Grandfather’s Journey: Center Activities for Your Classroom

Read and Discuss

Gather your students together and show them the front cover of Grandfather's Journey. Discuss the picture, ask them what they think that this book may be about. Point out the gold Caldecott medal on the picture and explain that the author was honored with this medal because his book is judged to be exceptional.

After reading the book several times and examining the pictures ask the students if they think that the author's book deserves the gold medal. Why or why not? Encourage the children to talk about the feelings of Grandfather as he journeys through the story. Is he happy or sad? Is he excited or puzzled? On a chart make a list of these feelings.

Introduce and explain each of the centers.

Travel the Centers

Rotate the class through the centers in small groups, or allow students to individually choose the order in which they participate in each activity. Students should keep a record of their journey. This is easily accomplished by placing a small tub containing colored strips of construction paper at each center (e.g. red strips for the math center).Each student should wear a bracelet or a necklace made from heavy string or yarn with a clothes pin or very large paper clip attached. As the student completes the task at the center he or she adds the corresponding strip to their pin or clip.

Where in the World?

Provide a world map, a globe, books and pictures about Japan and your location. Ask students to compare the location of Japan to where they live. (e.g. size, adjoining countries, name of closest body of water, proximity to equator) Record their findings under headings for the two places.

Word Wizard

Provide dictionaries, paper and pencils. Invite students to choose any three words from the book. Print each one on a paper and try to guess what it means. Ask them to print their guess under the word. Then find their three words in the dictionary. If the guess was correct give it a check mark. If the guess is not correct copy the meaning from the dictionary under the guess.

Show Those Feelings

Provide sheets of paper with six or eight face outlines. Ask students to make a picture on each face to show one of the feelings listed on the chart of Grandfather's feelings. Under each face students should print the word for the feeling, and add a sentence that tells of something personal e.g. sad. I was sad when my team lost in the final.

Make a Time Map

Provide long strips of paper and invite students to show Grandfather's journey on a time line. Encourage them to make a guess at his age at each stage. e.g. young man approximately 15 years old: returned to his village approximately 22 years old.


Provide large sheets of paper, markers, crayons, fabric scraps, pictures and books about Japan. Ask students to put the word Japan in the middle of their paper and then add information about the country e.g. draw a picture of the flag, cut out Japanese clothes from fabric scraps and glue onto the paper, draw a map (outline) of the country. Add labels.

Travel Journal

Provide paper, an example of a travel journal (available in book stores), markers, pencils and a poster with questions to help the writing process. Ask students to tell their own travel story. This can be as simple as a trip to the grocery store or to the movies.

Where did you go?

How did you get there? (walk, by car, by bus)

What did you see?

What was your favorite part?

How did you feel?

Were you glad to go back home?

Boat Art

Provide paper, paint, brushes, markers, crayons, a variety of paper scraps, glue and scissors. Ask students to look at the picture of the boat in the story. Invite them to design and illustrate a boat that they think could transport them across an ocean. Encourage them to decorate their pictures.

(Maybe there is an art consultant in your area, or a person in the community, who is conversant with the art of origami. Invite them in to demonstrate a simple boat design)

Grandparents and Family

Provide paper, art materials, books featuring grandparents such as Granpa by John Burningham, I Went to my Granny's by Christine Gray, The Granny Who Wasn't Like Other Grannies by Denis Bond. Ask students to divide their paper in half. On one half show their grandparents and the things that they like to do, and, on the other half, show the things that Grandfather liked to do. On the back of their paper invite the students to draw a picture of their family with their grandparents.

Serious Centers

It is important that students see their work at the centers as real work and not something to be done when the serious work is finished and they have spare time. Centers for cross curricula activities can be part of a dynamic classroom and encourage students to be self motivated (collecting the required colored strips in the allotted time) and responsible for time allocation.

At the end of each session encourage students to share their work with the class. The teacher can add to charts using students' ideas, help make co-operative stories and poems using words and thoughts contributed by the students. In this way the children will understand that their work is valued.

Center time allows the teacher to work with small groups but also provides many opportunities for student observation.


  • Grandfather’s Journey by Say, Allen. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993

    About Allen Say

    Granpa by Burningham, John. Puffin Books,1984

    I Went to My Granny’s by Gray, Christine & Foster, Teresa. Blackie Publishers, 1990

    The Granny Who Wasn’t Like Other Grannies by Bond, Denis. Scholastic Books, 1993