Wanda Petronski has a funny name and wears the same blue dress to school every day. The girls tease her until one day she is gone. The Hundred Dresses lesson plan includes writing a friendly letter and more. Powerful book for discussions about teasing.
A Newbury Honor Book, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, was written almost seventy years ago and yet remains a classic. The listed reading level is 5.4 but the story itself is appropriate for younger children, second grade and higher. This lesson plan includes acquisition of new vocabulary using context clues and dictionary skills. Students will also write a friendly letter to someone they know. Extra activities could include researching facts about Poland. The book is especially appropriate if you are dealing with some teasing/bullying in the classroom or if you are teaching tolerance lessons.
Here is a list of new vocabulary words and the page number in the book where the word is used. Read the sentence and surrounding paragraph and use context clues to determine the meaning. Use a dictionary to confirm or assist in finding the word meaning. Students may write a sentence of their own using the word. In each parenthesis is a synonym/ short definition for the word. Use these for any matching activity or assessment.
1. precarious- page 6 (uncertain, not secure)
2. incredulously- page 12 (unbelieving)
3. derisively- page 13 (harshly)
4. stolidly- page 13 (calm, without emotion)
5. disperse- page 16 (spread over a wide area)
6. inseparable- page 16 (unable to be pulled apart)
7. puckered- page 20 (tightly gathered)
8. crimson- page 22 (deep red)
9. jaunty- page 24 (expressing a self-confident manner)
10. timid- page 38 (lacking courage)
11. cerise- page 38 (bright or deep red)
12. remnant- page 53 (small remaining quantity of something)
13. forlorn- page 53 (sad,lonely)
14. sumac- page 53 (small tree of the cashew family)
15. unintelligible- page 54 (impossible to understand)
16. disconsolate- page 61 (unable to be comforted)
Teaching Tolerance and The Friendly Letter
Peggy and Maddie became concerned when Wanda did not come to school for a few days. They walked to Wanda’s house and discovered that it was empty. Remorse filled them because they teased the girl so much. Was this the reason that Wanda and her father left town? Maddie especially suffered because she just went along with the teasing even though she knew it was wrong. She didn’t want Peggy to be mad at her. After a sleepless night, Maddie vowed that, “I am never going to stand by and say nothing again."
What an important time to stop reading and discuss this with your students. When you know something is wrong, take a stand! Don’t just follow along. Stop the hurtful teasing.
Peggy and Maddie decide to write a cheery letter to Wanda. They don’t apologize but it is implied in the letter. They mail it to her old address, asking that it be forwarded to the new address.
Ask your children if they can think of someone they have hurt by words or actions. It could be a friend, classmate, a parent or other family member. Then ask them to write a letter to this person using the friendly letter format: date (upper right hand corner); greeting (two lines down from the date, left hand side, Dear _______,); body (indent paragraphs); closing (two lines down from body on right hand side); your name (below the closing).
1. Wanda Petronski was of Polish heritage. Find out more about Poland. Students can also find out about their own heritage.
2. Single students out of a classroom activity if they have a particular attribute(brown eyes, white socks or blonde hair,etc.) How does that make them feel when they are singled out and told they can't be part of the group?
The Hundred Dresses lesson plan can be as simple or involved as you choose for your particular class. You can use the book for acquisition of new vocabulary, the study of Poland or learning about one's heritage. The most important feature of this book is the heartfelt story of a girl who is needlessly teased. This should "hit home" with most of your students who have been teased or who have done the teasing. It provides you with a springboard for discussions about accepting differences.