Handa's surprise teaching ideas

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"Handa's Surprise," by Eileen Browne, tells the story of an African girl who gathers fruit to take to her friend. Unbeknown to her, animals steal the fruit as she travels, until a goat gives her an unexpected surprise.

This "Read and Share" book can be used to teach many subjects to students in kindergarten through third grade, including math, word reading and vocabulary, writing and reading comprehension.

Math Ideas

Teachers use the story to practice counting with K-1 students. They need number cards up to eight and corresponding fruit picture cards--banana, orange, guava, mango, pineapple, avocado, passion fruit and tangerine. The fruits are taken in a specific sequence in the story. The students use the fruits to count out the sequence. Higher-level students match the number cards to the specific fruit cards in the right order. The fruit cards are also used to complete simple addition and subtraction. The teacher picks a number and asks the student to add or subtract fruit cards for an answer.

Word Reading/Vocabulary Ideas

"Handa's Surprise" contains easily identifiable animal and fruit pictures. A teacher needs picture cards for the eight fruits and animals in the story, plus one identifying the girl. A word card corresponding to each picture is also needed. The students match word cards to the picture cards according to their reading levels. For reading practice, the words and pictures are used with sentence frames to create readable sentences. Students also use the story for phonics practice. The teacher provides letter cards, and the students match the cards to the pictures in the story by their initial sounds.

Writing Ideas

Early writers incorporate the story into sentence frames the teacher provides. They write the frames and add appropriate words from picture cards of fruits and animals. More advanced writing students create their own sentences, while the most advanced rewrite the story using original words and phrases. Higher grade students write journal entries that take the girl's perspective or that of one of the animals, and they express their thoughts or feelings about the events of the story.

Reading Comprehension Ideas

The most apparent comprehension skill with "Handa's Surprise" is sequencing. Students place the animal and fruit picture cards on a sequence map in the order that the fruits and animals appear in the story. They then retell the story based on the card sequence. Students also learn plot structure (set-up, rising action and climax) by determining on a sequence map where the conflict of the story starts and ends. More advanced students discuss alternate endings, such as what might have happened if Handa had reached her friend with an empty basket.