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Promotional graphic for "I Want My Hat Back" activities based on the book.
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Character and Consequence: Literacy Lessons from I Want My Hat Back Activities

The I Want My Hat Back book by Jon Klassen explores themes of honesty, consequences, and the art of inference. This post has I Want My Hat Back activities for character analysis, inference, and storytelling elements such as sequencing and expressive illustrations. This simple yet profound story sparks conversations about morality, empathy, and the subtle art of reading between the lines, making it great for teaching critical literacy skills.

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I Want My Hat Back Summary

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen focuses on the fact that lying and stealing are wrong, and they come with consequences.

A bear has lost his red, pointy hat and wants it back. He patiently and politely asks each animal he encounters whether they have seen it. Each animal denies seeing it, and the bear worries he will never see it again. 

As the bear loses hope, a deer asks what his hat looks like. The bear describes the hat, which sparks his memory and reminds him where he saw it. The bear jumps up and returns to confront the guilty animal and recover his hat.

Teaching Literacy Skills with I Want My Hat Back Picture Book

I Want My Hat Back’s narrative, supported by expressive illustrations, helps teach inference, retelling, sequencing, and character analysis, which are the focus of this post.

These activities are crafted to deepen students’ comprehension and appreciation of the story’s themes and artistic storytelling techniques.

I Want My Hat Back Student Questions

These read-aloud questions challenge students to delve deeper into the narrative and illustrations of the I Want My Hat Back book, encouraging them to think critically about the story’s development, character emotions, and the moral implications of the actions depicted within the pages.

  1. How does the bear’s facial expression change? What does this imply about his emotions?
  2. Why is the deer asking the bear about its hat’s importance?
  3. Infer the bear’s state of mind in the scene with the deer and the hat.
  4. What in the text suggests that the rabbit knows more than it seems?
  5. Why do you think the rabbit stole the bear’s hat? Why did it lie to the bear about taking its hat?
  6. What would have been a different way for the bear to deal with the rabbit stealing its hat?
  7. Why do you think Jon Klassen leaves some pages wordless?
  8. Were the consequences of stealing the hat appropriate? Why or why not?
  9. Is there a difference between the rabbit lying to the bear and the bear lying to the squirrel? If so, in what way?
  10. What do the final illustrations withhold from the reader? Why do you think Klassen ended the story as he did?

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

Teaching Inference with I Want My Hat Back

The simplicity and expressive illustrations in the I Want My Hat Back book are an excellent basis for teaching inference.

Activities designed around the book encourage students to interpret characters’ emotions, motivations, and the story’s underlying messages through artwork, repetitive dialogue, and the narrative’s dramatic irony.

Expressive Illustrations: The artwork in I Want My Hat Back plays a significant role in teaching inference, as readers must garner clues from the characters’ expressions and actions rather than the text.
Activity: Have students draw or write their interpretations of characters’ feelings based on specific illustrations without text.

Repetitive Dialogue: The repetitive nature of the bear’s questioning allows students to compare and contrast responses, leading to inferences about the characters’ honesty and emotions.
Activity: Create a chart mapping out each animal’s response to the bear’s questioning, and discuss what these responses could imply.

Dramatic Irony: The reader knows the hat’s whereabouts long before the bear, creating dramatic irony. This helps students understand how information is available to the reader but unknown to the characters.
Activity: Ask students to write a brief diary entry from the bear’s perspective without the knowledge of the hat thief, then one with the knowledge, showcasing how additional information changes perception.

Moral Ambiguity: The ending invites speculation about justice and moral decisions as the bear’s final actions are left ambiguous. It encourages deeper thinking about motives and consequences.
Activity: Discuss what happened after the story ended, allowing students to use their inferences to support their arguments.

Retelling and Sequencing: Piecing the Puzzle Together

The I Want My Hat Back book’s clear, linear progression and repetitive elements make it an ideal resource for teaching retelling and sequencing.

These I Want My Hat Back activities emphasize understanding the story’s structure and enhancing narrative skills.

Repetition of Key Phrases: The book’s frequent use of repetitive phrases aids students in retaining story elements and reconstructing the narrative flow.
Activity: Create storyboards that pair these repeat phrases with corresponding images, enabling them to visualize and sequence events as they retell the story.

Visual Cues: The distinct visual cues help recall sequences and support narrative retelling skills. 
Activity: Organize a picture-matching game where students connect images from the book with different story stages in the correct sequence.

Simple Plot Line: The uncomplicated plot line of I Want My Hat Back makes it an excellent reference for understanding the beginning, middle, and end structure. 
Activity: Divide the story into three parts and retell each section using their own words, highlighting the significance of each part in the overall narrative.

Teaching Character Analysis with I Want My Hat Back

The illustrations, from facial expressions to body language, provide subtle cues that students can use to explore the characters’ personalities. The I Want My Hat Back activities focus on developing character profiles, interpreting dialogue, and analyzing visual clues to understand the complexities of the characters’ interactions and the implications of their behaviors.

Diverse Character Reactions: Observing how different characters react to the same situation is key for understanding character differentiation and motivation. 

Activity: Create character profiles based on their reactions to the bear’s question about his missing hat, discussing what each reaction says about the individual character’s traits.

The Deceptive Simplicity of Dialogue: The simplicity of the dialogue in the book is deceptive. It hints at complex character traits and relationships essential for character analysis. 

Activity: Use thought bubbles to express what they think the characters are really thinking or feeling beyond what they say.

Visual Clues and Subtext: The interplay of text and illustrations provides contextual subtext that adds layers to character understanding. 

Activity: Draw alternative illustrations for a scene and discuss how changing visual elements can alter the perception of the character’s emotions and intentions.

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