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Communities #2: Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will listen to a classic Virginia Lee Burton story, Katy and the Big Snow.  Then, using their own knowledge and some new understandings gained from the text, they will draw a small city and populate it with important community resources and buildings.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:

K – 1


Students will be able to retell the basic plot of Katy and the Big Snow.  Students will also draw a small city and fill it with landmarks or buildings representing important places in the community.  (AASL 2.1.6, “Use the writing process, media and visual literacy and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.”)

Suggested Time:

30-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will draw a simple map and label it with important places or buildings in a community. 

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

In this unit, students will examine communities and the people who live and work in them.  Before we can learn about a community, we need to know what makes up a community.  We will start by reading about one community, the make-believe city of Geoppolis.  Then, after the story, the children will draw simple illustrations of their own communities.

2. Main:

Read/teach Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton.  Work slowly through the text.  Each time the illustrations show, or the text mentions, an important part of a community, make a note.  If the children are not yet readers, use simple illustrations.  For example, instead of writing the words “electric company,” use a lightning bolt to symbolize electricity.  Make sure that the children can understand the class notes.  You can do this together on a flipchart, whiteboard, or data projector.  The kids can take their own simple notes by copying your words but also by making their own basic illustrations.  Parts of a community referenced in this story include at least these 12 places:

City Hall, Police Station, Post Office, Railway Station, Phone Company, Electric Company, Water Department, Hospital, Fire Department, Roads, Homes, Airport

Once you check for understanding, challenge the students to draw a community that has these and other places in it.  Children may wish to add parks, schools, a lake or the ocean, a favorite restaurant, a bakery, the public library, etc.

Give the children blank pieces of paper.  It is rare that I start kids off with blank sheets, but in this case, I think it is best.

Model drawing a network of roads.  You can use a nonfiction resource showing simple maps to help with this – I have made a suggestion in the “Resources” section below.  Put in a few roads and encourage the children to do something similar.  Then, one by one, begin adding some of the important places in a community.  Refer to your notes and check off each place when you use it in the city drawing.  If you do this on the whiteboard, the kids will soon get the hang of it.  They are essentially “tuning-in” by making a drawing of a small city with important community locations.  Allow enough time for the children to finish their work.

3. Conclusion:

Conclude by having the children share their pictures with a partner.  Have each of them point out a few highlights to the other.  Lead the children to the conclusion that every community looks different, but communities all have certain features in common.  Example: All communities have hospitals.

  1. Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  2. Blank Paper
  3. Pencils and colored pencils
  4. Clipboards if kids are taking notes while in the story circle
  5. Mapping Your Community: First Guide to Maps by Marta Segal Block and Daniel R. Block

It is nice if this lesson can be taught during the winter months when there may be snow on the ground.   The work samples also make a lovely “Places in Our Community” display for the corridor or classroom.

Virginia Lee Burton’s work is timeless.  I love teaching at least one of her works every year because it gets kids hooked on her books.  Be sure to point them towards Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or The Little House, also by Virginia Lee Burton.

If you don’t have or can’t get a copy of Katy and the Big Snow, consider substituting Only One Neighborhood by Marc Harshman and Barbara Garrison.  It’s not as well-known as Burton’s work, but will accomplish the same objective, and you can use the same extension activity.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
  2. Mapping Your Community: First Guide to Maps by Marta Segal Block and Daniel R. Block
  3. Only One Neighborhood by Marc Harshman and Barbara Garrison
Key Terms:

Communities, Cartography, Cities, Snow, Helping, Snowplows, Virginia Lee Burton