Background: Since it was written in 1969 by Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been a very popular children’s title and has served as a wonderful springboard to many fun learning activities in the classroom or at home.
Below are some activities and lesson plan ideas to explore, a vocabulary list and worksheet, comprehension questions, and a list of resources all centered around The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
• The Life Cycle of the Butterfly: The story starts out with a little egg on a leaf then follows the caterpillar as it eats and grows, enters a cocoon (most caterpillars enter a chrysalis, but Eric Carle used the word “cocoon” as that’s what his father called it when he was a child) and emerges as a colorful butterfly.
You can simply talk about this process, illustrate it on blank paper or act it out this way –
• Nutrition: The caterpillar in this story eats a lot of food – some of it is very nutritious (like the fruits and the leaf) and some is “junk food.” Take this opportunity to talk to your students about what foods are good for you and what happens when you eat too much! It’s also a good time to talk about each child’s favorite foods.
5 oranges (Clementines would work best for this)
Mint leaves for garnish
• Insects: Use The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a springboard to study about insects and arachnids – particularly those featured in other Eric Carle books (The Very Busy Spider, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Very Clumsy Clickbeetle, and The Very Lonely Firefly)
• Counting: The numbers 1-5 are illustrated with the fruits in this book and would give good practice in counting. Using gummi fruits for counting practice would be fun. Use the fruits to teach the concept of how you if you add one strawberry + one orange, you have two “pieces of fruit” – NOT two strawberries or two oranges.
• Days of the Week: This book is also great for teaching days of the week. It even illustrates the day of rest (eating the leaf) on Sunday. Talk about the days of the week with your students – what’s different about weekdays vs. the weekend, what day of the week is their favorite, etc.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has illustrations that were originally done in painted tissue paper collage. This specific technique is appropriate for grade 3 and up, but can be adapted for younger children. Try making butterflies with your student using this technique. Have a shape of a butterfly drawn on cardstock for each child. Have the students use strips of colored tissue paper and glue to make the colorful wings. You might want to use this opportunity to teach your students about symmetry and how each wing is a mirror image of the other.
Another art activity appropriate for young children is to make caterpillars out of cardboard egg cartons. Paint them green and then add wiggly eyes and pipe cleaner antennae. You can also use paper towel rolls to make cocoons.
Eric Carle wrote several children’s books about insects. Read them all – talk about what they have in common and what’s different in each. Have the children identify the main problem in each story (there’s a hint in each title) and how it’s resolved in the end. Have them make up their own story following the pattern: The Very _______________ _______________.