Sunday, January 3, 2010


By Loren Long
Publisher: Philomel Books

FROM THE FLAP: Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farm and farmer. He particularly loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. The two become great friends, romping in the fields, leaping bales of hay and playing ring-around-the rosy by Mud Pond.

But when the big yellow tractor comes to the farm and replaces Otis, he is cast away to rust behind the barn until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor(and it’s not big or yellow) who saves the day. It’s little Otis!

Artist Loren Long has created an unforgettable story and a truly unforgettable character.

CHARACTER SEQUENCE (Verbal/Linguistic)

Assign students the character roles of Otis, the little calf, the farmhands, the yellow tractor, the fire chief, and the fire truck. It is helpful if you have signs with a picture of each character to give to the students. Ask the students to tell you what little calf’s problem is. Have the little calf stand in the "mud." Ask who came first to help the calf? Then, have the farmhands stand next to the calf. Repeat the activity until you reach Otis. If you repeat the activity once or twice, every student will get at least one turn.

MIRROR MOVEMENT (Kinesthetic and Interpersonal)

This activity builds student confidence, strengthens community, and helps get rid of the jitters. Better yet you can do it during transition time. The little calf mirrors Otis’s movements. Ask one of your students to pretend to be Otis. This student will move a part of his or her body and all of the other students will mirror his or her movement. Switch leaders often.


Loren Long highlights his personified character by juxtaposing primary colors with a monochromatic background. Give students brown, black, or gray construction paper and white chalk. Ask the children to draw a landscape with white chalk. Then, they can choose a primary chalk color and personify a vehicle. Check out the Book Buddies section for more books with personified vehicles.

ROPE TUG MATH (Logical/Mathematical)

Gather students on the rug and give each student a whiteboard or clipboard to record addition problems. Tie a long rope onto a large object and tell the kids to pretend the object is the calf. Have a small number of students/farmhands come and hold the rope. Then ask more students to come and hold the rope. How many students tried to pull the calf out of Mud Pond? If you’re working on subtraction, start with the larger number or students and have some of them leave the scene.


Check out the book John Deere: Crazy About Tractors Songs and sing them with your class. This url lets you listen to song previews:


-John Deere: Crazy About Tractors Songs by John Deere
-Dinotrux by Chris Gall
-I’m Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan
-I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan
-The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon

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