Zambia, Zambia, What do you see?

by Betty Trummel


Using patterns of words, phrases, or themes in a story can be a powerful teaching tool.  I capitalized on the repetitive pattern of a favorite book for young children to make a connection to my Zambian students at Shine Zambia Reading Academy.


“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle introduces a series of animals…bear, bird, horse, cat, dog, sheep, goldfish…and ends with the teacher and children looking at the animals.  Once I read through the book, the children easily picked up the word pattern and were able to read the book with me the second time around.  They were ready to go!


Next, after reading several books about African animals and using my African animal finger puppets to give information about Zambian native species, we created a list on the board.  For many of these children this information is new, as they have little to no opportunity to see these animals in real life.  Without many opportunities to leave the compounds of Lusaka in which they live, it is unlikely that they will ever witness these animals in a natural habitat.

Using the list we had generated, we used the exact same format to create a new story:  “Zambia, Zambia, What Do You See?”  This time the students added an elephant, zebra, wildebeest, lion, impala, crocodile, rhino, hippo, etc. “looking at me.”


Once I get back home, I’ll self-publish this new story and send it back to the students at Shine.  Since we are encouraging the teachers and students to do more writing as part of their literacy program, this demonstrates how fun and easy it is to create our own stories, sometimes with a familiar pattern or format.  What fun it was to read and create with these early readers at Shine.


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