“‘Remember, lad,’ said the newt, ‘if it’s going to be tomorrow, it might as well be today. And if it is today, it could have been yesterday. If it was yesterday, then you’re over and done with it, and can write your own book. Think about that.'”
“Avon thought about it for a long moment, and then he said right out loud, ‘Yes, I will do it. Yesterday for sure!'”The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant) by Avi p. 13-14
Are you looking for a read aloud coupled with witty word play and humor? How about a whimsical story which brings mouth covering giggles and a few bewildered expressions? Then this light-hearted story, The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant) by Avi is the perfect read aloud! In this animal fantasy, Avon the snail sets foot to satisfy his adventure seeking desires. Along with his tiny friend, Edward the ant, they conquer a series of considerable feats: they happen upon a caterpillar diligently spinning a cocoon, find an extremely bewildered worm, and so much more. Because of Avi’s dynamic word use from the beginning of the story all the way until the end, we read this story out loud, not only once, but twice. After the second time around, my nine year old son took the book from me and said, “I’m reading it again, it makes me laugh…and think.” This comical story gave my children and I a peek into the world of word usage. While talking to one another, we look for different ways to mimic Avi’s amusing play on words, include crafty homonym usage, and we especially try to include the famous words “beginning” and “end” in a creative way to make us use our wits. To let you in on a secret, I read portions of the book to my husband for clever entertainment. I discovered this book while searching for books to couple with our study about snails. My children love the Ragweed series by Avi, so when I stumbled upon Avon’s adventures, I thought it must be worth a try. It didn’t disappoint and delivered so much more than expected. This read aloud went perfectly with our study. But before I begin to share with you the art and poetry we coupled with Avi’s snail and ant story, I must end here because our snail adventure wouldn’t be written in the proper order. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end, right?
In Which A Snail’s Study Begins…
I’m not quite sure which creature turned my daughter into a naturalist. Was it the handful of dangling worms she used to chase the boys? Was it all the ladybugs I picked out of her mouth? Or, maybe it was that intriguing garden snail that recoiled in and out of its shell? I have this vivid memory of my daughter at three years old. As she quietly sat on the step that led to our small backyard, I knew she was quite smitten by something as she was so still and hardly moved for quite a while. All I could see from inside of our home was the back of her head full of bouncing curls. When I checked on her, I saw her tiny hand holding a snail. Her big green eyes studied its moving tentacles and she was quite mesmerized by the slime it created on her hand. She gently poked the snail’s eye stalks and it recoiled right into its home. A look of fascination and upset came over her face. Where did that little mollusk go and when will it come out to play? With tested patience and an eagerness to watch her new friend emerge from its shell, she watched intently. Then with her sweet convincing voice, I heard, “Are you in there snail? Hello? Will you come out? Snail?!!!” This was the beginning of her adventures with snails. Eight years later, she still sets foot to find these mollusks. I find them sliming her arms. She lines them up for her little brother to count and has gathered white eggs to watch the lifecycle.
This year, my snailologist took the lead in our snail study. She helped her siblings discover their habitats and gather snails we needed to observe. They gently placed these creatures on leaves and began their study.
After observing, sketching, online research, and labeling its basic anatomy, and as we watched these little creatures slime the table (yuck!), we ended our nature study by reading two delightful picture books: Are You a Snail? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries and Snail Trail by Ruth Brown.
Writing a Paragraph
The major focus for this lesson emphasized writing paragraphs and familiarizing ourselves with a paragraph’s structure. We opened up the lesson with a beautifully illustrated read aloud by Flora C. Caputo, B is for Bee, P is for Pollen. An ABC Book about Nature and Pollination. We briefly studied the bee’s basic body structure and how their anatomy is like the three main parts of a paragraph. Since my children love art, we painted bees and sunflowers with Nana at Chalk Pastel Art. The artwork provided discussion about bees and reinforced learning about the bee’s basic body parts.
The next step in our snail’s study called for collecting all the information we gathered: notes from research, notes from observations, sketches. All the information my children collected helped in creating an informational piece about snails. I have noticed that when writing is interest led, connections are made, and research provides ideas, my children seem excited about piecing together their notes to create. I’m not stating we don’t run into snags during the writing process. Those concluding sentences can sure be a challenge! Since my snailologists are on different levels of writing, and my children learn better by learning in chunks, we tailored this lesson to their individual needs. For one learner, we didn’t edit, we didn’t worry about spelling. We kept it simple focusing on the paragraph structure. Because my other learner is familiar with writing paragraphs and is moving towards essay writing, we extended the lesson by focusing on organization and adding a little bit more details and description. For my snailologists who are not yet writing paragraphs, we found several charming poems about snails in the book titled, Sing a Song of Seasons A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year, selected by Fiona Waters for copy work.
Chalk Pastel Art and Avi’s Whimsical Story
I take great delight in searching through Chalk Pastel Art’s lessons to find art that complements our read alouds. It is like a treasure hunt. Chalk Pastel Art offers so many art lessons that couple beautifully with literature from picture books and chapter books alike. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis, and the Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne are only a few pieces of literature we paired with Nana’ lessons this year. I was super excited when I found snail and ant art to go along with Avi’s story, The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant). See, there is more than meets the eye when art is combined with literature. Beautiful art can serve as wonderful visuals for oral narration. After painting the snail, my children described Avon’s character (which helped create an acrostic poem later), retold Avi’s story, and with eagerness pointed out the snail’s anatomy.
