Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton is a classic children’s book that continues to be beloved today. After three nor’easter snow storms these past two week, it was the perfect read. The book never gets old, children always find something new. Today was no exception. Frankly, the book exploded into unexpected learning about directions, geography, a yard stick, and more.
It happened like this…
As we enjoyed reading the first page, I had an epiphany. The border depicts all the trucks that belong to the highway department. A border. Wait a minute — the only other author that does that in her books is Jan Brett. Of course; Jan Brett must have read Katy and the Big Snow when she was young and been inspired. I felt like a child in school who “got it”. This was exciting!
We stopped to talk about The Mitten, a Jan Brett book we read last Friday. They were different, yet the same; different because Jan Brett’s borders in her books are clues to the next page, the same because the borders in Katy and the Big Snow detail the story. It took a long time to finish reading the first page.
A few pages later a child said, “There’s a compass.” Sure enough, a compass is featured throughout the book. Our Big Book of the World has a compass on each page, and we often talk about north, south, east, and west. Understanding the geography of the town is key to Katy’s snow plowing in the story. And, this is just what we have been doing recently.
We are learning about France this month, and over the past week we have used our atlas and our satellite map to understand France in relation to the world. We compared the two, together. The questions flowed, including north, south, east, and west.
This was our compass guide for Katy and the Big Snow. While north is not pointing to the top in the book, children needed a reference of true north.
Then came the page with only words:
A strong wind came up and drifts began to form… one foot…. two feet….. three feet…… five feet…….. The snow reached the first story windows………. the second story windows…………
The children seemed to understand that more dots in the text meant more snow. As I read the words I held my hand above the floor to the approximate height, but that wasn’t enough. I needed to show children how much snow is two feet, etc. A yard stick to the rescue. I use this in my classroom more than I use a ruler. Young children need big! I could show them one foot, two feet, three feet. I stood up to show them five feet. They got it- a lot of snow!
This is everybody’s favorite page, especially after measuring with a yardstick. It puts a visual as to how much snow we measured, and beyond:
So, Katy plowed out the roads in each location, north, south, east and west. She helped the police, the schools, the airport, and of course the fire department.
The story does not end here. Learning and enthusiasm isn’t a switch that turns on and off. It grows. Today, after two snow days, we were the first class to venture into deep, new snow. Children had to lift each foot high at every step just in order to walk through the snow. We were trail blazers. It was a thrilling adventure for children.
This is emergent curriculum at its best. That means something sparks the interest of children, and a teacher builds upon it. The most important learning, things that stick and are the foundation for more learning come from the children. Math, science, geography, literacy, art… the list is a long one, and is greatly enhanced through emergent curriculum. Katy and the Big Snow is a perfect example.
Oh, how I love reading-aloud and the windows that open to learning!