Teach Through Books: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Teach Through Books: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary

Description: This stunning book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page uses cut-paper art to illustrate different parts of animals and their uses. Students can explore how a platypus uses his nose or how a bat uses its ears among many other things. The books is also well-organized in that a set of two pages will show several noses along with the question “What do you do with a nose like this?” Students are able to make guesses and discuss possibilities before turning to the next page, which shows the animals in their entirety and provides a brief explanation of how each animal uses its nose. It continues like this for several different body parts. I also love Steve Jenkin’s work, which you can learn more about here. And you definitely don’t want to miss his video about how he creates his work.

Skills & Modifications: I often find that books are the easiest tools to work with because you can easily follow the student’s lead in terms of what they are motivated to look at and what their current skill level is. For this book, I typically choose to focus on just one of the skills listed below, and plan ahead questions I will ask and points of entry for conversation based on my knowledge of the student’s interest and current skill level. As I’ve mentioned in previous discussions about materials I use with students, this should be fun. You can keep it fun by allowing the student time to explore the materials on their own, only asking questions part of the time (so, for example, I won’t ask them to describe each item on the page), and following the student’s lead on what he/she finds motivating.

  • Peer Play/Intraverbal Conversation – One of the my favorite things about this book is that it is usually very motivating for my students with autism AND it is motivating to their typically developing peers or siblings. I have had success using this book to engage my students in sharing guesses or questions with a peer or sibling.
  • Adjectives – This is a great book for having students tell me about a picture or describe an animal, especially on the pages with only one body part showing. For example, I will ask a student to tell me about each nose. The student will point to each nose and tell me 1-2 sentences about it.
  • Compare & Contrast – This is a step beyond simply describing each body part by having students compare two or more. For example, I’ll ask the student “How are these two noses similar?” or “Can you compare these two noses?” For higher level learners, we will compare how the body parts are used once that information has been revealed.
  • Critical Thinking – For higher level learners, this book is great practice for having them make strong guesses about what each body part might be used for. To practice critical thinking skills, I sometimes write on index cards the potential uses. So for noses, one index card says “This nose is uses to give yourself a bath,” another says “This nose is used to dig in the mud,” and so on. Then the student looks at the pictures of just the noses, matches each index card to a nose, then describes how he/she came to that conclusion. We then check answers and discuss what aspects about the size, shape, or features of the nose might have been a clue for it’s function.
  • Expressive Language – All of the examples of activities for this book listed above require the use of expressive language. The book is engaging and naturally fosters interaction with peers, siblings, or adults.
  • Identifying an Object When Part of that Object is Hidden – This skill is very easy to practice due to the design of the book. Some students with autism struggle greatly with this skill.

Pros: For students with autism, this book can help with a variety of skills because there is such clarity about what aspects of the book they should be attending to. For example, the background is white, and the parts of the animals are at the foreground. The subject matter is also engaging for many of my students, and allows for conversation and interaction in a way that many books don’t.

Cons: For early learners, a lot of the animals are not ones they would be familiar with, so it may not be the best tool for certain skills. For example, you wouldn’t expect a student to look at only the eyes of a fish and be able to identify that it is an archerfish. However, it is relatively easy to adjust the activity for your student’s skill level.

Cost: $7.95 Should I buy this? This is a great purchase for a classroom, especially if you have students who are highly motivated by animals.

ABLLS: coming soon

VB-MAPP: coming soon

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