The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic loved by children and adults. This is a great story for teaching many topics and concepts, including big/little, life cycle, colors and foods. Teachers can adapt the story to meet varying needs, abilities, and interests of their students. In my class, my students have multiple disabilities in addition to their visual impairments. We read this story this past week and all of my students enjoyed the supporting activities. As always, we started with a storybox…
The large caterpillar is from Kohl’s and the small caterpillar is from Barnes and Noble. This picture doesn’t show all of the storybox items, as we used up all of the real food depicted in the story.
- Big and little caterpillars
- 1 green leaf
- 1 green bean seed (to represent the egg)
- 1 apple
- 2 pears
- 3 plums
- 4 strawberries
- 5 oranges
- Cake, ice cream cone (no ice cream for the real cone), pickle, cheese, salami, lollipops, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake, watermelon
- Brown towel-to represent the cocoon
- Orange butterfly wings- from the dollar store
I used real food for this story. The children that are able to eat by mouth had a tasting tray. For the students that can lick, they each had a sucker. In addition to the real foods, I also have play food that I used for a different part of the lesson. Most of the play food is realistic in relation to touch and weight, but some of the food only looks realistic.
The students had the opportunity to explore the foods earlier in the day before we read the story. As I read the story, each student was able to again explore the food, either through taste, touch or smell. I pre-recorded a Big Mac switch with the phrase, “but he was still hungry” which enabled the students to say the repeating phrase. When the story mentioned the cocoon I put a brown towel over them. We practiced “pushing our way out”. The students were able to explore and wear the butterfly wings.
This is a fun story and my students really enjoyed it. But we weren’t done yet…next we brought the story to life. We had several supporting activities to encourage concept development and increase their understanding of the story.
We put leaves and the caterpillars on a tray and on a resonance board for the students to feel and explore.
We also made “caterpillars” from green pipe cleaners that we twisted.
Feeding the Caterpillar
Next the students pretended to feed the caterpillar. We twisted a tunnel, placed the small and large caterpillar near the tunnel, had a basket of play food, and eating sounds that were pre-recorded on a switch.
First the students felt the small caterpillar. Then we talked about how hungry he was. They then chose a piece of food and threw (differing levels of assistance was needed) the food into the caterpillar's mouth. When the food landed, a staff member pushed the switch so the student could hear the eating sound. After the student was done “feeding” the caterpillar, we showed them the big, fat caterpillar.
We also set up a tray of cool whip and real fruit from the story. This tray was used as a sensory activity to explore the cool whip. The students were also able to explore the food- either through taste, touch, smell or all three depending on their ability and interest level. We used the cool whip for several reasons (OT request) - it met the needs of students who are working on exploring wet messy play, it was safe for students to put or in their mouths, and the students could move the fruit in the cool whip. The orange was a favorite.
Wrapping Up in a Cocoon
Our next activity was to wrap up in a cocoon. We didn’t have a large enough towel, so we used a sheet. We placed the student in the sheet, and then (with myself and the PT) swung them gently in the cocoon while singing.
Finally, after the cocoon, the students pretended to be butterflies. They each had a turn to wear the butterfly wings and bounce on the trampoline.
We also set up a butterfly lamp center. The students can touch the switch which turns on a fan and a butterfly lamp. It is a bit busy, but some students are very interested in watching the butterflies and feeling the wind.
Finally, the students have been working all week on creating art work from the story. They did a leaf rubbing and painted pictures with the fruit. The painted with apples and red paint on smooth paper, oranges and orange paint on bumpy braille scratch paper, and finger painted blue on quick draw paper. We will bind their artwork into a book, along with the pictures of them participating in each activity. Once the books are bound, I will post a picture of their completed work.