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What on Earth Can it Be?

Roger McGough’s book “What on Earth Can it Be?” is a brightly colored, charming story to jump start any child’s imagination. Using simple shapes and their own ideas, students create their own visual riddles.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Read “What on Earth Can it Be?” by Roger McGough. The vocabulary is easy for this grade level so it’s more about the shapes and imagination. Let students guess what the shapes could be before turning the page.
    2. As a class create a list of the shapes scene in the book. Brainstorm other possible shapes to add to the list.
    3. Hand out a brightly colored 9” x 12” sheet of construction paper and a smaller piece of scrapbook paper or wallpaper scrap. Ask students to fold the smaller patterned sheet to be able to cut out multiple s of the same shape. In the example pictured the student’s folded the patterned sheet in thirds to get 3 of the same shape. This could also be done with more pieces depending on the amount of time you have for this project.
    4. Have students glue one of their shapes on one side of their construction paper (this will be the back) and the remaining on the opposite side (this will be the front).
    5. On the front student’s should leave one shape untouched and the rest should be changed into simple items from their imaginations. Following the format of Roger McGough’s book, students must write “What on earth can it be?” by the untouched shape and short descriptions under their simple drawings. Encourage students to use proper punctuation; this could be a good opportunity to have a class discussion on why and when we use question marks.
    6. On the back of the sheet have students turn their final shape into a large detailed drawing with background and longer description of what the shape really was, students can write a small poem for their description as McGough did in his book.
    7. Add color to all drawings and writing with Crayola® Construction Paper Crayons.
  • Standards

    LA: Recount or describe key details from a text read aloud.

    LA: Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.

    LA: Add drawings or other visual displays to stories.

    MATH: Develop understanding of fractions as numbers.

    MATH: Reason with shapes and their attributes.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols and ideas to communicate meaning.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Understand there are different responses to specific artworks.

  • Adaptations

    Alter What on Earth Can it Be? for another topic according to a classroom theme, i.e. What in Space Can it Be? What in the Forest in Can Be? What on Earth Can I Eat?

    Follow up with another book which uses multiple shapes like Windblown by Eduoard Manceau to create art using and arrangement of shapes. Or use an author that has taken letters or numbers to create the illustrations for their book such as Caldecott Award winner Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson.

    Research famous artists who work primarily with shapes to create their art: such as Joan Miro, Wassily Kandinsky, the cubists, and create a larger art piece inspired by their work.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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