Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Your Child's Neverland

Today I am launching a unit with Alice that uses J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan as a launch point for a unit of study that will include map skills, geographical features, reading and vocabulary, descriptive writing and a little ecology.  I hope the unit will be a lot of fun and that some of my readers might join us on our journey and use the comments to chime in on highlights or challenges encountered during the Unit.  It should be a lot of fun.

Of course, as we read the story, I also had her define important vocabulary words, answer comprehension questions and do some typical Language Arts types of Activities.  There are many different versions of Peter Pan out there now, from the original, to Disney's version rewritten for book form and beyond.  Alice's School recommended an Early reader version, but she preferred an entirely different version of the book for its added complexity.  For that reason, it is difficult to offer helpful guides or even vocabulary lists here, but I will offer a "resources list" with links at the end of the article.  This article will focus more on my intentions for the "map" activities I am adding to the mix.


Students Will: 
  • Read, or have read to them, any version of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan that includes the concept of all children having their own Neverland's already created in their own minds.
  • Create a political map of their Neverland
  • Create a topographical map of their Neverland
  • Expand their vocabularies in regard to Geographic Features.
  • Identify different types of geographic features such as mountains, mountain chains, island, isthmus, and peninsula.


  • A copy of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie - multiple adaptations out there are available at different reading levels.  The HarperFestival adaptation: Peter Pan The Original Story (the motion picture event) will work well for a slightly more advanced reader and there is a version adapted by Cathy East Dubowski done by Random House Stepping Stones written at a second grade level.  I'm sure there other adaptations out there that will work equally as well too.
  • Clay.
  • A piece of plexiglass or other hard and clear surface.
  • Lots of graph paper.
  • Writing paper.
  • Paper on which to sketch.
  • Typical classroom supplies such as colored pencils and/or crayons, writing pencils, and rulers.
  • An imagination.
  • An atlas or other reference for children about maps that will have examples of different types of maps.
  • You may decide to use a movie version of Peter Pan at some point during the unit as well.  There are still copies of the original play with Mary Martin available at some libraries and you can find it on Youtube as well (Here is part 1).  Of course there is the animated Disney version and the newer movie from 2003.



Resources for Language Arts Activities:

Wikipedia: Typical Wikipedia Entry with synopsis, history and references to the author and his other works, other works inspired by the book, and additional information.
Book Rags:  Summary, Plot and Character Notes.
eNotes: Short Biography of J.M. Barrie, and links to character, plot, and theme summaries, essays and critiques, and an article about Media adaptations.  Membership is required for full versions of some of the articles, but there sufficient information for basics without as well.
Lit2go: Audio Version
Schvoong: Reviews, summaries and other information as submitted by Schvoong community contributors.  Things to think about.

Themes To Highlight/Research you and your child Can Do:

Then and Now - ask kids to compare:  
  • How Barrie depicts life at the Darling house and how life for children of the late 1800's and early 1900's compares to daily life for children now (in your location, or in UK compared to today's UK).
  • How people saw Native Americans in the early 1900's compared to how they are seen and understood today.

Historical Societies -
  • Life as a Middle Class Society Member in London in 1900
  • Native American Life in 1900 - you may need to choose a few representative tribes from different Regions in North America to narrow down your scope.  Make it clear there are multiple life styles that were lived at the time, just as there are multiple life styles lived for any other community in time.
  • Pirates from the 1700's- 1800's. 

Aging - The "Classic" aspect of this book and its major theme:
  • Some questions to ask:  Why doesn't Peter Want to Grow Up?  What is he afraid of?  What is so bad about being an adult?
  • Have your child define Aging.
  • Instruct your child to form an "interview" for each of her living grandparents, or other family members that are retired or near-retirement.  Have your child use the interview to discover what growing up was like for them and how they see aging.  Have your child ask you (or another person in mid-life) the same interview questions.  Draw connections between answers by comparing and contrasting.
If you have more wonderful thematic ideas, Please share them in a comment.  I hope this article will act only as a starting point and inspiration for further development.

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