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Patterns #1: The Crocodile and the Dentist, by Taro Gomi (Repetitive Pattern)

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children learn to “tune in” to their unit on patterns by learning about language patterns.  They will learn to recognize the simplest language pattern of all – identical repetition.  Through Mr. Gomi’s ingenious work, children discover the A:A, B:B, C:C pattern and how it can be used to tell a story.  At my school, the pattern unit focused on visual patterns, so this emphasis on language patterns was very well received by the teachers!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To understand the concept of language patterns and to recognize the A:A, B:B, C:C pattern.

Suggested Time:

30-35 minutes

Success Criteria:

Children will be able to describe the A:A, B:B, C:C language pattern in Mr. Gomi’s The Crocodile and the Dentist.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask students what their new Unit of Inquiry is about.  (Answer:  Patterns).  Ask several questions to see how much they already understand.  Questions could be:

  1. What is a pattern?
  2. How can you recognize a pattern?
  3. Can you see any patterns in this room right now?
  4. Are there patterns outside of our school?
  5. Could you find patterns in your home?
  6. Are the other kinds of patterns besides patterns that you see?

Explain that there could be sound patterns (rhythms), weather patterns, even the four seasons make a pattern!  But today we will learn about language patterns.

Language patterns are words that follow a predictable form.  By being aware of language patterns, we can learn more about what an author is telling us!

Listen and see if you can find the pattern in this story, The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.

2. Main:

Teach The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.  When I teach this story, I read it through once.  That’s hard to do, because the kids are usually so excited by it that they want to stop and talk about it right away.  After going through once, we do it a second time with half of the class providing narration for the dentist and half of the class providing narration for the crocodile.  If they are having a really great time, switch roles and have those who were the first crocodiles play the part of the dentist and vice-versa.  Because the dialogue in the story is predictable and easy, the kids can speak their lines with a lot of emotion!

Children will find the pattern immediately, usually by the end of the first two lines of dialogue which are:

C:  I really don’t want to see him . . . . but I must.

D:  I really don’t want to see him, but I must.

C:  Aaugh!

D:  Aaugh!

Ask the kids a few follow-up questions to guide their thinking.  These questions might include:

  1. Why do you think Mr. Gomi used a language pattern in this book?
  2. Does the story make sense, even though both characters have the same lines?
  3. How do the illustrations help make the meanings clear?
  4. Do you think it would be easy or difficult to write a story with repeating dialogue?

Make sure that the children understand that we can represent Mr. Gomi’s language pattern with A:A, B:B, C:C notation.  Take the time to teach this notation because it will be important in following lessons when the patterns become more difficult.

3. Conclusion:

Challenge the children to write their own A:A, B:B, C:C or “repeating” story.  Teachers usually love it when you give a writing challenge, and I’ve had several teachers follow this lesson up with the suggested writing activity.  Some of the student work samples I am most proud of are from kids who wrote their own stories patterned after Mr. Gomi’s work.  It is not easy!!

Tell the children that they can look for language patterns in the stories they read, and that you’ll be doing more work with language patterns over the next several weeks.

  1. Taro Gomi’s web page: http://www.gomitaro.com/
  2. The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi. 

To teach this lesson, you need a copy of The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.  Unfortunately, the book is out of print in the Western press.  You may have better luck from one of the Japanese publishers, but they will be trickier to buy from.   Start early to search for a good, used copy.  I have purchased one from a third-party vendor on Amazon, and that worked well.  The last time I checked, copies were still available at a reasonable price.   It is worth the effort because I have never come across another book that does what this one does with the A;A, B:B, C:C repetitive language pattern.  As far as I know, the book is one-of-a-kind!!


Kids latch onto this lesson easily and well.  It’s one of the easiest lessons in my PYP Lesson Library.  And, it’s a guaranteed kid-pleaser.  Everyone has a dentist story, and everyone can understand simple repetition!  You could use the lesson in a unit on storytelling, but I find it works better in the unit on patterns.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. The Crocodile and the Dentist by Taro Gomi.
Key Terms:

Crocodiles, Dentists, Patterns, Language Patterns, Japanese Authors