Lonely No Longer
Simply written by Tim Preston and beautifully illustrated by Maggie Keen, The Lonely Scarecrow serves as a tool for teachers in classes at all levels. The book’s descriptions provide materials for teaching about seasons, about adjectives and about sequencing and summarizing stories with young children, while the theme of friendship and first impressions makes it an excellent introduction for discussions about diversity and acceptance with older students.
Introduce the four seasons and their characteristics by discussing the changes to and around the scarecrow.
Read the story and share the pictures.
Ask students to describe what they see in the pictures and how the setting changes through the pages.
Tell students that the changes in weather are called “seasons,” and that we name the four periods winter, spring, summer and fall. Ask what they know about each season, prompting or providing facts throughout the discussion.
Paste or draw an outline picture of a scarecrow in four boxes on a sheet of paper and reproduce it for the students. Label each box with the name of a season.
Ask students to color the scarecrow and his surroundings with details and colors to match the season in the label.
Ask students to cut the boxes apart and to glue them on slightly larger cardstock or construction paper squares. Punch a hole in the corner of each piece and tie them with yarn, ribbon or other fiber to make a “My Four Seasons” book.
Extend the project by enlarging the pictures and letting students add details with fabric, papers, beads and other collage supplies.
Sequencing the Scarecrow’s Story
Use this story to work with sequencing at a variety of skills levels.
For younger students or struggling readers:
Remind students that a good story must have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Discuss those elements in the story, eliciting both a summary statement and some supporting details.
Provide a 3-box template in which students draw a comic strip showing the beginning, middle and end of the story. Allow students to practice retelling and summarizing by sharing their drawings with a partner or with the whole class.
For elementary students:
Type the sentences from the book so that they are each on a separate line on the paper.
Print and laminate several copies of the sentences. Cut them apart and place each set in an envelope.
Provide the envelopes for individual students or for those in pairs, and ask them to arrange the sentences in the correct order.
For older students:
Ask students to fold a sheet of paper in half “hot dog” style and to cut the top flap into three sections.
On the first flap, students should illustrate the beginning of the story. Under the flap, they should write a single-sentence summary. By limiting this to one sentence, you help students understand the difference between summarizing and retelling.
On the back of the section, students write descriptions, interesting story details, words they found unfamiliar or interesting or anything else relevant to a skill you are teaching in class.
Students repeat the process on the second and final flaps for the middle and end of the story.
Setting Scarecrow’s Scene
Use the story to discuss adjectives and choosing precise words to paint mental pictures.
Ask students to make a list of words to describe a scarecrow. (For advanced students, ask them to write a descriptive paragraph.) Ask students to draw a picture of a scarecrow from the adjective list. Compare students’ pictures to one another. It is likely that they will be very different.
Next, read the story and share the pictures with students. Ask them to list the adjectives from the story. Again, ask students to make a new picture, using the word list. When you compare the pictures, it is likely they will have much more in common.
Discuss why the pictures might be more alike with the second list. Elicit that the words Preston chose are more specific, so that readers will be more likely to “paint” the same mental picture.
Display pictures from the story and ask students to select one picture and use precise adjectives to describe it. Challenge them to write descriptions that will allow readers to match it to the picture, while providing emotional elements at the same time.
Extend the lesson by asking students to write rhyming stories based on the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle. Ask them to make separate illustrations as they envision the scene, writing from the stem, "Scarecrow, Scarecrow, what do you see? I see a ___ looking at me.". After writing the descriptions, students exchange stories and draw illustrations from the new descriptions, and then they compare the pictures to judge the success of the words in communicating the scene.
Scarecrow Similarities and Differences
Read the book and discuss why the scarecrow was lonely and why the animals didn’t befriend him in the beginning. Prompt a discussion about first impressions and differences in people by asking:
- Has there ever been a time when you found out that someone was very different from what you first thought about them?
- Has there been a time when someone didn’t want to be friends with you because of differences between you? If so, how did it feel?
Ask students to make a Venn diagram to compare the experience of the scarecrow to a similar situation in their own lives or to one in another story or book they’ve read. (Suggest The Ugly Duckling, if students seem stuck.)
Ask students to journal about how they think the scarecrow might have felt and how the animals might have viewed him before and after the snow. Ask the class to reflect on how the theme might apply to them when encountering new people.
Continue the journaling connection by asking students to write about times when they’ve made a bad first impression that wasn’t really representative of who they are or a time when they got a false first impression about someone. Ask them to reflect on how they might get to the “real” person, rather than relying on impressions of differences.
Provide foam balls, fabrics, yarn, buttons and beads, raffia and stuffing so that students can create their own scarecrows. For an economical and “green” approach, use paper lunch bags as the base for the heads and bodies and stuff them with waste paper before decorating them.
Melt butterscotch chips and stir in some chow mein noodles. Spoon the mixture into mounds on waxed paper and let it cool. Enjoy the “haystack” cookies while you read the story again.
You can begin to build an accepting and fun classroom and you can encourage strong writing in your students when you use The Lonely Scarecrow lessons found here.
Preston, Tim. The Lonely Scarecrow. Scholastic, Inc., 1999.
Ideas based on author's teaching experience
For ideas about a lonely scarecrow-themed day, check out:
Mrs. Cowan's Activities for The Lonely Scarecrow at https://mrscowan.com/TheLonelyScarecrow.htm