Aesop’s fable about the sly fox outwitting the noisy crow receives a beautiful retelling in spare poetic language and large, expressive paintings.
Three Activities for ages 4 and up, by Francisca Goldsmith
Activity One: Sly Like a Fox
For ages 4 through 8
This is a variation on the field game “Simon Says” which reinforces some common English idiomatic expressions.
- Space for children to move across the floor from one side of the area to the other, in about 10 steps*
- About 10 minutes to play a round
Read the book and show the bold paintings. Ask children to share expressions they have heard such as “smart as a fox” or “greedy as a pig.”
After enough suggestions have been offered that it seems the group is mostly confident of the idea, invite everyone to go to one side of the room and stand in a row facing you on the other side of the area.
As you make each of the following (or similar) statements, children can move ahead one step if the expression is familiar and tells of a characteristic that was discussed. If the expression doesn’t make sense and someone moves forward, she or he needs to go back to the start line and begin again.
Some idioms worded as animal characteristics you can use include:
- Slow as a turtle
- Smelly as a skunk
- Busy as a bee
- Quiet as a mouse
- Eager as a beaver
And you can use silly ones that are false like:
- Shy as a lion
- Lazy as an ant
- Silent as a bullfrog
Be sure to reference the idioms the group generated during the discussion.
* If anyone present has a mobility challenge, change the instruction to suit everyone’s capacity, such as partnering everyone or instructing forward movement to be measured in a special distance, such as the length of your own forearm.
Activity Two: Readers Theater
For ages 7 to 10, and older for English Language Learners
Celebrate the poetry of this account by savoring and saying the words and phrases as a dramatic reading.
- Sufficient copies of the book’s text so that each child has one
- A “stage” area, such as the front of the room
After reading the book aloud yourself at a pace that allows all to notice the rhythms of the poetic speech, divide the group into Foxes, Crows, and Owls (observers of the fable’s action).
Allow everyone to practice reading aloud alone, in whatever level of privacy seems suitable to him or her, before joining with his or her group to practice reading the group’s lines together.
Foxes read aloud those passages from the fox’s viewpoint; Crows those passages from the crow’s viewpoint; Owls present the observations of the world beyond these two animals, such as “When the moon slithers into the open skies…”
Put it all together in a spoken performance that celebrates the rich language in this telling of the fable.
Activity Three: Beautiful Fables
For ages 7-12
Explore the painterly possibilities of other fables.
- Large sheets of art paper
- Water-based paints or pastels
After allowing everyone to take time to view the beautiful paintings in this book, share resource materials** telling, without illustrations, other fables attributed to Aesop. Each artist can then choose the fable she or he prefers and paint in large, loose strokes an illustration of its pivotal point.
**You can use Aesop’s Fables: All Fables as a resource that has no illustrations.