Where the Wild Things Are. A Theme Unit for Elementary Students

Who Are These Wild Things?

Gather the whole class together and introduce the book Where the Wild Things Are. Discuss the fact that the author and the illustrator are the same person: Maurice Sendak.

Share a little about him. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. When he was about 12 years old, he saw the Disney movie "Fantasia" and decided that he would become an illustrator when he grew up. When he was a little older, he became ill and had to spend some time confined to bed and, at this time, he discovered his love of books. He has written and illustrated many books. Where the Wild Things Are is so fascinating to elementary students that it is an ideal base for a theme unit.

A fact about this book that really appeals to children is that the pictures and characteristics of the monsters are based on the relatives that used to visit the Sendak household for a weekly dinner.

Let’s “Story Map” the Story

After the students are familiar with the book, make a chart of Max' journey. The list begins with Max chasing the dog through his hallway, and then progresses to his bedroom, the forest, into the boat, and so on. Provide large sheets of paper and ask the students either individually or in pairs to 'map' his journey. Make sure that they have crayons and markers so that they can illustrate each of the parts of the journey.

As an added element, you could invite the students to make the map in 3-D form. Demonstrate how to draw Max (or a monster), cut the drawing out and then attach a tab to the 'feet' and tape it to the map.

Tip: If the drawing topples over, tape a pipe cleaner to the back to give it some stability

You may also like to provide small boxes and other junk materials

Assessing the story map:

  • Did the student follow direction?
  • Did the student follow the sequence of the journey?
  • Did the student understand the concept of mapping the journey?

Character Webs – Here Come the Monsters!

This book is rich in characters and is ideal for identification and descriptions. As a class make up riddles about the characters in the book e.g. I am a boy and I have a temper tantrum. Who am I?

Make a chart paper list of useful words about the characters.

Provide the students with papers with spider webs drawn on them. In the middle of the web print the character's name. In each section of the web print a characteristic.


  • Did the student identify the main characters?
  • Did the student describe the character?

Conclude the Unit with a Rumpus Party

Make a plan with the students to celebrate the end of Where the Wild Things Are theme unit with a Rumpus Party.


Sunflower seeds, pretzel sticks, M&M's, popcorn all make easy party foods (Make sure to check for allergies)


Monster Mash

Purple People Eater

Songs from the Muppet Show

Take a well known song and make up your own words.

Dressing – up:

Make headbands with pictures of each character.


Have a wonderful time with this theme unit. The students will share your enthusiasm and enjoy the creative genius of Maurice Sendak.


Meet the Authors and Illustrators by Kovacs, Deborah and Preller, James: Scholastic Canada. 1991

Author's own classroom experiences