After sixty years, E.B.White’s wonderful book, Charlotte’s Web, is still a favorite with young children. The author grew up during the time when instead of noxious gas-guzzling vehicles, people rode in lovely carriages, pulled by beautiful horses. According to his biography The Story of Charlotte’s Web… by Michael Sims, White enjoyed farm life, especially the animals which is reflected in his classic.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt; Some Book! ‘Charlotte’s Web’ Turns 60, by NPR STAFF
“Sixty years ago, the book Charlotte’s Web first appeared in print. This children’s classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig. But when E.B. White recorded a narration of the book, he said something different: “This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself.”
And the way he describes it, Homer Zuckerman’s barn is a character with its own, complex personality — smelling of hay and manure, of grain and axle grease and new boots and fish heads for the barn cats, but mostly hay, which was a familiar smell to White. He grew up in a New York City suburb at a time when people rode horses and carriages, and his parents had a stable.
His favorite thing was to care for animals, says author Michael Sims. Chickens, ducks, mice, dogs of course. Sims is the author of The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic…And it was White’s experiences in his own barn that led him to the story of Charlotte and her web.
One of the pigs he was raising died,” Sims says, and while he was carrying the pails of slops every day to the replacement pig in the barn, he noticed there was a spider attending its web every day, expanding the web, rebuilding what had happened the night before, and then one day he saw that it had spun an egg case. When White had to go back to New York City, he cut down the spider’s egg case and took it with him.” read more…
Level: Low intermediate-Intermediate
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on reading comprehension and new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the title of the post, and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article. Have students use the pre-reading organizer by Scholastic to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.
- This children’s classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig.
- But when E.B. White recorded a narration of the book…
- …Homer Zuckerman’s barn is a character with its own, complex personality…
- …smelling of hay and manure, of grain and axle grease and new boots…
- He grew up in a New York City suburb…
- …a time when people rode horses and carriages, and his parents had a stable.
- E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature…
- …”and while he was carrying the pails of slops every day to the replacement pig in the barn…
- …there was a spider attending its web every day, expanding the web…
- Eventually the baby spiders hatched…
- Reading Comprehension
True / False
Directions: The following statements were taken from the article. If a statement is true, students write (T) if a statement is false they write (F) and provide the correct answer from the article.
- Fifty years ago, the book Charlotte’s Web first appeared in print.
- This children’s classic is often seen as a story of a spider and a pig.
- E.B. White said this is a story of a spider named Charlotte.
- In 1933, [White] and his wife, Katharine Angell, moved to Maine, and bought a farm.
- Homer Zuckerman is the name of author who wrote E.B.White’s biography.
- It was Katharine’s experiences from her childhood that led him to the story of Charlotte and her web.
- White had to go back to New York City.
- Before he went, he cut down the spider’s egg case and took it with him.
- Michael Sims owns the farm in the story Charlotte’s Web.
- During the audio of the book, White took 17 takes to get through Charlotte’s death without his voice cracking or beginning to cry.
- Grammar Focus
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
For a review visit ESL Voices Adjectives
III. Post Reading Tasks
- Reading Comprehension Check
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion /Writing Tasks
Directions: Place students in groups and have then answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics.
- In the article E.B. White states, “This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself.” However, people usually view this children’s classic as a story of a spider and a pig. Explain the difference between the two views.
- While he was completing the video version of the book, the article describes E.B. White as having to do “17 takes to get through Charlotte’s death without his voice cracking or beginning to cry.” Why do you think he began to cry each time? Describe his personality.
Note: For this next task students either discuss or write the next chapter for the following summary. It can be a paragraph in length. Then have each group share their endings with the class.
Charlotte’s Web By E.B. White, (Summary)
“The book begins when John Arable’s sow gives birth to a litter of piglets, and Mr. Arable discovers one of them is a runt and decides to kill it. However, his eight-year-old daughter Fern begs him to let it live. Therefore her father gives it to Fern as a pet, and she names the piglet Wilbur. Wilbur is hyperactive and always exploring new things. He lives with Fern for a few weeks and then is sold to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. Although Fern visits him at the Zuckermans’ farm as often as she can, her visits decrease as she grows older, and Wilbur gets lonelier day after day. Eventually, a warm and soothing voice tells him that she is going to be his friend. The next day, he wakes up and meets his new friend: Charlotte, the grey spider.”
IV. Listening Activity
- Pre-listening Tasks
Introduction: A Review of Charlotte’s Web By E.B. White.
The following video is a book review of Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, read by Ms. Yun, who teaches young children. She does a wonderful job in this review. Students and teachers will enjoy her comments.
Listening for New Vocabulary or New Terms
Directions: Here is a list of words from the video. Have students find the meanings before they listen to the video, then check off the words that they hear during the video.
poster, fascinated, avid, reluctant, imagery, exemplifies, setting, manure, life cycle.
• While Listening Tasks
Directions: Students are to choose the correct response from the ones provided from the video.
1. Yun was ___the house because her father-law was coming to visit.
2. She had the___version of the book.
3. When she first came to the U.S. this was the book her class was ___
4. Yun was in the___grade when she arrived in the U.S.
5. She___read english when she first came to this country.
6. Her teacher had a___ of the book on the wall in the class.
7. Yun was ___by the photo of the little girl and the pig.
8. She wasn’t an ___reader when she was young.
9. Yun is originally from___.
10. Sometimes a small group of children may be ___to hear the book because they’ve heard the book before or seen the movie.
11. E. B. White used mental ___and word choice to express the true meaning of friendship.
• Post-Listening Tasks
Directions:Place students in groups and have them make up questions that they would like to ask either Ms. Yun, or E.B. White.