Living With Something Unusual


Learning Description

Students will explore two stories about an unusual creature becoming part of a family, and then create and enact their own stories on the same theme.


Learning Targets


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"I Can" Statements

“I Can…”

  • I can identify similarities and differences in two stories on a similar theme.
  • I can use my body and voice to act out animal characters.
  • I can work with a group to create a new story based on a theme from picture books.

Essential Questions

  • How do we compare two stories on a similar theme?
  • How do we create an original story based on a theme from picture books?


Georgia Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2:

ELAGSE2RL6 Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.ELAGSE2RL7 Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.ELAGSE2RL9 Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.ELAGSE2W3 Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Arts Standards

Grade 2:

TAES2.2 Developing scripts through improvisation and other theatrical methods.

TAES2.3 Acting by developing, communicating, and sustaining roles within a variety of situations and environments.


South Carolina Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2:

2.Rl.5 Determine meaning and develop logical interpretations by making predictions, inferring, drawing conclusions, analyzing, synthesizing, providing evidence, and investigating multipleinterpretations.

2.RL.8 Analyze characters, settings, events, and ideas as they develop and interact within a particular context.

Arts Standards

Grade 2:

Anchor Standard 1: I can create scenes and write scripts using story elements and structure.

Anchor Standard 3: I can act in improvised scenes and written scripts.


Key Vocabulary

Content Vocabulary

Character - A person or animal in a story who takes part in the action.

Setting - The time and place of a story (when and where).

Plot - The series of related events that together form a story.

Illustration - A drawing, painting, photograph, or other image that is created to depict a story, poem, or newspaper article.

Theme - A central idea or topic in a story.

Arts Vocabulary

Act - To pretend to be or do something imaginary.

Voice - An actor’s tool, which we shape and change to portray the way a character speaks or sounds.

Body - An actor’s tool, which we shape and change to portray the way a character looks, walks, or moves.



Aaaarrgghh Spider!!! by Lydia Monks. and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague; or two texts that have the same theme of living with an unusual animal character




Instructional Design

Opening/Activating Strategy

Character Movements:
Have students shift their bodies to become the animals in the stories: First, a spider . . . walking, climbing, dancing, spinning a web, jumping; then, dinosaurs . . . different types (from the text) walking, flying, running, eating, digging, settling down to sleep.


Work Session


  • Read two quick texts for the students that share the theme of living with an unusual animal character, such as Aaaarrgghh, Spider!!!, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?.
  • Discuss similarities and differences between the two texts. Identify the theme – living with an unusual animal.
  • Gather favorite scenes from the two stories and act them out all together, using the illustrations in the books as guides. Have students become the animals and/or the creatures (e.g., the spider washing herself, the mother shaking the spider webs out on the broom, the children swinging, the ankylosaurus yawning and dragging a blanket, the apatosaurus swinging his neck, the trachodont stomping and shouting). Spotlight the specific physical choices that individual students make to enact the characters.
  • Discuss the theme. Discuss what animals are kept as housepets, and brainstorm creatures that would be very unlikely to live with a family (possible ideas: elephant, whale, moose, wooly mammoth, vulture, unicorn, grizzly bear, walrus, etc.).
  • Divide the class into groups and instruct the students to come up with their own story based on an unusual animal living with humans, and how they overcome obstacles. Tell them that they should have the human characters in the family and one unusual animal house-pet character (if there is conflict, they can alternate acting out the different roles). They should decide on several activities that the family and animal engage in. (Possibly, assign the number of activities equal to the number of students in the group, so that each student has a chance to enact the animal role.)
  • Pair up groups and have them share with each other, or have each group share with the whole class.


Closing Reflection

  • Review the theme of the stories, and what a ‘theme’ is.
  • Reflect on how students used their voices and bodies to become their characters.




  • Observe students enacting animals in the opening activity and the group scenes.
  • Listen to students discussing similarities and differences between the two stories.



  • Observe how well students’ scenes clearly follow the theme of the source texts – with an unusual animal pet and a series of actions or activities.
  • Observe how students work together to enact their scenes.




  • Have students write out their scenes in a playwriting format.
  • Have the groups develop a narrative in which the characters face and resolve a specific problem related to the unusual animal.


  • Rather than having students work independently in groups, brainstorm and collectively enact several ideas in sequence as an entire class.
  • Guide students specifically in making choices for vocal and physical expression in creating characters together (instruct and model what to do with arms, legs, upper body, faces, etc.)


Additional Resources

Other possible texts: Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Ray Bridwell; Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, by Bernard Waber; Charlotte and the Rock, by Stephen W. Martin; Sparky, by Jenny Offill, Illustrated by Chris Appelhans (sloth); and My Tiny Pet, by Jessie Hartland (tardigrade/water bear).

*This integrated lesson provides differentiated ideas and activities for educators that are aligned to a sampling of standards. Standards referenced at the time of publishing may differ based on each state’s adoption of new standards.

Ideas contributed by: Carolynn Stoddard and updated by Barry Stewart Mann

Revised and copyright: August 2022 @ ArtsNOW