Turkey Facts

I think it is really important to give Kindergartners lots of experience with information books.  Whether this is part of your Reader’s Workshop – or however you fit it into your schedule, it needs to be engaging and fun for the children.  I love using puppets as teaching tools, and I have one that I used specifically with information books.  Her name is Roxie Heart.

There are lots of things about Roxie that make her very fun to use.  It is very easy to put your hand into this puppet, and her mouth works really well.  I found little tennis shoes at Michael’s that just fit her.  My favorite part of Roxie is that it is really easy to sew little dresses for her, so I use fabric that goes with the information book and make a little dress that helps her introduce the subject of the book.  She also has a little purse and always carries something that helps her teach.

Please don’t think that you cannot use a puppet if you can’t or don’t want to make new outfits for different subjects.  It does make it fun, but it is optional.  However I would strongly encourage you to try using puppets if you don’t already – the children really love them.  I saw a presenter use a nondescript monster type puppet and made very simple clothing for it by coloring on paper lunch bags that fit over his head – it was every bit as effective!

In the photo Roxie is wearing her ocean dress, but she has a turkey dress too.  Roxie comes to visit the class BEFORE they see the information book.  Each of my teaching puppets has a definite personality.  Roxie thinks that she is the smartest kindergartner in the world and that she knows more than anyone about the subject.  She comes out of the castle and talks to me, and the children.  She asks if they like her new dress and then tells the children that she is an expert about turkeys (or whatever the subject.)

I use the book All About Turkeys by Jim Arnosky.

My primary objective was to teach how to read and learn from informational books, you can use any subject.  Please take a look at how I begin teaching about information books under the section Text Features.

I read the book and chose about 6 facts from the book that I thought would be interesting and new to the children.  I typed out each fact on a card and drew a very simple illustration.  I have given away so many of my materials that I don’t have those cards, but the facts I remember were – A turkey has no feathers on his head.  Some turkeys sleep in trees.  A turkey has a caruncle on his beak that hangs down when he gets excited.  A turkey’s head changes color when he gets mad.  Mother turkeys lay between 8-18 eggs at a time (not positive I remember the right number!).   A turkey can fly up to 50 mph.  You would choose any facts that you were interested in or the facts you need to teach.

Roxie would have something in her pocket that she would use to talk about one of the facts.  For example she might have a comb that a turkey gave her because his head is bald and he doesn’t need it – he doesn’t even have any feathers on his head.   Or a crayon to color the turkey’s head a different color so he won’t look mad, etc.  I just loved having fun with her.  She would tell all the facts to the kids just conversationally.  Then I would show them the picture cards and Roxie would be amazed when they remembered the facts she told them.  She would always tell them they were the smartest kindergartners, next to her.

Then I would ask Roxie how she learned so much about turkeys, and she would tell us she read about them in a book.  I put Roxie back into the castle before I read to the kids.  By the time I read the information book the children had heard the facts 2-3 times –  first Roxie talked about the facts, then they would match the facts to the picture cards, then often I would turn the cards over to see if they still remembered them.  That means that before they hear the book they are already familiar with the important points – it focuses their listening.  I think of it a little like the skill older children use when they read the questions at the end of the chapter before reading a text book.

I ask the children to wave to me if they hear one of Roxie’s facts when I am reading the book.   As they point out the facts I put the picture card of that fact up in a pocket chart.  The kids often pointed out that the fact was in bold print, or as a caption under a picture, etc. because they knew about how information books work.

After reading we would go over the facts one more time.  Then I would send the children to their tables to draw and write 3 of the facts that they remember.  I made a point of saying that they couldn’t just draw and write any fact, it had to be one we read about in the book.

Please click on the link below to see the paper we used – it was the same type we used for Writer’s Workshop.

Turkey facts

I would run these pages back to back and fold it so the title was on the front.  At Thanksgiving when I did Turkey Facts, not all children were ready for phonetic spelling.  I might use fewer lines and larger boxes for drawing.  This is the same format I used for retelling information books through the year.  I love tying reading and writing into the subjects we are learning!

Where Would a Turkey Hide?

This was a fun activity that I did after reading a very simple rhyming book about a turkey that was trying not to get caught for Thanksgiving.

I asked each child to think of somewhere that a turkey might hide and we brainstormed lots of ideas.  I tried to encourage them to say something more than behind a house or behind a rock.  First each child drew a turkey on their page and then they created something that a turkey might hide behind – out of construction paper scraps.

I stapled the pages into a class book, the kids loved rereading it!

