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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Great Kapok Tree Lapbook Project

In the Amazon rainforest, a man is chopping down a great Kapok tree.  Exhausted from his labours, he puts down his axe and rests.  As he sleeps, the animals who live in the tree plead with him not to destroy their world.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry is one of the children literacy books which we explored last year.  This book was chosen because I want to bring the awareness of the importance of the Rainforest to the children.  Malaysia is rich with flora and fauna, yet our children are unexposed to them. There are many animals in the book – an interesting topic for children to explore. Also, many resources about this book and related activities can be found in the Internet. Many of the web pages are designed for children, which makes learning so much more interesting!

This is the lapbook created by Rex. In the cover, you could see the tree, with its buttress roots, the two sloth hanging by the vines as well as a snake slithering on the tree. Note too the lance-shaped leaves and the mossy ground. This is a very true depiction of an actual rainforest, made possible because we have visited many websites and gained a deeper understanding of it. Instead of getting him to write about it in words, he was encouraged to illustrate his understanding through a craft .

This laminated card was the first activity related to the book. We have read the book and discussed about each animal and its message to the woodcutter. Then I asked them to write out the animals which appeared in sequence. I wanted them to learn how to make a list by adding on the √ bullets.

The inside of the lapbook - note the many ineresting activities related to the Kapok tree and the Rainforest.  We've spent many days reading, colouring, cutting and assembling this lapbook, which the children are very proud of!

We talked about the layers of the Rainforest - emergent, canopy, the understory and forest floor.  This is a very interesting format as they are four flaps and you open each flap to review a brief description of each layer, sung to the tune of 'If You're Happy, and You Know It'!  Helps them remember each layer easily.

An example of the lyrics to the Emergent layer.

Learnt that Kapok trees have buttress roots that prevent them from falling down when strong winds blow. We also know the top of the tree is known as canopy and many plants and animals live here, one of them are epiphytes.

Interesting way of getting the children to research and write in sentences - instead of copying by rote in exercise books.  At least, this way of writing is practical and applicable in the daily lives.

They wrote down one fact about the Kapok tree on each leaf.  Again, helps them to construct proper sentences - with Capital letters and punctuation marks.  Notice the lance-shaped leaves and the umbrella crown the Kapok tree has?

The children loved the story, but the vocabulary in the book are too difficult for most of them.  Here are sentence strips which they coloured and cut out.  The sentences are simpler, encouraging them to read with confidence.  They can rearrange the strips to form their own story, but most of them prefer to arrange the strips in sequence. 

There were many verbs in each strip; we pretended to be the animals and spoke like them - squawked, squeaked, growled, whispered – and learnt about the differences while having fun!  We learnt many new words along the way.

Another interesting booklet.  With four flaps, in increasing size.  The smallest flap is the ocelot and the biggest flap is the tiger.  Visually, it tells the children that the ocelot is the smallest cat and the tiger is the biggest.  One of the boys asked me why the lion is not included - GOOD QUESTION!  I asked him to try and find out why.  The next day, he came back and told me because lions are not found in the rain forest, but in drier climate such as the Sahara desert.  I loved his question and his answer - shows that this boy can think critically.

The water cycle is very interesting, but difficult concept with many big words. Previously, I introduced them to it through an experiment as well as a video on YouTube. However, I find that the children’s understanding was not strong.   I reintroduced this topic during the project and showed them two interesting website which animated the water cycle. To reinforce their understanding, I encouraged them to make a craft of the water cycle. This is more effective as young children learn best by experimenting and hands-on activities.
One of the video clips can be found at

To make a lapbook interesting, many different templates are used. One such template was the anaconda which was downloaded from a webpage. It was a circle and folded into 4. The name of the snake was written in the first quarter. Open up and read about the information of the anaconda on the other flaps. Open again to reveal the whole snake. Again, the information was taken from the Internet.

Always warms the heart to see them enjoying their work and taking pride in the end results.
There are so many ways to make learning fun and meaningful to them. One interesting website to explore the Rainforest is .  Visit it with your child.  The Internet is a great source of information and I look forward to working on more projects with the Red Beans and Navy Beans this year!