Ideas for Using
"There's a Frog in My Throat!"
in the Classroom (or at Home)

Here are some ways that teachers (and parents) can use "There's a Frog in My Throat" to encourage children to explore and enjoy idiomatic language and to increase their literacy. I was greatly helped in putting these ideas together by Amy Keller, Elementary Education Specialist, Workforce Education, Orange County (Florida) Public Schools. She has been in elementary education for 27 years, 20 of those as a classroom teacher, and has a Masters in Educational Leadership. I've been writing and editing elementary educational materials for 14 years. Between the two of us, I hope we've come up with some activities that you and your students (or your child) will have fun with. Please feel free to print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved.


Language Arts Ideas

Read sayings from the book aloud, and have children access their prior knowledge to tell you what they think each saying means. Give examples of situations in which some sayings might be used.

Have children tell or write a story, or write and act out a dialogue, using some of the sayings. Encourage them to invent voices and animal sounds to express the animals' emotions and traits.

Discuss the characteristics of some of the animals in the book (cats get into everything, most birds have small brains, birds fly, many dogs are friendly and some chase their tails, etc.). Talk about how we tend to give animals human characteristics. Children can work in groups to choose an animal and list the "human" traits we associate with it (cats: curious, independent, sneaky, and smart). Share lists and reread the book, speculating about how some of these sayings might have gotten started.

Print sayings on strips of paper. Cut each saying apart into two or three segments and have children reassemble it. For older or more proficient children, cut several sayings into segments and mix up the pieces; then have children reassemble the pieces.

Have small groups of children make a card game. There should be a card for each of 10 sayings and a card for each of their meanings. Have children turn all the cards face-down and play Concentration. They should take turns choosing two cards and turning them face-up. If they turn up a saying and its meaning, they keep the pair. If not, they turn both cards face-down again and the next student takes a turn. Whoever ends up with the most pairs wins.

Have children find two sayings that mean almost the same thing. For older children, you can have them discuss the connotation of each saying (e.g., bullheaded, stubborn as a mule).

Talk about proverbs. Give children some examples. Have children look through the book to find sayings that are proverbs, and help them paraphrase their meanings. Discuss whether each one is a good rule for living.

Talk about the meaning of the terms simile, metaphor, idiom, and proverb. Have children make a table with those four columns. Then have them open to a two-page spread and sort some of the sayings into the four categories (some will fit more than one category; for example, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" can be thought of as both a metaphor and a proverb). Then talk about why a saying fits in a particular category or categories.

Have each pair of children write a quiz for another pair to answer. They should write sayings, leaving a blank for the animal word. Then have them swap quizzes with another pair of children and answer each other's quizzes. Let children consult the book to write their quizzes and to complete them.

Have children think of an animal saying we did not use in the book (see "More Animal Sayings" link below), research its meaning to write a short definition, and illustrate it. Children can compile their pages into a class book of more animal sayings.

Choose several animals for which there is only one saying, and have children use the index and/or the table of contents to find the saying and its meaning. (e.g., ostrich, weasel, ferret, eel, goldfish, crocodile, flea, barracuda)

Please note: Text 2003 by Pat Street. You may print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved.

Introduce a Saying of the Day in the morning; talk about its meaning and write it on the board. Use it a few times during the course of the day. Have children make the animal's sound when they hear you say it. (Examples: horsefeathers, my dogs are barking, there's a frog in my throat.)

We like some animals and dislike others. Do animals deserve their reputations? Discuss the positive and negative connotations of some of the sayings and some of the animals. Is "clotheshorse" a compliment or an insult? Is it a compliment or an insult to compare someone to a wolf, a fox, a pig, a chicken, a tiger, a hawk, a dove, a butterfly, a cow, a beaver? You many want to make a chart on the board with two columns: COMPLIMENT and INSULT, and write sayings in the appropriate column as you discuss them. Talk about politeness and people's feelings.

Brainstorm other similes, proverbs, metaphors, and idioms children have heard, other than animal sayings. Have children make a class book or family book of these sayings.

Discuss why an author might use these sayings (to make the story more interesting, so that reader can get a better visual picture, to make dialogue more realistic, etc.) Give examples and then children can write their own stories using these techniques.

Point out the way the artist has illustrated some of the sayings as if they were to be taken literally. Have children role-play some of the sayings as if they meant exactly what the words say.

