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Signs and Symbols #6: Scaredy Squirrel, Storytelling with Symbols

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students end their Unit of Inquiry on Signs and Symbols by having fun with Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy SquirrelScaredy Squirrel stories are told through a combination of words and graphic organizer-type illustrations.  However, many of the illustrations also use symbols with which Scaredy Squirrel communicates his thinking and planning.  Get to know a new author and engage your reluctant readers with Scaredy Squirrel.  Symbols have never been more fun!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



Given a graphic organizer, students will create a Scaredy-Squirrel-inspired “Emergency Kit” by using symbols to represent objects they would like to have in their own emergency kit.  (AASL 4.1.8, “Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.”)

Suggested Time:

40-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Students will design ten simple symbols to fill a Scaredy-Squirrel-inspired emergency kit.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind the students that they are working on signs and symbols in their current Unit of Inquiry.  Ask them places where signs and symbols are commonly found.  Explain that today they will learn about an author who tells her stories through words and symbol-rich illustrations.  Not many authors do, but Mélanie Watt uses lots and lots of symbols in her Scaredy Squirrel books.  Big Idea:  Stories can be told with symbols!  Not only Ancient Egyptian stories that use hieroglyphics, but also modern stories as well!

Ask the children if they know Scaredy Squirrel.  Ask what they remember about Scaredy Squirrel, where he lives, what he does every day, or what he fears.

Explain to the children that today we’ll share Scaredy Squirrel stories and look for symbols in the stories.

2. Main:

Share Scaredy Squirrel with the children.  Read the book the first time for the plot and basic organization of the story.  Make sure the children understand how Mélanie Watt organizes her stories and tells them.  Make sure that the children understand the humor and wit in the stories.

Work through Scaredy Squirrel a second time and let the children identify the symbols that Watt uses in her storytelling.  Here are a few that they should be able to come up with:

Poison ivy, germs, killer bees, nuts, arrows, clocks, hard hat, soap, band aid, bug spray, net, sardines, emergency kit

Make sure that the children understand how Watt’s use of symbols contributes to the story and how her use of symbols makes her storytelling style distinctive.

Together, as a class, ask the children what they would put in an emergency kit if they could make one.  Their ideas might include snacks, life vest, mobile phone, first aid supplies, walkie-talkies, batteries, medicine, reflective vest, list of addresses and contact information, a map, etc.  Be sure that you scribe 15+ ideas from the class.  Use a flipchart, white board, or promethean board so that all the students can see the class emergency kit ideas.

Pass out copies of “Create Your Own Emergency Kit” from Kids Can Press on the Scaredy Squirrel web site, found here.  (See the second page of the PDF.)  Have the children use the class list of ideas, plus any of their own ideas, to use symbols to compete their own emergency kits.

If the children finish and if there is time, read and enjoy another Scaredy Squirrel story together (optional).

3. Conclusion:

Tell the children that your work with them in the Signs and Symbols Unit of Inquiry is now complete, but that you encourage them to read more from Mélanie Watt, work with more infographics, learn more flags, and pay attention to the signs and symbols in the library.  The world is full of signs and symbols, and it has been a delight to share these learning experiences with them.

  1. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. ISBN
  2. Scaredy Squirrel website, found here.  Includes games and lesson plans.
  3. Storytime suggestions for Scaredy Squirrel, including the Emergency Kit activity template, found here.
  4. Pencils, colored pencils, or markers.

Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel stories have enormous educational value.  I find them to be underutilized and hope that this lesson spurs your thinking as to how these kid-friendly, fun-filled texts can work for your students.  Although I’ve written this lesson as part of a unit on Signs and Symbols, you could also use the texts to work with the concepts of:

  1. Graphic Organizers
  2. Event Planning (how to leave the nut tree, how to visit the beach, etc.)
  3. Organizational Skills
  4. Time Management
  5. “I used to think  . . .  but now I think” visible thinking routine.
Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.
  2. Any of the other Scaredy Squirrel stories, also by Mélanie Watt.
Key Terms:

Scaredy Squirrel, Mélanie Watt, Symbols, Squirrels, Fear, Courage