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Transportation #1: The Little Engine That Could

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children will be introduced to story books and nonfiction titles about forms of transportation.

Lesson Plan:


To introduce children to stories and information books with a transportation theme.  To teach the children the famous classic by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could.

Suggested Time:

30-40 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each student will be able to state the phrase, “I think I can”, when asked what the “Little Engine That Could” said to himself as he faced a challenge.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask what new unit the students are beginning.  Follow up by explaining that people have always had a need for transportation and that a lot of stories, poems, and even songs are written about transportation (example: “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver.)

Today you will get to explore some of the library’s collection that connects to the idea of transportation.

2. Main:

Teach The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.  Children may need help with some of the vocabulary.

Have the children repeat the phrase, “I THINK I can, I THINK I can”, once you come to it in the story.

Ask questions that check for understanding.  Why did the other engines not help?

  • What was the passenger engine’s excuse?
  • What was the freight engine’s excuse?
  • What was the rusty engine’s excuse?
  • What do we think about when we have chances to help and make a difference?
  • What would you do if you were asked to help? Especially if helping might inconvenience you.

Encourage children to explore the transportation themed books while browsing and checking out today.

Ties to PYP Learner Profile:  Caring, Courageous (Risk Taker), and Principled.

3. Conclusion:

Everybody feels like the Little Blue Engine when we are asked to try new things we have never done before.  Is it usually good to try?  What happens if we try our hardest for as long as we can?  (Answer: We usually achieve our goals and grow in the process!)  Big ideas:  Perseverance and Courage.

Print and show the children a copy of the classroom poster (PDF below).  I like to print, trim, and mount the poster on a brightly colored piece of cardstock.  Tell the children that the poster will go back with them to their classroom so that they can remember the example of the Little Blue Engine and remember to always work hard and their best.

Additional Resources:
  1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.
  2. An assortment of nonfiction books on transportation, arranged on tables where the children can easily access them.
  3. An assortment of fiction storybooks on transportation, arranged on tables where the children can easily access them.
  4. One copy of the classroom poster (see attached file)

Kids love to look at themed collections.  This one is exciting because children have a natural interest in trucks, cars, planes, motorcycles, helicopters, etc.

If you do not have time to pull all the books, let the first class help you do this.  Kids are brilliant at finding materials, and it’s good thinking and helping practice for them.  If the first class pulls the materials, you’ll have everything set for the following classes.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. I cannot recommend the Let’s Go series highly enough.  It contains unusual titles including cable car and hovercraft.  Even better, there are simple diagrams that show how each form of transportation works.  Be sure to add this series to your library – nothing else compares to it.
Key Terms:

Watty Piper, Trains, Transportation, Cars, Ships, Planes, Airplanes, Trucks

Amazon Book Links

Some of my favorite transportation-themed books:

  1. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper.
  2. Let’s Go series by Anders Hanson (12 titles, nonfiction)
  3. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple
  4. My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk
  5. Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman (Historical Fiction)
  6. Freight Train by Donald Crews
  7. Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
  8. Going on a Plane by Anne Civardi
  9. The Old Steam Train by Heather Amery
  10. Little Bear’s Little Boat by Eve Bunting
  11. Captain Duck by Jez Alborough (will leave them laughing!!)

Watty Piper, I think I can, Classroom Poster

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