“Superworm” (Arthur Levine Press, 2014)
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Pre-K through Grade 6
“Superworm” is the story of an ordinary worm who chooses to use his talents in unusual ways. The book has a wonderful sense of rhyme and plays well into repeated reading for the children to join in. The lively, moving story will capture children’s attention as the summer time gets closer and help pull them in to reading and activities. The worm, Superworm, is friends to many different kinds of creatures and helps them to get out of some difficult circumstances. For example, when a toad gets stuck in the road, Superworm lassos him and pulls him to safety, and when the bees are bored, Superworm becomes a jump rope. One of the creatures in the book, Wizard Lizard, is a villain who captures Superworm to force him to locate treasure underground. All his friends must work together to save Superworm from being lost to the magic forever.
The illustrations add a priceless part of the story and will keep the children’s attention, in addition to the fun rhymes and songs.
Cross-Curricular Connections: Science, Art, Social Studies, English, Math
Ideas for Classroom Use:
Earthworm Treasure Map
The purpose of this activity is to create mathematical concepts of space and order by designing a treasure map for Superworm. Prior to reading, discuss where earthworms are usually found and what role they play in everyday life. Encourage children to share stories of their experiences with type of earthworms. If students are unsure of earthworms, take time to introduce them to a natural earthworm. Having this background knowledge will help the book come to life. Ask student to watch carefully for the times when the earthworm was underground and trying to find the treasure.
As a closing activity, discuss the pages where the worm is underground again. Have students brainstorm a path around the “junk” to find the treasure. Encourage students to create their own maze, or treasure map, for the Superworm. Have them designate a path to take and then add distractions to make him turn around, modeling their map after the pictures in the book. As time allows, have students walk through their treasure map telling what Superworm found instead of the treasure and where he finally found the treasure. This activity can constitute an alternate ending to the story where the friends don’t catch the magic lizard.
The purpose of this activity is to observe, record, and evaluate earthworms in their natural state. After reading SUPERWORM, ask students if the character’s behavior is what they have seen a worm do in their own environments. Make a list of what the students know about earthworms, what they want to learn, and then allow for recording lessons learned through the creation of a worm farm. Watch videos on creating a worm farm and learn what worms like to have in order to be happy. In a clear container, have students layer soil and sand to create a base for the worms. Moisten each layer of soil and add a few banana peels to the center for food. Cover three sides of the box in black construction paper. Purchase worms (or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, dig some up) and add them to the top of the container. Record daily where the worms can be seen and any unusual activities. Record the amount of food the worms are eating and add moist foods like fruit and veggies leftovers to the top as needed. After tracking for several days, discuss the observations in a large group and ask what the students learned by watching the worms. Review the questions that were written prior to the creation of the farm and answer any that have not been answered yet.
Having each student keep a daily or weekly log of earthworm activity, and save appropriate scraps, will help students take ownership of the project.
Create a Superhero
The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to think about other creatures in new ways. After reading Superworm, discuss as a large group some other creatures that could become heroes. Encourage thinking outside of the box like what happened with Superworm. As students come up with more ideas, have them create their new superhero. These creations can be painted, drawn, modeled, etc. Encourage students to choose a mode of art that connects them to their hero. Recyclable materials may work well for this project. As the creatures are finished up, have younger students dictate to an adult and older students write a synopsis of their superhero. Tell about what they are and how they can rescue or save the day. Encourage playfulness and creativity. Allow students to display their work where other classrooms can view it and read about the newly discovered heroes. As the summer draws closer, the more creativity and freedom allowed to explore, the more engaged the students should become.
Additional Resources and Activities:
This video documents Kevin’s creation of a worm farm to help to compost organic materials. The page details what he did to build a worm farm, what he found out, and how to create your own worm farm. He gives helpful tips to sustain the worm farm long term.
The Adventures of Herman
This page provided by the University of Illinois Extension provides an in depth look at the lives of worms. The page follows Herman the Worm by looking at his history, his family tree, and his anatomy. The page has sections for worm habitats, importance of worms, and what the worm likes to eat. A link to fun activities and more web links is also provided. This page will provide information in an engaging way.
Fact or Fiction: Learning About Worms Using Diary of a Worm
This lesson plan link from Read*Write*Think looks at the Book Diary of a Worm and teaches the students how to determine real facts from fiction. This same idea can be applied to Superworm in determining whether or not any of the information in the book is factual. The students can use this to supplement the knowledge they need to build a worm farm, and will provide practice in critical thinking.
Kathy Prater is a Reading Specialist who works with students with dyslexia, an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, and a full time pre-kindergarten teacher at Starkville Academy in Starkville, Miss. Her passions include reading, writing, tending her flock of chickens, and helping students at all levels to find motivation for lifelong reading and learning. She believes every child can become a successful reader if given the right tools and encouragement.