The first time I did this project many children started to glue their construction paper creation on top of the turkey, so after that I always had them give me their turkey before they made the item, then they brought the thing they made and we taped it over the top of the turkey.  If you lift up this house, the turkey is underneath.  The text says – If you were a turkey, where would you hide?  I used to do a lot of headings like “A turkey might like to hide behind ______________”  But I found that as the children began to write phonetically they often rewrote the sentence starter – so I changed most of my prompts to questions.

At this point in the year I was still doing most of the writing, although some children could phonetically spell.

Of course I had to do a lot of modeling and reminding children to use many details, lots of different colors, etc.  We talked about quality work and what it meant to do our best.

Thanksgiving Class Book

I loved occasionally finding projects that allow the children to work cooperatively and complete together.  I have found that they are much more successful in small groups – no more than 3 usually – or often one child sits out and doesn’t help much.  The book I am picturing was 12 x 18 inches and I had about 5 children working on each page.  In later years I made the books 9 x 12 and only had 2 -3 kids on each page – and we just made more copies of the book so every child was involved.  I tried to make enough class books for each child to have one at the end of the year – so that helped out too.

I chose the text based on sight words we were working on at the time – large font, extra spaces!

We had done another project using shapes to make Pilgrims before we did this book – that gave the children an idea of how to start making them on their own.

Here are a few management ideas I used for this project.  I carefully selected which children would work together. I walked around the room a lot encouraging the children to talk about what they were doing, and work together.  I intervened if there was a problem – sometimes children made a piece too large and it covered other kids’ work, etc.

Then when the group decided their page was finished they had to all sign their name on the back, completely clean up their table and floor area, then the whole group would bring it to me.  I would ring my bell for attention and “present” the page to the class saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to present the page ‘ Come and see the turkeys.”  Then the group would agree on a classroom cheer they wanted and they would go off to another activity while the rest of the groups finished.

All the class books we made were in a literacy basket for free choice reading, along with my sample copy of the books the children made and took home.  Since I always make a book to model my directions, I had lots of copies to put out for children to read even after they took their own books home.

My Thanksgiving Book

I know there is a lot of controversy about teaching about Native Americans and accuracy in the history of the first Thanksgiving.  But I also think that children enjoy the fun and traditions that have long been associated with this holiday.  I guess I don’t have a big moral issue over this, I just want to play.  If I have any families with Native American roots I invite them to share any traditions or cultural things they would like.  I spent quite a lot of time talking about why people called Native Americans Indians.  I tied this back to my Columbus Day activities when I first talked about the original occupants of this land.  I am sharing the book that I loved making with my classes.  I genuinely hope I don’t offend anyone.

I gave the children this book completely bound together, but we did not do this house on the front until the rest of the book was completed.  The kids just cut the roof and glued it onto a folded yellow rectangle.  They used scraps to decorate the outside, the inside opens and they drew and labeled members of their family.

Whenever we used the term ‘Indians” I reminded the children that we were talking about the original occupants of our country.  Some teachers at my school changed this text to read Native Americans lived here long ago.  I didn’t like the flow of that…

One of my favorite things when I worked on this page and talked about the Mayflower with my students was introducing the idea of compound words – it is perfect with Mayflower and Thanksgiving.  The entire rest of the year the children would be picking up compound words and definitely understood the concept.

I brought in Indian corn and used bingo markers to decorate their corn.  Another cutting technique I taught at Halloween was cutting a spiral to add to their pumpkins – sometimes we added a cut spiral here instead of just drawing the detail.

The pot on this page opened up and the children glued in clipart of different foods.  I spent some time introducing the basics of food groups – we would spend more time on it later with out Healthy Me unit.

We spent a lot of time in November talking about things we are thankful for.  At the writing center I had little books titled Thank you for – and inside the children would  draw and phonetically write ‘my family’ or ‘my car’ or ‘my food.’  I also worked on the sight word MY.

In this book we watercolor painted the turkeys.  Some years we cut and pasted them, or just drew with markers or crayons.  It is fun to use different media.

I realize this page is too small for you to read, but I loved including it in this book.  One day I sat with each child and asked them how to cook a turkey.  We talked about how we were just pretending and it was fine if they didn’t really know how – but these recipes were always so fun.  I found that if I brought my laptop and typed as they dictated it goes much faster.  I prompted the children by asking where they got the turkey, how much it cost if they bought it – how they caught it, how they brought it home, if they cooked it on the stove or in the oven, what they stuffed into it, what else they put in the pan, what other food they ate with it, who came for dinner, how they knew when it was done – what it looked like when it was done, who did the dishes, what they do after dinner, etc.  Of course I didn’t ask all those questions of every child – some just rattled off their ideas – others needed prompting to make it longer or more fun.

