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General > Charlotte's
The classic children's novel by
E.B. White opens a world of possibilities for classroom projects and lesson
plans. Full of themes involving friendship, loyalty, farm animals, this
list goes on and on. In fact, we have a rather long list, submitted by another
one of the dedicated contributors on our T2T
mailing list. While these ideas aren't complete lesson plans, we know
a little creativity can go a long way.
- Fern thinks that her father is being unreasonable about getting rid
of the smallest pig. He says, "A weakling makes trouble."
What does that mean to you and what did that mean to Fern? (Fern describes
her father's behavior as an injustice to all small and weak. She asks
if her own life would have been taken if she were not born an appropriate
- What does Wilbur do that shows that although he is cute and cuddly,
he still behaves like a pig? (He grunted, he poked around in the straw
with his snout, he played in the mud that was warm and moist, and delightfully
sticky and oozy.)
- The author describes things in this chapter by referring to the senses.
Can you find examples of things that the author lets you see, hear,
smell, or feel? (The barn smelled of hay, manure, the perspiration of
tired horses, the sweet breath of patient cows, grain, harness dressing,
axle grease, rubber boots and fish. See: ladders, grindstones, pitch
forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, etc., Feel: warm in winter, cool in
summer; Hear: the animals, the people yelling, Wilbur eating, Lurvy
hammering.) Why do you think the other animals got excited when Wilbur
got free? (They were happy that an animal got free; they knew that the
people would try to catch him.) Was the goose trying to be helpful when
she told Wilbur how to get out or as she trying to get him into trouble?
(probably helpful but she might have gotten tired of listening to him
- Why do you think someone would want to be Wilbur's friend? If you
were there how would you convince someone that Wilbur would make a good
- What does, "Your stomach is empty and your mind is full"
mean? Can you think of a character in another story who seemed cruel
at first but was actually good and true in the end? (The Selfish Giant,The
Grinch, etc.) *But what a gamble friendship is.
- "Early summer days are a jubilee time for birds" - Are there
other animals or insects that you think about as celebrating at this
time of the year?
- The animals think that the humans are in a conspiracy about butchering
the pigs; what do you think the humans would say?
- Does Mr. Arable really believe that animals talk or is he teasing
Mrs. Arable? * Kids think they hear all sorts of things.
- Charlotte says, "I know a good thing when I see it. I stay put
and wait for what comes." How does she say that people act? Why
does a spider need legs with seven sections? (for crafting the webs)
What could you do if your legs had seven sections? How old do you think
Charlotte is? What do you think her advice to Wilbur makes her sound
- Fern and Avery like to swing. What other things do they like to do
that you like to do? (catch a frog, pick raspberries and eat them, want
to build a treehouse) How did the various people and animals react to
the egg? (Fern screamed, Avery jumped and ran, the animals complained
about the odor; Lurvy complained, then covered the egg with dirt.) *
People are not as smart as bugs. * Children almost always hang onto
things tighter than their parents think they will.
- How did the different people react to the words in the web? (Lurvy
got faint and then knelt and said a prayer; Lurvy and Mr. Zuckerman
trembled; Lurvy and the Zuckermans stared for an hour; Mr. Zuckerman
went to talk to the minister; people came from all over to stare; the
Zuckermans got so busy with visitors that they forgot to do other things
on the farm.) This chapter contains several similes. Tell the children
that a simile is a comparison that contains like or as. Give an example.
Similes - Grass looked like a magic carpet. Asparagus patch looked like
a silver forest. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of
loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil. *Secrets are hard to keep.
- How do you think Templeton feels about what the old sheep says? (He
is worried. He doesn't want to have to do things for others but he knows
that his life depends on it.) * People believe almost everything they
see in print.
- How do you think Lurvy feels about Wilbur when he finds out all the
extra work he has to do? (Lurvy might feel proud of Wilbur and want
him to look good, or he could feel angry that now he has extra work
to do.) Is radiant a good description for Wilbur? What word would you
- Dr. Dorian says two very important things: "Children pay better
attention than grownups" and "Perhaps if people talked less,
animals would talk more." Do you agree with him?
- If the crickets warn everybody that summer is almost over can you
think of some animals and insects that would listen, and what would
they do to get ready for the fall and winter? Are you versatile? How?
Can you think of someone else who is? When Wilbur says that he realized
that friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world what
did he mean?
- How do you think Charlotte and Templeton will help at the fair?
- Why doesn't "Uncle" have a real name? Do you think that
has anything to do with the way he treats others?
- What do you think is happening to Fern that she is suddenly so interested
in Henry Fussy? (Fern is growing up; she is interested in boys.) Why
does Templeton call Charlotte "you old schemer"? Is that supposed
to be a compliment?
- Charlotte calls her egg sack a "magnum opus" and a "masterpiece."
What does this say about how she feels about her eggs? Why do you think
so many eggs are contained in the egg sack? (Many of the new spiders
will be killed. It is important that there are a lot of them so they
will live.) When Fern starts to cry do you think it is because of Wilbur?
(probably not, she wants to go and find Henry)
- Why does Wilbur get an award? (because he attracts so many visitors
to the fair) What do you think it says on his bronze medal?
- This chapter covers such important and sensitive information that
it is best enjoyed as is.
- What would you tell Joy, Aranea, and Nellie about Wilbur?
