War Horse is a children’s novel first published by Michael Morpugo in 1982. This story details the life of Joey, a farm horse thrust into the horrors of World War I. His heroism touches the hearts of the soldiers around him, and is a great way to introduce elementary school students to a number of educational activities.
Group Reading Activity
While there are a number of lessons that students can learn from War Horse, one of the best ways to approach this task is first by simply introducing students to the work itself. A teacher can use the story of War Horse to get students excited about reading. At the beginning of each day, teachers can read out loud from this book, and it can be one of the works incorporated into classroom activities. A teacher can spend some time reading from the book itself, and then incorporate students into the reading experience. The teacher can call on students to read out loud in a positive environment. This will provide students an opportunity to work on both listening and public speaking skills, as they can read the book themselves and gain confidence in their skills as a reader.
Rapid Response Activity
As a strategy to get students’ creative juices flowing, a teacher can finish a chapter with a quick-write rapid response activity. In this rapid response activity, the teacher will introduce students to the character of Joey by reading passages from the book to students. These students will then be asked to write down words that describe Joey on their paper as quickly as possible. Such words could include courageous, heroic, brave, smart, and a variety of others.
This activity has a twofold purpose. On the one hand, it can provide teachers insight into how students are feeling about this book. Do students relate to the character Joey? Do they think he is an admirable character? What are they getting out of this work so far? In addition, teachers will test students reading comprehension skills. If students write down that Joey is a coward, evil, or they cannot come up with any words to describe Joey, it is possible that they are having difficulty grasping the book itself. Teachers can use this activity as a testing mechanism to see if they need to adjust their teaching strategies.
Another great activity for War Horse would be for students to create a timeline of major events in this book after reading it. Students will have to make creative decisions in this process. Which parts of this book were particularly important to them? Which aspects of the books can be left out? This provides students an opportunity to make creative and intelligent decisions about how to best organize information. For example, the death of Captain Nicholls might be an important event that teachers could expect to see in the timeline.
While there are a number of great ways to teach students new information, the book War Horse is a particularly effective story that students can relate to. Many students love animals, and this tale of courage on the battlefield is valuable to people of all ages.