Have children make individual charts with two columns: SAYINGS I KNOW and SAYINGS NEW TO ME. As you talk about common sayings in the book, have children add sayings to the appropriate column. This will give you insight into whether a particular child's lack of knowledge of everyday idioms may be a block to his or her reading fluency.

Pretend, or have a child pretend, to be an alien who has come to visit Earth. Ask volunteers to explain to the alien the meanings of some of these sayings. (This can also be a writing activity.)

Have children list sayings that exhibit alliteration, similar vowel sounds, or rhyme. Alliterative sayings include: turn turtle, cash cow, dirty dog, rat race, pet peeve, busy beaver, blind as a bat, rug rats, copycat, hold your horses, birdbrain, in fine feather, dead duck, talk turkey, in hog heaven, are you a man or a mouse, don't buy a pig in a poke. Rhymes include: fat cat, it's the bee's knees, see you later, alligator, when the cat's away the mice will play, snail mail, ants in his pants, as snug as a bug in a rug. Similar vowel sounds include: lucky duck, we're off like a herd of turtles, puppy love, dust bunnies, dumb cluck, egghead, hogwash, pack rat, eager beaver, to flounder around. Speculate as to why so many sayings have similar sounds (they are catchier, more fun, easier to remember).

Have students form pairs or small groups. Have one student from each group close his or her eyes, open the book at random, and point to the page. (Or you can assign specific sayings.) The group must use the nearest saying to write and perform a short dialogue or skit that includes the saying and shows what it means.

Have a quiz show. Organize two teams. Read aloud the meaning of a common saying, and have contestants take turns guessing the saying. If nobody guesses from the meaning alone, identify the animal and have them guess again. The team that guesses first wins a point.

Read aloud an idiom or write it on the board. Have students guess what it means. If necessary, use it in a sentence or situation and have them figure out the meaning from context.

Have children make up a story about a character who exemplifies a saying; for example, the character may be a pack rat, a one-trick pony, a big frog in a small pond, a cub reporter, someone who had to eat crow, or a social butterfly. What problem situation might the character find himself or herself in? How might he or she solve the problem?

Have more-advanced students look up the derivation of some of the sayings online or in reference books and then tell the class what they have found out.

To enhance children's understanding and enjoyment of the book, choose several vocabulary words from each spread, and discuss their meanings and pronunciations. For example: Pages 2-3: unique, comparison, daydreaming, domestic, aquatic. Pages 4-5: checkered, exhausted, confident, pestering, competitive. Pages 6-7: hackles, goofing off, struggle, signature, ashamed.

Please note: Text 2003 by Pat Street. You may print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved.


Science Ideas

Ask children to research some of the animals in the book. Discuss how many of the sayings are true. Begin by having children find sayings that are similes, such as "as wise as an owl." Talk about whether the animal in the saying really has that trait.

Have children find information about several of the more unusual and/or unfamiliar animals in the book to find out their habitats, what they eat, and what their habits are (badger, porcupine, camel, slug, ferret, beaver, ostrich, etc.).

Have children choose two similar animals from the book and do research to find out what the similarities and differences between them are: duck/goose, frog/toad, hornet/bee, monkey/ape, zebra/horse, moth/butterfly, spider/insect, oyster/clam, sheep/goat.

Discuss with children the terms canine, feline, bovine, equine, and have them list sayings in each category from the book. (canine: dog, wolf, puppy, hound, fox; feline: cat, kitten, leopard, tiger, lion; bovine: cow, bull; equine: horse, zebra, mule, pony). Remind them that they can use the index to find the pages on which sayings for a particular animal are found. You can expand this activity for reptiles, birds, insects, swine, rodents, and so on.

Invite children to research the wild animals on pages 30 and 31 to find out where on Earth they live. Have them place sticky notes on a globe or a world map to show what they have learned.

The ostrich on page 30 thinks it is hiding when it buries its head in the sand. Of course it is still visible, but many animals can easily hide in their surroundings because of their color or shape. Have children research how camouflage helps some of the animals in the book hide from predators.

The bloodhound on page 7 is tracking someone by scent. Have interested children find out how bloodhounds do this and how police use them to find missing people.

Younger or less-English-proficient children might enjoy putting some of the sayings into categories by specific animal (horse, cow, dog, etc.).

