In my opinion, the Pigeon series by Mo Willems is the literary equivalent of a Hollywood triple threat – he can act, dance, and sing. He does all of these things to get what he wants – ahem, NEEDS! The Pigeon provides great examples of persuasion techniques (yes, more than one, just ask any fifth grader), creativity, economic principles (needs/wants), and powerful illustrations.
This year, my class has truly fallen in love with this author. In the media center they did an author study and in our classroom we continue to revisit Willems’ stories when the mood strikes us. The week leading to Spring Break put us in one of those moods. We wanted to hear the Pigeon books again. When I read these books, the Pigeon has the voice of a very stereotypical 1940’s gangster. I try to pattern my voice after a media specialist friend (Sharon Mitchell), but hers is truly better than mine. Anyhow – the pigeon pleads, begs, and yes – stomps his feet with my attempt at a voice. We have fun with these books. Students respond back with NO! and other answers to his persuasive questions. Even my fifth graders in past years would respond to the persistent guy.
The Pigeon helped us discuss needs and wants this go round. We read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. We discussed the difference between needs and wants and created a class T chart. In the students’ schedule for the day, their word work option was to complete a Pic Collage using the words need and want.
During her writing rotation, Emma chose to create her own version of The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, The Pigeon Wants a Kitten. She used the books to model her drawings as well as the pattern of her sentences. We talked extensively about using the books as models – not copying. The words in the books belonged to who? Mo Willems. And the words on her paper belonged to who? Emma. She indeed did some creative editing and the end product was quite cute.
So – when searching for a mentor text that is worth its weight, and in my case the cost of multiple copies – consider The Pigeon series. He’ll be your best friend!
Ideas span grade levels:
- Persuasive techniques – does the Pigeon beg/whine/wear down, plead, negotiate, bargain, give an ultimatum to get his way? Also compare with techniques used in the Click, Clack, Moo et al series by Doreen Cronin , I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloffand Earrings by Judith Viorst.
- Use of illustrations and how Mo Willems shows feelings
- How illustrators use the technique of hiding characters from other books ( a la Pixar/Disney) – Knuffle Bunny, Elephant, Piggie, Edwina, and Leonardo find their way into the Pigeon books.
- Needs versus wants – also use The Pigeon Needs a Bath
- Voice – characters shine through when saying few words