Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester [Houghton Mifflin, 1988] provides a delightful way of teaching students to strengthen their skills in dealing with diversity, as well as making children really think while being entertained. They remember the song about inclusion.
Targeting Primary Students with Tacky the Penguin Lesson
Primary students respond to this book, yet a similar lesson will also work with varied ages by adjusting the level of resulting assignments.
Planning for Lesson on Tacky the Penguin
Make a penguin-related bulletin board, lay out a penguin art center, and set up writing center where kids copy the song “Around the World” and then write another verse. Have Tacky and Penguin book available and perhaps lay out sequel books about Tacky in a reading center. Make a science center about types of penguins with a social studies tie-in so students tell where a particular penguin lives.
Reading Tacky the Penguin Book to Children
Students can be told that today they will learn how to sing really well, and then how to sing really badly. This is a great attention-getter! When reading the book it is helpful to use a voice for Tacky and his song about how many toes a fish has.
When Tacky’s companions sing about sunrise on the iceberg, sing in a pretty voice, inviting the children to repeat it, singing beautifully as they go. But when Tacky sings be sure to sing off-key and invite the students to join in and sing badly again. No one will be daydreaming!
Be sure to ask how and why questions as the story progresses, prepping the students for written activities in skills of comparing and contrasting, main idea, and cause and effect.
Using Tacky the Penguin to Teach Main Idea
Start developing this skill during the reading of the book with questions that give two choices about which is the main idea. Later, three choices will be appropriate in a follow-up assignment or center activity.
With partners, children set three minute egg timers and tell each other about the story. One child goes first and after three minutes, the two switch. They can use creative role playing to retell story like a phone call to a parent, conversation with a salesperson in a book store, or a librarian.
Teaching Kids to Compare and Contrast
Using a Venn Diagram or construction paper folded in half, discuss on board, then have children find likenesses and differences between Tacky and his companions. Extend the activity by adding the hunters to the list.
Learning Cause and Effect Skills with Tacky
Using dominoes shows how one event affects another, as one domino knocks another down. Then create sentences having a cause in first half and effect in last half, “Tacky sang badly so the hunters left” or “Because Tacky did a cannonball dive the hunters didn’t believe he was a penguin.”
Using a Song to Teach Acceptance of Diversity
This simple piggyback song is sung to the tune of Farmer in the Dell:
Around the World (lyrics by Hildra Tague)
Around the world we go.
Around the world we go.
People are different everywhere.
Isn’t is nice to know?
This song can be used throughout the penguin unit as a gathering song to start work. Kids remember both the words and the lesson of acceptance.
So plan a lesson using Tacky the Penguin book, plan a cross-curriculum unit, teach skills of main idea, compare and contrast, and cause and effect. While reading to them, teach students how to sing nicely and badly, then enjoy singing a song about respecting others. Enjoy teaching with Tacky.