- Students are asked to select two characters from the book and complete
sentences that identify when the character behaved that particular way.
- Students are asked to identify occasions when Templeton is helpful
to the other characters in the book. Students check off boxes as they
complete the assignment.
- Students are asked to design the medal that Wilbur wins at the fair.
- Students are asked to illustrate the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells
of either the farm or the fair.
- Dream Catcher - Students follow directions to make a dream
catcher like the Chippewa and other Native Americans once made. The
dream catcher is similar in appearance to a spider web; here bad dreams
get caught and disappear when the sun comes up while good dreams float
through the web, down the feather, and onto the person sleeping beneath
|Dream Catcher Instructions
White paper plate, 9"
Yarn, about 12"
Beads, a feather
Masking tape, pencil, scissors, hole punch
Draw a ring inside the rim of the paper plate. Cut out the center
of the plate to the inside edge of the ring. Then cut off the
outside rim of the plate to the outside edge of the ring. Punch
about 16 holes around the ring. Wrap masking tape around one end
of the yarn. Push the taped end of the yarn through a hole and
pull through leaving about 3" extending out. Start to make
a web by pulling the yarn through another hole and crisscrossing
the yarn across the center to fill every hole. End the web by
bringing the taped end of the yarn back to the first hole and
tying to the other end. Cut a piece of the remaining yarn and
draw it through the bottom 2 holes. Even the ends and place beads
on them. Slip a feather into the beads. Hang the dream catcher.
- Another example is of how Charlotte's Web can be a great opportunity
to review nouns and teach adjectives. One contributor writes: "It's
full of singular, plural, possessive, common, proper nouns & 'terrific'
adjectives. In October, we brainstormed for adjectives that express
characteristics (specifically emotions and feelings). Then each child
selected an adjective and created a pumpkin that illustrated this adjective.
They used markers & scrap construction paper to create these personality
pumpkins. We put them on the hallway board, added a pig & spider,
& chose a caption (Awesome adjectives, Charlotte!).You could use
something besides a pumpkin. I just do it in October it helps me avoid
the more traditional jack-o-lanterns."
- Guide the students through a discussion on the qualities of a friend.
List their responses. Have them match the traits from their list with
the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur. (This could be extended
into a prewriting activity and even into a first draft writing.)
- Have students draw their favorite characters. Then they can add things
to the picture that the character likes, such as Wilbur eating any food
that is given to him.
- Write about the adventures of one of Charlotte's children.
- Create a "billboard ad" for the County Fair. In the ad,
they should feature Zuckerman's pig.
- This story is full of facts about spiders. Have the students create
a learning log in which they will record different "spider facts"
that the learn. They can also add pictures and any other data that they
discover. Some things that they could find in the story include: how
a spider spins its web, the parts of a spider, different webs made by
the different kinds of spiders, how a spider catches its prey (warning:
This is somewhat gory), correct terminology (spiderling, spinneret,
etc.) In addition, there are many facts about farm life. The students
could compile information on how a farm operates and write a short report
on it. This could be an oral presentation instead of a writing assignment.
- Have the students act out their favorite parts of the stories. One
student could be a narrator. *Older students could write out their favorite
part as a script, and the students could make simple masks to "become"
the character whom they are portraying.
- An older class may want to collaborate with a younger class on this.
The older class could design a simple puppet show and work with younger
students in presenting it to a third class.
- Take turns having students pretend that they are Wilbur. Have the
rest of the class represent spiderlings asking questions they have about
their mother, Charlotte.
- Make a list of attractions at a county fair and of food that you can
purchase at a fair. Include a price for each item. Then have the students
make up "word problems" using the information. The problems
can be written on index cards (one per card) and traded so that others
can solve them. (Later these could be part of a classroom center or
work station activity.) Note: The person who makes up the problem must
be able to solve it also! Have the students make up the sign for the
attractions and food. They can also include a price.
- Have the students compare and contrast the novel with the play. A
Venn diagram is a good graphic organizer for this activity.
- Charlotte pays the ultimate price for her friendship with Wilbur.
What is it? Why would she do such a thing? How does Wilbur try to "repay"
- Have the students examine the character traits of Charlotte, Wilbur,
Templeton, and several others in the barnyard gang. Have them discuss
how the "personalities" of each contributed to the harmony
(or disharmony) of living within the barnyard community. How do our
personalities and traits contribute to how our classroom coexists? Our
homes? Our own hometowns?
- If the student were the director, what famous person would he or she
get to play the different roles in the play? The student must explain
why he or she made the choices.
- Brainstorm the meaning of a friend
- Write about one of your own special friends
- Complete the sentence "A friend is _______."
- Give each student a copy of a web pattern and have them write the
qualities of a friend on the lines...a friend is... goes in the center
of the pattern. (You can also purchase plastic webs.)
- Write poems about friends: line 1 and 5 are the name of the friend,
line 2 is things the friend likes to do, line 3 and 4 are a few adjectives
that describe the friend.
- Make a diorama of either Zuckerman's farm, the barn, or the county
- Write a letter to Wilbur giving him advice about his loneliness
- Design a birth announcement for Wilbur
- Write a journal entry telling about Fern and Wilbur's first meeting
- Make a "friendship chart" (similar to a family tree) and
add to it as you read each chapter
- Assign the roles of Wilbur, Fern, and the new babies and have students
write and develop a dialogue telling the new babies about their mother.