The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams: Teaching Art and English with Elementary Students
I Remember That Book!
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is one of those beautiful children's classics that has stood the test of time, and is sure to prompt fond memories for many adult readers. Indeed, adult readers often relish the chance to dip back into its soft, gentle illustrations and engaging text when they share the book with a new generation of children. It tells the tale of a soft toy rabbit who gradually learns the importance of becoming real, and how once you are real to a child, you can never be made 'unreal' again. Over time, the relationship between 'the boy' and the rabbit builds and develops, but then tragedy strikes and the boy becomes ill with scarlet fever.
For the rest of the story, read this full text version of the 1922 original of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
How to Teach the Velveteen Rabbit in Art
Art and English go well together (as you can see in this neat lesson on The Very Hungry Caterpillar), and there is plenty of scope to develop curriculum content across both areas with The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. So here's how to plan a lesson series using an art focus:
Ask students to bring in a photo of a toy they have at home, or hold an initial discussion session about 'my favourite toy as a young child' where children can share memories of old favourites. Don't ask children to bring in their best loved toy from home, in case tragedy strikes and they are lost or damaged.
Explain to students that they are going to create their own short stories about a favourite toy and how they learn what it is to be real. Share The Velveteen Rabbit story, and focus on the relationship between illlustrations and text. Highlight the features of the illustrations, and discuss how they might have been created. Talk about options for in class illustrations, such as pencils, pastels or water color paints.
Have students create a series of illustrations based on their own favourite toy, and link these together with some simple text or picture captions.
Make sure you encourage students to present their own illustrations and story to the class.
How to Teach It in English
And now for English class:
There are a few options here -- you could continue to develop the story created in the above art description, with a focus on developing the text and ensuring it matches with the illustrations. You could continue the stories on so that children publish them as PowerPoint stories by scanning and adding their illustrations to their stories as jpeg images, and entering their text into the templates. These could then be shown on a Smart board in the classroom for everyone to enjoy.
And some other options:
Focus on the language, tense use and vocabulary used in the story, and discuss features such as older style language, use of third person writing, and the use of 'boy' rather than an actual name for the child in the story.
Have children map the action of the story using a mind mapping technique, or as a sequence or flow chart.
Have children imagine they are a publisher reprinting another edition of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and they need to decide on:
- cover art
- existing or new illustrations
- whether to alter the language to suit a new generation of young readers
- the age group that the book should be aimed at
Whatever options you choose, remember to encourage that simple pleasure of loving the story of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams so that another group of children can enjoy passing it on to their own children in years to come.