This Caldecott Honor-book delightfully illustrates the classic poem
"The Spider and the Fly" and tells the story of a young
fly beguiled by a wily spider who tempts her to enter his home through
false flattery and deceit.
illustrations, as well as the moral of this story, provide an excellent
backdrop for learning with either early childhood students or older
students, who will be enthralled by the artistry used to create
a strong visual element that solidifies the lesson of the tale.
Set the Stage
Discuss with your students what it means to deceive or mislead some
one. Have them define what flattery is and give examples. Tell them
that in this story someone is deceived through flattery. Have them
listen for exactly how this is done.
Show your class
the very first illustration with text and have them discuss how
the spider is drawn. Ask them if, based on this illustration, they
think the spider is going to be a good spider or not and have them
explain why. Show them other illustrations and ask them if that
makes them re-evaluate their initial impression of the spider.
Ask your students
to brainstorm a list of stories that have a spider as a main character.
Then ask them to describe how the spider is usually perceived and
have them guess why he is usually perceived in such a manner.
Ask your students to identify details in the pictures that
foreshadow the end of the story.
Discuss with your students that usually flattery is a good
thing. However, sometimes people use nice words to hide not-so-nice
Discuss with your students whether or not anyone has ever
done this to them. Ask them how it made them feel.
Discuss with your class why someone would use false flattery
and why it sometimes works. Have them give examples.
Show your class several illustrations from the text. Have
your students discuss why the illustrator chose to use black and
white illustrations for this particular poem.
Ask them how using color would change the "tone"
of the text or if they think they would react differently to the
text if the pictures had been done in color.
Show your students the 2003 Scholastic Book Fairs Author
Video to see an interview with Toni DiTerlizzi. Find out why
he chose to do the illustrations in black and white and other fascinating
details about the book and this innovative illustrator.
Students will explore science as they learn more about which animals
are predators and which are prey.
and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)
- The first line of this poem is probably one of the most frequently
quoted and well known. Brainstorm a list of other poem/story beginnings
that you know. Then, choose an entire poem to memorize and share
with the class.
- Consider the role of spider as bad guy. Can you think of other
stories that have a spider as a bad guy? Can you think of any
stories that have a spider as a hero? Try to find a story with
a spider good guy and share it with the class. What other animals
are traditionally cast as good guys and bad guys? Why are these
animals cast in these roles? Is it fair to these animals, or are
they often misrepresented?
- Research spiders and write a paragraph arguing the case FOR
spiders. Why are they so often miscast as the bad guy? Use as
much scientific information as you can. Find out more about spiders
at these links:
- Choose a narrative poem that you enjoy and illustrate part of
the poem using a black and white style similar to that of Tony
DiTerlizzi, the illustrator of this book.
by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more
than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education
from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received
special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods.
The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults,
Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.