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Charlotte's Web Lesson Plans

Updated on August 22, 2014

A Favorite Read-Aloud

I've known Charlotte's Web since I was seven. Isn't that the case for so many of us? The story of the amiable pig and the clever spider who saves him never does go out of style. But 2012 proved quite a year for the spider-pig duo -- and not just because they celebrated their sixtieth birthday.

Charlotte's Web was chosen as one of two books for the Global Read-Aloud Challenge. Students in different parts of the world listened to the story and shared their thinking via technology. The GRA even invited families to become involved.

What else is new? Charlotte's Web has also been touted as an exemplar text (a read-aloud selection for second grade) by the Common Core. This means it's offered as an example of the level of text that we want our second graders to be able to comprehend and respond to.

The Common Core work goes back several years, but is gaining momentum. One thing its inclusion means: We can expect even more great resources as teachers work to create lesson plans for this tale of barnyard friendship.

Image by the Author

Plot Structure and Basic Comprehension

Charlotte's Web is a good book for discussing plot structure because even though it's long, it's pretty obvious what the problem is and what the attempts are at solution. When Wilbur learns that the Zuckermans plan on killing him... well. that is a much bigger problem than he has encountered before! Other problems are in the order of what children face in their own lives. This one isn't.

Charlotte works on saving his life by writing words in her web, beginning with "some pig". Each word she writes can be seen as an attempt at a solution.

Charlotte's Web Vocabulary

No controlled vocabulary here. Here is a list of some of the difficult vocabulary words in Charlotte's Web. The level of vocabulary will be more of a challenge of course to a child who is reading the text on her own.

Many of the truly difficult words are presented in groups -- when, for example, a whole string of derogatory words is used to describe the rat Templeton. Thus, there's more context than there might be if the words were presented in another context. Students can grasp, at the least, that those words mean that Templeton just isn't nice! They'll generally follow along, even if it takes a lot more repetitions to know what the word means -- one of those cool things about literature of this caliber!

So what level of vocabulary will you find within the covers?

1. runt, injustice, blissful

2. infants

3. discarded, orchard, captivity, appetizing

4. frolic, crafty, dreary, dejected

5. motionless, salutations, whereabouts, blundered, scheming, clever

6. jubilee, goslings, unremitting, cautiously, compunctions, appalled

7. campaign, conspiracy, hysterics

8. thoughtfully, rambled

9. witnessed, spinerettes, sedentary, thoroughly

10. affectionately, straddled, swayed, scuttled, heartily, bestirred, drowsed

11. uttered, murmured, exertions, bewilderment, miracle, wondrous

12.idiosyncrasy, destiny, quivered

13. radial, foundation, descend, galloped, radiant, thrashing, remarkable

14. fascinating, mercilessly, remark, chuckled

15. monotonous, attraction, distinguish, versatile, moodily

16. filthy, foul, resisting, faint

17. moistened, overheated, midway, ascended, unattractive, personality

18. mumbled, refreshed, clipping, humble, homesick, masterpiece

19. nifty, occupied, down-hearted, efforts, languishing, fluttered

20. pompous, extraordinary, proceed, embraced, distinguish, mysteriously, phenomenon, engraved, appreciation, complimentary, collapsed, modest, drenched

21. ceremony, assured, precious, generous, sentiments, ridiculous, imitating, relaxation, desperation, adrift, waterproof, belongings

22. beloved, homecoming, skillful, affectionate, chilly, trinket, gigantic, strengthened, forelegs, frantic, drifting, constructed, trembling, daintily, pledge

Vocabulary Extension: Students can write in the style of EB White by putting together their own string of descriptors for characters and settings. (What, for example, might those now grown goslings shout at Templeton?) They can work together to accomplish this.

From Visual Thesaurus, we get another Charlotte's Web themed vocabulary enrichment activity, one that is designed for students in grade three and above.

Jim the Photographer, Flickr Creative Commons

Themes: Friendship and the Cycle of Life

The "big ideas" in Charlotte's Web include friendship and the cycle of life. Remember the "Mother and Father Time" song from the original movie? That's one of the themes children can trace (even if it not summed up quite so succinctly in a theme song in the text).

Harper Kids Book Trailer - For the 60th Anniversary Edition

This is the official book trailer, by Harper Kids. The publishers do more than read a few lines and show off a few pictures. They also attempt to get at the heart of the book.

In this day and age, even children can make a technology-enhanced book trailer! Perhaps they'd like to try summing up the heart of the story in two or three minutes.

Discussion Questions

Can you find examples in the story of Charlotte being a friend to Wilbur?

Can you find examples in the story of Wilbur being a friend to Charlotte?

Student Responses - A Lapbook, a Presentation, a Lit Circle

Charlotte's Web: Global Read Aloud 2012 - An October Event

What is the Global Read Aloud? Teachers from different nations connect via technology and agree on a book that their students will listen to and respond to. They then share students' responses through various technological means: a Wiki, an Edmodo blog, even Skype. In a way, it's like the pen pal concept revisited -- but it's carried much further. Book talk gets kids connecting on a deeper level.

Big ideas often come through discussion and sharing with others. Finding the big ideas inside the book isn't the largest or loftiest goal. But you better believe students find the big ideas.

If you didn't have the chance to participate, or happened into the resources too late, you may still want to check out the kids' literature responses.

Paragraph Writing Activity

Describe how Fern changes in the book. (Depending on the age of the children, it may be helpful to brainstorm transitions: At first... Later... At the end of the story...)

Alternate Writing Activity: Describe how the Zuckerman's barn changes with the seasons.

Charlotte's Web Guided Reading Sets

Sometimes teachers 'unload' guided reading sets because they're moving or changing grade levels. The covers won't always match, but the content tends to be the same.

Some Pig?

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      moonlitta 5 years ago

      I'm Bulgarian, so I can't have read the book as a child- but the idea of global reading is so wonderful!

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      snrklz 5 years ago

      I really enjoyed Charlotte's Web as a child. :)

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      I am so happy to see that a book that brought me exquisite pleasure as a new reader is still a magical experience for young ones. Thank you for sharing this, and for the memories!