Author: Martin Waddell
Illustrator: Helen Oxennbury
Publisher: Walker Books
Synopsis:There once was a duck who had the bad luck to live with a lazy farmer. While the duck worked, the farmer lay in bed - until one day the other animals decided to take action! The result is highly satisfying - Animal Farm for young children - and lots of fun to read aloud.
Reason for selection: Martin Waddell's fable has been described as 'Animal Farm' for young children. The theme of fairness and justice is one that resonates with the age group and this story provides plenty of scope for discussion. The rhythmic patterned language and expressive dialogue makes this a good choice for reflecting on language choice and to enjoy reading aloud and re-enacting in groups.
- Look at the opening end papers.
- What thoughts and feelings spring to mind when you look at this picture?
- Build a word collage using the words suggested by the children.
- Where do you think this story is set?
- Talk about the characters of the duck and the farmer. What clues are there in the pictures about their characteristics and relationship?
- Encourage the children to look at details in the illustration and clues in the text to support their views.
- In pairs, invite the children to improvise a conversation between the duck and farmer.
- The duck starts by complaining about his unfair working conditions.
- How does the farmer respond?
- What happens next.
- Share some of the improvisations and encourage the children to reflect with prompts such as 'How would it have been different if the Duck had refused to work any more?
- Using teacher-in-the-hotseat as either the duck or the farmer, invite the children to ask questions. Take the opportunity to deepen the children's thinking about character motivations. It is a good idea to do this twice with a different adult in the hot-seat to show that there are possible alternatives and avoid limiting the children's responses and interpretation.
- Discuss other cruel or lazy characters in stories. Make a list and talk about the similarities.
- Do you know any other stories where 'bad' characters are chased away or destroyed and the 'good' characters live happily every after.
Why do the animals meet in the barn?
They speak in animal language. What do you think the animals are saying?
- Divide the class into different groups (cows, sheep, horse etc). Using teacher-in-role chair the meeting inviting the children to give their views on the problem and what should be done about it. Teacher-in-role enables you to guide and manage the discussion and deepen the response.
- After the discussion write 3 or 4 potential solutions to the problem on large sheets of paper (e.g. The Duck should stand up for himself and refuse to work for the farmer. The farmer should be made to do the work on the farm. The animals should call the authorities and tell them that the duck is being mistreated. The animals should chase the farmer away. and place them in different parts of the room. Invite the children to stand next to the solution they think is the best one. Ask some children to explain their choices. Which do they think is the most FAIR solution? Why? What does FAIR mean?
Story Language and structure
- Identify six key points in the story and then make a storyboard to aid a retelling of the story.
- What other stories do you know that begin ‘There once was a…..?
- What sort of ending do you expect from a story that begins like this?
- The text says the animals 'creaked up the stairs' – what does creaked mean? Have you ever climbed a creaky staircase?
- What other noises can be made when moving about?
- Draw a map of the farmyard showing the different buildings and places where farmer duck did his chores. Annotate the map showing where events happened e.g. where the animals held their meeting
- Imagine that you stayed on the farm – write an email to a friend describing the visit.