Last year my son came home from school and told me, “Mom, I am reading the best book and you really need to make a unit for it!” Not a crazy comment by any means, but from my son it is a bit out of the ordinary because he is a reluctant reader. It takes a really, really good book to hook him into raving about it! There really isn’t higher praise for a book than that!
What is this awesome book you ask? It is The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.
In addition to the highest accolades from Sam, it also won the Newbery Medal in 2013 among many other awards. From Katherine Applegate’s YouTube Channel:
I put it on my to-do list and I am very proud of the novel study that was born from Sam’s suggestion! I also have to say my son was right, it is a really, really good book! I am a huge animal lover and love animal stories so of course, there’s that, but I also really enjoyed the poetic way this story is told through the eyes of Ivan, the shopping mall gorilla. I was also astonished to learn that this story isn’t totally fictitious. There was a real Ivan who lived in a shopping mall in Washington State for 27 years!
While creating this novel study I wanted to incorporate as much of the non-fiction aspects as I could to help the student learn a little about Silverback Gorillas, elephants, animals living in captivity vs. the wild, and of course the story of the real-life Ivan! I hope that your students can walk away from this book with their hearts filled with as much excitement as Sam’s was.
Please check out the completed The One and Only Ivan Novel Study that contains both a printable and Google Drive™ compatible format available in my store.
Sally Kneifl, who teaches in the Umoⁿhoⁿ Nation Public Schools in Macy, NE, was the winner of my giveaway of a class set of The One and Only Ivan books, the novel study, and a gift card. Sally wrote to me to share the deep and positive experiences her students had reading this book.
“I wanted to thank you again for the books that we received from you, The One and Only Ivan and share the activities that we did to culminate the unit.
Students wrote a short summary, some facts that they learned about the real Ivan the gorilla and gorillas in the wild, as well as their favorite part of the book. I found a book called “Actual Size” by Steve Jenkins.
We researched the true story about the real Ivan.
The students completed a WebQuest about Gorillas and they learned many facts.
The author Katherine Applegate mentioned the documentary about Ivan, so I ordered the National Geographic special “The Urban Gorilla” which featured Ivan.
The students created a display on the hallway wall where other students can learn fun facts and compare their hands, feet, height and arm length to a life-sized gorilla.
The librarian is also reading it to the younger kids, so it didn’t just impact my grade levels…it is going to impact the entire elementary and middle schools. I love hearing the students talk in the hallway when they are sharing their writing and they know all of the information about Ivan or gorillas, and they are explaining it to the High School students or our Special needs students. Any chance for my students to feel smart or have pride in their work…I will take it. It is always a struggle at our school. Thank you again…you blessed many.” -Sally Kneifl
You can find the Urban Gorilla documentary that Sally mentioned within my The One and Only Ivan Novel Study and Actual Size by Steve Jenkins by clicking the image below.
Thank you, Sally and the students from the Umoⁿhoⁿ Nation Public Schools for sharing their work and joy with me!
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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