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Healthy Body, Balanced Lifestyle #2: Go To Sleep, Gecko, by Margaret Read MacDonald

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students think about sleep and its importance for health.  Using a Balinese folk tale as the source text, children will describe how, where, and under what conditions they like to sleep.  Then they will draw a simple picture of themselves sound asleep.  To make this lesson more fun, bring a few pillows, stuffed animals, and blankets for an in-the-library sleep experience!

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To learn a Balinese folktale and to describe how (s)he (the student) best sleeps.  (AASL 4.1.5, “Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.”)

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will listen to a Balinese folktale, then complete seven sentence prompts describing how he or she best likes to sleep.  If there is enough time, each student will draw a simple picture of how she likes to sleep.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the students to tell you one or two things that they have learned in their Unit of Inquiry thus far.  What do we need to have or need to do to stay healthy?  Gather a few ideas for the class.  If no one mentions sleep, ask them what they do at night that is very important for their health.  Give clues until the children come up with the idea that sleep is important for health and wellbeing.

Explain that today, we will learn about sleep from a traditional folk tale from Bali.  Show where Bali is on a map or globe.  In the story, the main character is a gecko!  Show a picture of a gecko and perhaps a video clip of a gecko walking or catching an insect.

Be sure to let the kids hear what a gecko’s call sounds like.  If they know this, they will be able to better imagine the story.

2. Main:

Let the kids get comfortable with pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals.  Since this is a sleep story, they get to pretend to sleep during the lesson!

Teach Go to Sleep, Gecko! A Balinese Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald.  Check for understanding as you go.

After the story, ask some thinking questions such as:

  • Do you ever have trouble sleeping?
  • If so, how do you manage that problem?
  • What kinds of things might change the amount of sleep you get?
  • What could change the quality of sleep that you get?
  • Did you notice what the gecko is sleeping with in the final illustration? What do you like to sleep with?

After a bit of sharing, explain the assignment.  Tell the children that they will each complete seven sentences.  Once they complete the seven sentences, they will have described how they like to sleep.

After the sentences are complete, ask the children to draw pictures of themselves asleep at home on the reverse side of the assignment.

3. Conclusion:

Wrap up by drawing everyone back together.  Emphasize how important sleep is.  Encourage the children to go to sleep early so that they can grow and so that they will be well-rested to start every day off with lots of energy.

Thank them for their work as they tidy up, fold the blankets, and put away the pillows.  Another library lesson well done!

  1. Map or globe
  2. Pictures of a gecko
  3. Sound recording of a gecko. Perhaps this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a44rInONJRY
  4. Copies of the student assignment sheet (attached)
  5. Stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets (optional)
  6. Margaret Read MacDonald’s web site: http://www.margaretreadmacdonald.com/

I have taught this lesson for many years, and it is a kid pleaser.  The children love to hear the word “poop” in a story, and they get a charge out of the gecko’s constant complaining.   Even better is talking about sleep at school!  Try to bring along the stuffed animals, pillows, and blankets to make listening a real sleep experience.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Margaret Read MacDonald’s work, spend some time getting to know her books.  Dr. MacDonald earned a degree in anthropology before she became a children’s librarian.  Through later studies, including her doctorate in folklore, she has become the world’s expert on gathering traditional tales and retelling them for today’s audiences.  My personal favorite is Mabela the Clever, a tale from the Limba in Sierra Leone.  Order a few of her stories, and you will be delighted at how versatile they are, how much the children enjoy them, and how easy they are to incorporate into your planning.

Recommended books for this lesson:

Go to Sleep, Gecko! A Balinese Folk Tale by Margaret Read MacDonald.

Key Terms:

Geckos, Sleep, Bali, Folktales, Folklore


Go To Sleep, Gecko, Student Handout