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February 7, 2014

Even MORE Fun with The Mitten

You'd think by now there would be nothing left to post about companion activities for one of my favorite winter books, The Mitten by Jan Brett.  But winter just seems to keep going on and on, and so do my ideas for using this book for kids big and small.

One activity I have used with ALL my kids (ages 2-12) is a set of animal figurines, rock salt, and a mitten.  Do you use rock salt for pretend snow?  It's so fun!  It's easy to scoop, feels kind of cold and really looks like ice.  I keep mine in a large plastic container and we scoop some out onto a plastic plate so the animals and the mitten can be in the snow.  The little ones love to find things hidden in the snow and put the animals inside the mitten.  The older ones have used this set to retell the story after we read the book.  I was lucky to have most of the animals from the book, but I can't find a mole or a badger!   The kids don't seem to mind.

Another activity I've gotten a lot of mileage with is my Mitten Companion Set for the Don't Break The Ice Game by Hasbro.  I made a set that is similar to Winter Clothing Don't Break the Ice Companion that includes small cards to tape onto the ice blocks and two sets of game cards.

One set of cards features pictures of all the animals and characters in the story, along with a smaller version of each picture to tape on the ice blocks.  The younger kids love to turn over a card and tap the matching ice block until it falls.  It's a great way to learn new animal vocabulary.  When used with my Mitten Fold-Out Book, you can practice the repetitive text from the story.  You could have the child turn over a card and say "The ______ went in.  Push, push, push!" before they tap the ice block.

The second set of cards features wonderful vocabulary words found in the original text of The Mitten.  There are so many great words that add to the detail and the richness of this story!  Words like burrowed, talons, commotion, admire, tunneled, lumbered and jostled.  I used these cards along with the picture cards for the older kids.  They turned over one card from each pile and had to make up a sentence that included both words.  For example, in the picture above where the two cards show "rabbit" and "talons", the child might say, "The rabbit saw the owl's sharp talons so he let him in."

This sentence construction activity was an amazingly easy way to help my students add details and complexity to their narratives.   As I mentioned earlier, I had my third through fifth graders retell the story using the props after we read the book together.    I recorded their story using the video camera on my iPad and then transcribed the text.  I used a graphic organizer from the Snow Much Fun With Language set I purchased from If I Only Had Superpowers to map the parts of the story and list the details and vocabulary used.  Over the next two weeks, we used these cards again and again.  We defined words we didn't know, we acted them out by pretending to burrow under a table and jostle each other, and when we played the game, we made up AMAZING sentences.  At the end of our unit, I gave them the opportunity to retell the story with the props and reminded them to use some of the new words they learned.  I recorded them again and was absolutely ASTOUNDED at the improvements they made.  It was so cool!  One third grader's baseline story was 3:38 minutes long.  It included all the basic elements such as characters, setting and a sequence of events, but was very lean on details.  He did not describe the animals' reactions to the other animals wanting to squeeze into the mitten; he just named the animals and said they went into the mitten.   His sentences were very basic and non-descriptive.  His post-test story increase to 5:40 and included at least 11 new details and vocabulary words.  This version included the animals' responses to each other and was much more similar to the story we read together two weeks earlier.  I was so proud of him!  I LOVE it when we can prove success in our treatment strategies!

Want to try it for yourself?  You can find it at my TpT store here.

Have you been using The Mitten with your kids this year?  I'd love to here how.


  1. Great ideas for expansion! I love the idea of recording a pre and post lesson version...I need to start incorporating this too. Any kind of tangible proof of progress is so important for our kiddos! I love how you used the same story across so many ages - I love being able to do this too! I have never thought of using rock salt for snow...so creative! Thanks for sharing your ideas! Emily

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I'm glad you found my ideas helpful