic pebble, what would you wish for?
    • Can you think of a better wish that Sylvester could make to escape from the lion?
    • How do you think Sylvester felt when he realized that he was stuck as a rock?
    • Do you think Sylvester and his parents will ever use the magic pebble again? If yes, what will they wish for?
    • What was your favorite part of the story?
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    Lesson Plan Idea: Character Feelings

    Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is perfect choice to teach or review character feelings with your students.

    Materials

    Procedure

    Ask the students to name some different feelings and emotions. Make sure they understand the difference between character feelings and character traits. Then show them the index cards with the feeling written on them. Talk about each emotion and have the students give examples of when someone might feel that way.

    Show them the cover of the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Tell them that you are going to be reading this story to them and that you want them to think about how the different characters are feeling throughout the story. Read and discuss the book with your students.

    After reading the story, show the class a piece of chart paper with the following events from the story written on it.

    • Sylvester wishes that it will stop raining and it does.
    • Sylvester realizes that the pebble he has found will grant him wishes.
    • The lion is sure that he has seen a donkey, but now there is only a rock.
    • Sylvester realizes that he cannot change himself back and is stuck as a rock.
    • Sylvester missed dinner and his parents can't find him anywhere.

    Discuss each situation and how the underlined character might be feeling. Students can use the emotions you discussed earlier or others of their own. Depending on how comfortable your students are discussing character feelings, you may want to model thinking aloud for the first one or two situations. "Wow, if wished that it would stop raining and it immediately stopped, I'd be feeling pretty surprised. I'd also probably feel happy that I got my wish too."

    After you have discussed the situations, give the students the feelings worksheet to complete on their own or have them think of their own events from the story and write about the characters' feelings.

    Assess

    Look over the independent work that the students completed. Did they identify logical feelings for the different events? Could they write about why they made the choices they made?

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    Looking For More?

    Here are a few more ideas for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble lesson plans.

    • Use the book to practice finding word meanings using context clues. A few words that younger students might not be familiar with from the text are hobbies, ceased, perplexed, inquiring.
    • This is great book to use for story mapping and graphic organizers. Students can complete story maps, character webs and problem and solution or cause and effect organizers after reading this book.
    • Use the book for a fun creative writing lesson to practice writing stories with a beginning, middle and end. You can use the following prompt:

    At the end of the story Sylvester and his family put the magic pebble away in case they want to use again some day. Write a story about the next time the pebble is used. Tell what they wish for and what happens when they make their wish.

    These Sylvester and the Magic Pebble lesson plans and ideas are a fun way to practice language arts skills.