At the end of Nana’s lessons, she directs her artists into flipping their paintings over to name their wonderfully made artwork. All of my children named their snail painting, “Avon” for the character in Avi’s story. When we painted the ant for our next art lesson, the snailologists named this one “Edward”. They also discussed Edward’s character and his role as Avon’s friend in Avi’s snail tale.
I asked my children to share a favorite adventure from this animal fantasy. One child described a particular scene when Avon wanted to do a good deed. He met a caterpillar building her cocoon. Avon examined her living quarters, and became quite worried she wouldn’t be protected, so he wanted to help and stand guard. Avon with much diligence, everyday for a month, checked on the caterpillar’s home. What shock did Avon and Edward experience when they saw a butterfly emerging out of the caterpillar’s home!
This was a great opportunity to discuss sequencing events in a story. We added a caterpillar, then a butterfly to our snail and ant art. Then we lined up the paintings for a beautiful visual. This inspired discussion and other favored events in the story (majority liked when Avon and Edward stumbled upon a worm).
Chalk Pastel Art combined with literature across the content areas proves to provide enrichment in our homeschool. It is enjoyable, engaging, and full of simplicity. In a snail shell- whether Chalk Pastel Art is used in our home as a stand alone art lesson or combined with literature of all genres……It just works!
We needed a way to write creatively, something other than writing paragraphs, something that would encourage the snailologists to come out of their shells a bit. While researching in an old college textbook, I found a treasure of an idea. On page 317 of Content Reading and Literacy Succeeding in Today’s Diverse Classrooms by Donna E. Alvermann and Stephen F. Phelps, it states, “several poetry formats lend themselves to content areas, too”. Meaning (as the book describes) that poetry writing isn’t just for language arts. It can be incorporated across the content areas. I totally agree! I love writing acrostic poems! After explaining the main parts of an acrostic poem, together, my children and I created one about Avon (the poem is included in the downloadable snail study at the end of my blog). Again, by using all of their notes and paragraphs, my children produced nonfiction acrostic poems describing snails.
Since this was a creative way to write an informational piece, my snailologists were quite smitten with this type of poetry writing. It provided enrichment, taught the value of taking notes, and creating works from all the exciting research.
Author Studies are one of my favorites! Immersing myself in many books by the same author and then reading biographies explaining their lives is one of my hobbies. I like to read about where they are from, how they became authors, and the hardships they faced in their lives. I was shocked to read about Avi’s writing challenges. In Wikipedia’s biography about Avi, it mentioned that he struggled with dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a writing disorder. Who would have known Avi, an award winning author, spent time with a tutor to help with this challenge? Discovering this reminded me of my son with learning differences, it hit close to home and brought hope to my heart. Avi is someone who overcame his writing challenges and wrote 80 books across many genres of literature. What a wonderful person for my son to look up to. Included in A Snail’s Study is a place for your learner to research Avi, take notes, draw a portrait, and begin writing a biography about his life. For an extension activity, your child can write an acrostic poem about him! http://www.avi-writer.com is a wonderful place to learn about this exceptional author.
In Which A Snail’s Study Ends…
Well, it looks like Mr. Snail has finally come to the end of the leaf. I wonder, if his adventure is coming to an end, or is it just the beginning? Your snail adventure can begin once you download A Snail’s Study for free! In it you will find a simple, yet engaging study full of writing that will surely bring your learners out of their shell! This is A Snail’s Study in a snail shell:
- Created for third-sixth grade snailologists
- 38 pages with lively illustrations
- Nature study
- Writing notes in a snail shell
- Writing a paragraph
- Writing an acrostic poem
- Writing “snail mail”
- Author Study
- Book recommendations
If it is too easy for your snailologist, that is ok! You can extend the activities in several ways:
- Move beyond writing just one paragraph. First, research the different types of snails! There are many: Apple Snails, Giant African Land Snails, Pond Snails, and so many more. Your snailologist can take notes while on their snail researching quest, then write a paragraph about each snail. What a wonderful informational piece it will turn into! They can draw an illustration of each snail they write about.
- Writing paragraphs makes your snailologist recoil into their shell? That is ok! They can write an acrostic poem on a nice white sheet of paper. Then illustrate their poetry.
- Another idea- Your snailologist can write a letter explaining the snail life cycle and draw it.
- Write a full biography about award winning author, Avi
Are you ready to set foot on this adventure? Watch out! It may get a little slimy!
Download A Snail’s Study below:
Thank you for your interest in A Snail’s Study! Please share your snail adventure with us! Tag us @treasuringthetinymoments on Instagram and #treasuringthetinymoments.
Content Reading and Literacy Succeeding in Today’s Diverse Classrooms Evidence-Based Fourth Addition by Donna E. Alvermann and Stephen F. Phelps
The End of the Beginning: Being the Adventures of a Small Snail (and an Even Smaller Ant) by Avi
Copyright © 2021 Jamie Gault