In the ever-evolving landscape of education, teachers are constantly seeking innovative ways to engage their students. One such method involves the use of literature that not only entertains but also educates and sparks the imagination and critical discussion. Among the myriad of captivating novels available, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks stands out as a novel that can bring much to your classroom.

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The Benefits of Using The Indian in the Cupboard in Your Classroom:

  • Ignite Imagination: At its core, The Indian in the Cupboard is a tale that celebrates the power of imagination. It follows the story of a young boy named Omri, who discovers a magical cupboard that brings his toys to life. This fantastical element within the narrative allows students to explore their own imaginative realms, encouraging them to envision worlds beyond the ordinary. By fostering creative thinking and encouraging imaginative play, teachers can inspire their students to think outside the box and cultivate innovative ideas.
  • Cultural Exploration: The novel offers a unique lens into Indigenous culture, fostering discussions on heritage, traditions, and respect for diverse backgrounds. There are some stereotypes that can instigate great class discussions about areas of literature where the author gets things wrong. It encourages empathy and understanding among students, promoting a more inclusive classroom environment.
  • Critical Thinking and Ethics: Through the protagonist’s journey of discovering the cupboard’s magical powers, the story prompts critical thinking about the ethical implications of wielding such power. It invites students to contemplate the consequences of actions and the importance of responsibility.
  • Literary Themes and Analysis: The Indian in the Cupboard delves into various literary themes such as friendship, identity, and the power of imagination. Teachers can guide discussions on character development, plot structure, and symbolism, enhancing students’ analytical skills.
  • Language Development: Utilizing The Indian in the Cupboard in the classroom presents an opportunity for language development and enrichment of vocabulary. By engaging with the rich vocabulary and thought-provoking scenarios within the book, students can enhance their reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, and analytical skills. 
  • Cross-Curricular Connections: The novel seamlessly integrates with various subjects, allowing teachers to create interdisciplinary lessons. From history and social studies to art and creative writing, it provides a versatile platform for multidimensional learning experiences.
  • Relating Literature to Real Life: The themes explored in the novel provide ample opportunities for students to relate the fictional world to their own experiences. Teachers can guide discussions on responsibility, friendship dynamics, and the ethical use of power, prompting students to draw parallels between the characters’ journeys and their own lives. This connection allows for a more profound understanding of moral concepts and encourages students to apply these lessons in their daily interactions.
  • Engaging and Relatable Storyline: Its gripping narrative and relatable characters captivate young readers, making learning both enjoyable and meaningful. It’s an excellent tool for promoting literacy and encouraging a love for reading among students.

The Indian in the Cupboard is more than just a children’s book; it’s a gateway to a world of imagination, cultural exploration, ethical reflection, and linguistic development. Teachers who incorporate this novel into their classrooms open doors to valuable learning experiences that go far beyond the pages of a book. Embrace the magic of storytelling and witness the transformative impact it can have on young minds.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The Indian in the Cupboard for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

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In the years since this book was published, there has been controversy regarding the way the author portrays the Little Bear character with erroneous stereotypes of Indigenous Peoples. I have to say that there is truth to this controversy, however, I don’t feel it is worth not using this novel. A better way to expand the knowledge of your students is to acknowledge the stereotypes as you read. Discuss them. Learn why they are wrong and help your students learn the proper history of Indigenous Peoples. You have the opportunity to use the positives that this book offers while at the same time opening eyes to how literature and history of the past have not always been the most truthful or appropriate in their portrayal of certain groups. It is a good lesson to use to teach how fear has driven stereotypes. This book is a great example of how two people of very different backgrounds can find common ground and become allies.

Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

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