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There was an Old Lady who Swallowed an...OH MY!

Here’s a story that never gets old. After reading Simms Taback’s version of There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, kids LOVE imagining all the things their little old women or men could have swallowed and get to practice their classification skills as they make a plan for the increasing sizes of animals for their art. Pastels and water paints give a lot of color to make this lesson a really striking display.

  • Grade 2
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Introduce the lesson by reading the book There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback. Discuss what the old lady swallowed. Ask the students to think about what other comparatively sized animals the old lady could have swallowed (i.e., a bee instead of a fly, raccoon instead of cat, bear instead of horse).
    2. Give students a 12x18 sheet of white medium- or heavy-weight paper. In pencil, have students draw the body for an old woman (or man), starting with a dome shape. Make sure the body of their person fills the page. They can add accessories like glasses, canes, hats, etc.
    3. Let students add what their person swallowed in a decreasing order. This project works best if there are 3 animals swallowed for the young ones because of the fine motor skill required to draw the animals nestled in one another. Remind students about size. Biggest animal first, then medium-sized animal, then smallest. Students can be further challenged to create a set of animals that go together by habitat (fish, dolphin, whale or squirrel, fox, bear).
    4. When their drawings are complete, have students outline all their pencil lines with Crayola® oil pastels. Press firmly, and fill some spaces like faces and hands completely. Simple (dots, swirls, flowers, squiggles) decorations, patterns and lines can be added to the persons’ clothes and background.
    5. Set up the classroom for painting. Show students how they can paint in watercolor over the pastel and the pastel will resist the paint. Have them paint in all of the white space with contrasting colors from their pastels.
    6. When paint is dry enough, add fabric lace or ribbon trim to old ladies’ dresses. Have students present the elements of their art orally to peers in small groups. Display in the classroom.
  • Standards

    LA: Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

    LA: Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

    LA: Describe how words and phrases (regular beat, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story.

    MATH: Represent and interpret data (relative size, increasing/decreasing orders, sets)

    SCI: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

    VA: Students will reflect on, share insights about, and refine works of art and design.

    VA: Students will explain procedures and develop skills in using tools and media of artmaking.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Read other versions of this story, like There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell, or There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Clover by Lucille Colandro, or There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed the Sea by Pam Adams. Encourage students to compare and contrast the various versions of the story.

    Learn the There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly song.

    Write out songs or stories that match their art. Challenge students to find new rhymes (there was an old lady who swallowed a fish, it was quite a dish when she swallowed the fish).

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  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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