With younger children, talk about what baby animals are called: lamb, kitten, puppy, cub, tadpole, chick, fawn, joey, gosling.

Please note: Text 2003 by Pat Street. You may print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved..


Social Studies Ideas

What animals are used to sell products or to name products? (e.g., Tony the Tiger, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Dodge trucks are Ram tough, car models such as Pinto, Cougar, Mustang, Spyder, etc.) Are the animals well chosen? Do they make people want to buy the products?

Have children contribute some animal sayings or other sayings their families use at home and explain what they mean. Children from different cultures can offer animal sayings from their first languages, or sayings in their first languages that mean the same as sayings in the book. Have them teach these sayings to the class.

Benjamin Franklin thought the United States bird should be the turkey, not the eagle. Do research to find out why he thought so. What traits does each bird really have? Do you agree with Benjamin Franklin?

Many sports teams have an animal name for their nickname. Have children do research online to find out some unusual animal nicknames. Talk about what the names say about the teams and, if possible, find out how each team got its name. (College teams: Anteaters; Badgers; Beavers; Bison; Blue Hens; Camels; Scorpions, etc. Professional Teams: Dolphins; Jaguars; Orioles; Cubs, Broncos, etc.)

Native Americans of the Great Plains used almost every part of the buffalo, either as food, for fuel, or to make their shelters, blankets, and tools. Discuss some of the ways human use animals today, and whether you agree or disagree with these uses. (Examples: using animals' fur or skin to make clothing; exhibiting animals in zoos and circuses; using animals such as dogs and horses to do work for humans; going hunting and fishing; raising animals for meat or dairy products; keeping animals as pets, etc.)

Explain that just as humans live in communities, so do many of the animals in the book. Have them do research to find out which animals live in groups and what the names of the groups are. (pride of lions, school of fish, pack of wolves, flock of sheep, herd of elephants, pod of whales, colony of bats, bed of clams, band of gorillas, exaltation of larks, cackle of hyenas, prickle of porcupines, parliament of owls, etc.) This is a good research activity for children to do online, because there are several entertaining Websites with long, interesting lists of animal groups.

Have children do research to find out which animals are now endangered or protected. Have each child or pair choose and animal and find out what is being done to help increase its numbers and get it off these special lists.

Some of the animal names in the book identify the animals as male, female or baby. For example, bull, cow, lamb, buck, fawn, cub, hen, chick, sow, goose, gander, kitten. Have children make a a chart with three columns: Male, Female, Baby. Let them do research online to find out the names of the male, female, and baby for various animals.

Please note: Text 2003 by Pat Street. You may print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved.


Art Ideas

Invite children to make their own picture books, using some of the sayings. Have them draw a picture of each saying and tell what it means in a caption.

Have children look at the folios (page numbers) and section headings with you. Then have them choose an animal, and in the same way, write the animal's name by making each letter into a picture of something that relates to the animal.

Have children make a greeting card using their own artwork illustrating a saying from the book. For example, "Come to my party! We'll have more fun than a barrel of monkeys!" or "Get well, quick like a bunny!" or "Something to crow about -- it's your birthday!" or "Sending you a bear hug!"

Have children find and cut out pictures from old magazines that relate to different sayings: scrambled eggs (you can't unscramble eggs), a flock of birds (birds of a feather flock together), several toddlers (rug rats), etc. Let them make an Animal Sayings collage from the pictures.

Have small groups of children make stick puppets of some of the animals. Children can then make up stories using several sayings to show they understand what they mean.

Have children go on an Art Scavenger Hunt through the book. If you have more than one copy of the book, give teams of children a list of five or ten items to find in the book and ask them to write down the page number where they find each item. The first team to find all the items wins. If you just have one copy of the book, you might want to time the children. The items can be large and obvious for younger children (an elephant, p. 30), small and hidden for older children (a mouse in a pocket, p. 9; bunny slippers, p. 27).

Discuss the artwork in the book. Explain that the artist made all the artwork on a computer instead of with brushes and paint. Point out the various styles of art and ask children why they think the artist filled the pages with so many small pictures (it's more fun that way, there are more interesting things to look at, there were a lot of sayings to fit in).

Please note: Text 2003 by Pat Street. You may print these ideas out for classroom use. All other rights reserved.

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