Learning Activities: Magic Words
Suggested Grades 2-6

Using poetry to compare and contrast humans and frogs.

30-45 minutes

Catalyst Question
How are human life and frog life similar and how are they different?

Humans and frogs have a significant bond that transcends the biological connections. What child hasn't followed a frog or been fascinated by its moist skin and long legs? Not only are they important bio-indicators of environmental health they are remarkable and complex creatures. Throughout history and in many different cultures people have written stories about frogs. Check out some of the fictional selections listed below. The internet resources section includes additional stories that you might want to share with your students.
The Frog Prince by the brothers' Grimm
The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka and Steve Johnson
The Frog, an Italian tale
Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
The Frog Who Became an Emperor a Chinese Fable
Aesop's Fables

"The Frog and the Ox"
"The Frogs and the Well"
"The Frog's Complaint Against the Sun"
"The Frogs Asking for a King"
"The Frogs Desiring a King"

After completion of this activity students will be able to write a poem or story in which frogs take the characteristics of humans or humans take the characteristics of frogs.

Crayons or markers for illustrating stories

1. Read the following Inuit (Eskimo) passage, "Magic Words", by Edward Field and recorded by Knute Rasmussen.

In the very earliest time,
When both people and animals lived on earth,
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
And an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
And sometimes animals
And there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
Might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
And what people wanted to happen could happen
All you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That's the way it was.

2. Discuss the poem using the review questions. Have the students talk about what life would be like if they were frogs. What problems might a frog or toad experience if it lived in the students' world?

3. Have the students write Magic Word changing poems. Complete the discussion questions.

Evaluation/Review Questions
What if this were true?
What words might a person say to turn into a frog or toad?
What would you say to change back?
Write your Magic Word changing poem.
What else might you want to change into?
What words would you use?

Have students write a story about a person who turns into a frog. What would the person do? How would they survive? What stages of the life cycle would they experience? What would winter be like?

Now reverse the situation and have a frog turn into a person. What is life like now? How might the human world be challenging for your frog person? What would the frog miss from its former life? What would the frog really enjoy?

References and Resources
Anonymous. "How the Frog Lost Its Tail"--A West African Folk Tale.

Berenzy, Alix (Illustrator). 1991, A Frog Prince. New York: Henry Holt.

Scieszka, Jon. 1994. A Frog Prince Continued. London, UK: Puffin.

Degraaff, Robert M. 1991. The Book of the Toad. Rochester, Vermont: Parkstreet Press.

Internet Resources
http://www.aquarium.org/education/spotlight/disappearingfrogs/crime.htm http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/frog.html http://www.bconnex.net/~mbuchana/realms/page4/thefrog.html http://www.pacificnet.net/~johnr/aesop/aesop2.html http://www.raymond.wednet.edu/frogs/books.html

Education Standards
Click here for more information on how this activity correlates with standards.

1 Read View and Listen (Fiction)
3 Arts (Creativity, Performance and Expression)
6 Science Application (Living Systems)
Strand 2.2 The Living Environment

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