Along with these dictated recipes the children free cut turkeys with feathers, wattles, feet, etc.  Then I copied gray “pots”.  I printed off each child’s recipe and glued it onto a pot, and then glued their turkey behind the pot.  The children knew their turkey had to be larger than their hand or it would be covered by the pot.  It became a tradition for me to post these in the school hallway and everyone told me how fun it was to read them.  Sometimes I sent the recipes to the local paper and they published them.  One time I took them to the local grocery store and they posted them above the turkeys for sale.

It usually took me 2 pages to type the entire class recipes, and I liked including them in this book – I just glued one sheet on each side of the construction paper page.

It usually took me about 2 weeks to complete this book because we had so many other things we were working on, so by the time we finished it we had read and reread it so many times the children were very confident reading it.  I sent home a note asking parents to take this book to their family Thanksgiving celebration and give their child a chance to read it to the other guests.  Then the family could sign the last page making a nice memory keepsake.

I also liked doing a Thankgiving Feast at school.  We cooked in my classroom every week, but for the feast the parents sent in small portions of food like cornbread, popcorn, cranberry sauce, etc.  The children wore pilgrim, Indian and turkey hats.  I used a Reader’s Theater play called Hooray for Thanksgiving that I basically read and each group of kindergartners (Pilgrim men, Pilgrim women, Indian Men, Indian Women, Turkeys and Pilgrim Ministers) chimed in with a response whenever the story mentioned their name.  It was very cute.  I found that this book provided another great presentation.  The kids had memorized the words to this book after all the reading.  I had them in a formation for the little program.

Indian Men were standing in back next to Pilgrim Women

Indian Women on knees in front of them, next to Pilgrim Men

Pilgrim ministers sitting next to Turkeys in the very front.

So I asked the children to chant off the words from the book.

Indian men said – “Indians lived here long ago.”

Pilgrim women – “The pilgrims came, their ship was slow”

Indian women – “They planted corn and pumpkins too.”

Pilgrim men – “They had a feast to say thank you!”

Pilgrim ministers – “I’m thankful for the things I’ve got.”

Turkeys – “But on Thanksgiving, the turkey is not!”

It was very fun.  We also sang an assortment of thanksgiving songs that had motions, then we all sat at the tables arranged in a long row to have the feast!  I miss it already!


One thing I have not mentioned in my notes about making books with children is the importance of using a large, easy to read font.  I also often put 2 spaces between words.  In the beginning of working with emergent readers one of the big goals is for them to see the spaces and realize that all these symbols are individual words.  Of course we work on that in lots of ways – but double spacing between words can be a lot of help.  I know sometimes I wasn’t able to do that because I had too much text or just forgot – but it is really a good idea.

This book was a remake of a poem that has been around for many years – sorry I don’t know the original author. I always thought it was a good project as a wind down after Halloween, and a good transition before Thanksgiving activities.

I usually read this book several times with the children – usually it was in the pocket chart and children took turns pointing at the words, but unlike some books – I usually did this entire book in one morning or afternoon.   I put the materials to complete a page at one table, so the children would have a pre-bound book and travel from table to table to complete the inside.  Then they would read it to me before they put it away to take home.  Of course you might choose to keep these books for Reader’s Workshop as books they can read independently – but I think it is important to send a lot of books home that they feel good reading too.

The sight word I really emphasized with this was ‘no’.   I brought all of the materials with me to circle time and actually completed the entire book in front of the children.  Then I took the staples out of that book and put my finished page on each table where the materials for that page were kept.  That was one more way to help the children remember what to do on the page.  I think this might have been the first time I introduced the scissors technique of fringing when they cut this grass.

Here they just free cut a cloud – you could easily add cotton or fiberfill too!

The trick was trying to get them stamp the feet as if they were walking across the page – often didn’t happen that way!

If you can’t tell this is supposed to be a bird nest on a branch with 2 yellow dot birds inside.  Feel free to adapt!

Sometimes I provided tissue paper to cut wings – other times we just drew the wings.

This book was only 9 x 6 inches.  When I made it full sized I used to have the children trace their hand and arm for the tree trunk.  Also sometimes we used colored tissue paper or the melting tray for the falling leaves.

Please click on this link to open a blank pdf copy of this book.   Since this is an 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch book I put 2 pages on each sheet.  That way you can print and collate on your copy machine, then cut them in half and staple them to make 2 books at a time.

November Book

Happy Fall!

Next Newer Entries