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Exploring Identity Through Elmer: Literacy Activities for the Classroom

The Elmer book by David McKee teaches valuable lessons about individuality and the joy of being oneself. But how can we extend these lessons beyond the book? Scroll down for a range of Elmer activities designed to enrich students’ understanding of the story. From character analysis to story sequencing and making personal connections, these activities are perfect for deepening engagement with the book’s messages.

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Elmer Summary

The Elmer book by David McKee brings to life the story of Elmer, a brightly colored patchwork elephant who stands out in the jungle. Despite his popularity, Elmer is self-conscious about his appearance and fears he won’t be accepted because of his uniqueness.

To blend in with the other elephants, Elmer disguises himself with gray berry juice, hiding his vibrant colors. The transformation makes Elmer realize that his friends miss the original, colorful Elmer and the happiness he brought into their lives.

As the rain washes away his disguise, Elmer’s true colors reappear as the gray color washes off in the rain, and the other animals celebrate his uniqueness.

Elmer Activities

The Elmer book explores self-acceptance, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and the importance of being oneself.

This post will focus on Elmer activities for character analysis, story sequencing, and making connections to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the book’s messages.

Elmer Read-Aloud Questions

These read-aloud questions will stimulate critical thinking about the Elmer book, focusing on character development, the storyline, and its themes. Students are prompted to discuss Elmer’s character, the impact of his decisions, and the narrative’s exploration of individuality.

  1. Describe Elmer’s character. What makes him different from the other elephants when he reveals his true colours?
  2. How does Elmer feel when he sees the other elephants’ reactions?
  3. How do the other elephants celebrate Elmer’s uniqueness?
  4. What sequence of events leads to Elmer revealing his true colors?
  5. Why do you think Elmer decided to cover himself with grey berry juice?
  6. What is Elmer’s problem in the story, and how does he try to solve it?
  7. How does the author, David McKee, show the theme of individuality in the story?
  8. Predict what would have happened if Elmer hadn’t revealed his true colors.
  9. How do the other elephants’ reactions change before and after they realize the grey elephant is Elmer? What does this tell us about their feelings towards Elmer?
  10. Why do you think the author made Elmer a patchwork elephant instead of a regular one?


I have over
90 Elmer questions to use before, during, and after reading the book in this activity pack.

Elmer Activities Character Analysis

These Elmer activities include character analysis, allowing students to explore Elmer’s journey from feeling out of place to embracing and celebrating his unique identity. 

These activities encourage a deeper look into Elmer’s character, development throughout the story, and influence on others, enhancing students’ understanding and empathy.

Elmer’s Unique Identity: Elmer’s colorful patchwork, compared to the other elephants, is an immediate cue to his unique character. Understanding this visual characterization is key to beginning character analysis. 
Activity: Make a list of Elmer’s unique traits and discuss how these traits influence his actions.

Elmer’s Development: Elmer undergoes significant development throughout the story, learning to accept and celebrate his uniqueness. 
Activity: Create a character arc for Elmer, charting his emotional changes throughout the book.

Elmer’s Influence on Others: Elmer’s ability to bring joy and laughter to his community shows his impact on other characters.
Activity: Map Elmer’s relationships with other characters and discuss how these relationships shape our understanding of Elmer.

Elmer’s Actions: Elmer’s actions, such as his decision to disguise himself and later reveal his true identity, drive the plot. 
Activity: Create a flowchart of Elmer’s key actions and discuss how each action affects the story’s outcome.

Elmer Sequencing Activities

Sequencing activities related to the Elmer book help students understand the story’s structure and progression of events. Creating timelines and cause-and-effect charts enables students to organize and comprehend the narrative flow visually, reinforcing their storytelling and analytical skills.

Chronological Order: The events in Elmer are presented in a clear chronological order, which helps students understand how events are ordered over time.
Activity: Create a timeline of the key events in Elmer by identifying important plot points and place them in the correct order.

Elmer’s Journey: Elmer’s personal journey – from feeling different, deciding to change himself, realizing he misses his true self, to finally embracing his uniqueness – provides an opportunity for students to learn sequencing related to character development. 
Activity: Create a timeline of Elmer’s emotional journey and map out Elmer’s feelings throughout the story.

Cause and Effect Relationships: The story presents several cause and effect relationships, such as Elmer’s decision to disguise himself and the reactions of the other elephants. 
Activity: Create a cause and effect chart for the story, linking related events chronologically.

Elmer Making Connections Activities

These Elmer activities encourage students to make connections between the Elmer book and their own experiences, other texts, and the world around them. These activities foster personal, textual, and world connections, promoting a deeper engagement with the book’s themes of diversity, acceptance, and the value of individuality.

Text-to-Self Connections: Elmer’s feelings of being different and wanting to fit in are universal experiences that many students can relate to. Text-to-self connections help students personally relate to a text, enhancing their understanding and engagement.
Activity: Write about a time they felt different like Elmer and how they dealt with it.

Text-to-Text Connections: Elmer’s journey of self-discovery can be related to other characters’ journeys in different books Inter-textual connections help students relate the narrative to other stories, enhancing their understanding of character development and theme.
Activity: Choose another character from a different book with a journey similar to Elmer’s. They can then write comparing the two journeys.

Text-to-World Connections: Elmer’s story can be connected to broader discussions about diversity and acceptance. Text-to-world connections help students apply the lessons from a text to real-world contexts.
Activity: Research a real-world issue related to diversity and acceptance and write a brief report on how Elmer might shed light on this issue.

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