Fun Activities for Tacky the Penguin By Helen Lester

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First grade students will love Helen Lester’s charming book about the adventures of Tacky the Penguin, a funny little penguin who is not afraid to be different. He drives the more proper penguins that he lives with, crazy, but in the end they learn to appreciate his odd ways. Try these activities after reading the book with your students.


  • Tacky the Penguin is a great book to use with graphic organizers. Students can work on story elements while completing story maps about the book. Because Tacky is such an “odd bird” the book lends itself easily to character maps also. Students can work on character traits and feelings with these types of organizers. You can also provide them Venn diagrams and have them compare Tacky to the other penguins.

  • Another fun activity for character study is to make a report card for Tacky. If this is the first time you’ve done this activity, you should make one together as a class. Work with the students to choose a few character traits to “grade” Tacky on. Some ideas are being an individual, braveness, seriousness, kindness, etc. Have the students give him a letter grade for each quality and then write comments that explain why he received the grade, using examples from the book.

  • Choose a few other Tacky the Penguin books to read with the class like Three Cheers for Tacky, Tacky in Trouble and Tacky and the Emperor. By reading several books in a series you can introduce the students to making text to text connections. Begin by reading the title of the new Tacky book and looking at the cover. If test to text connections are new you might say some thing like, “I know from the first Tacky book that we read that Tacky is different from his penguin companions. I bet that his oddness will help the penguins get out of trouble just like in the first book.” Explain that you can use what you know about one book in a series to help you predict and understand the other books. Read the book aloud, continuing to make make connections between the books. “I notice that Tacky’s oddness is annoying the other penguins here too.” As you continue to read books in the series let the students make the connections.

  • For a cute bulletin board display, give each student a picture of a penguin to color. Instead of coloring it black and white, encourage them to color the penguins in any style they want. They add clothes or patterns or whatever they can think of to make their own “odd birds.” Cut out the penguins and display them with the title “It’s okay to be an odd bird.” or “We are all special.” This is a great activity for early in the year when you are establishing your classroom community and teaching the students about tolerance and understanding, but it can be used at any time.

Your first grade students will love doing these activities for Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester and they’ll learn a lot too.

This post is part of the series: All about Penguins: A First Grade Unit

Penguins are a great winter theme for first graders. Use these lesson plans and ideas to plan a unit that is integrated across all areas of the curriculum.

  1. A Cross Curriculum Unit on Penguins for First Graders
  2. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester: First Grade Activities
  3. Measuring Penguins: A Math Lesson Plan
  4. Shape Penguins: A First Grade Math and Art Activity