Teaching Ideas for Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre

From Mary’s Teaching Toolbox

I recently discovered the book, Eat Like a Bear EatLikeBearby April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.  I felt better when I found it was only published in 2013, so I haven’t been missing out on this delightful book for long.

The story centers around a brown bear from the time she wakes up in April until she goes to hibernate in the winter.  As the seasons change, she looks for different kinds of food in a variety of locations in her habitat.  Steve Jenkins’ paper collage  illustrations are inviting and informative.  Be warned, the bear eats a several other animals.  It does not show it in the illustrations, but it does talk about a squirrel as a “meaty lunch” and swallowing a trout.  Just like any book you’ll want to read it before you share it with your class and decide if it is a good fit for your students.


There is a lot of new vocabulary in this book.  You’ll need to just choose a few or the children will become overwhelmed and not learn any of them.  I like choosing words they are likely to hear in other situations.  Here are my favorites.

stream In the book it means “a small river”. Help them use clues from the book to try to figure out what it means.  Bring in pictures of streams to share.  Put a long piece of blue cloth in the block center for them to use as a stream.  Play Jump the Stream by putting two ropes on the ground and challenging the children to jump across it.

den: You can’t learn about bears without learning about their dens.  Talk about how a den keeps them safe from the weather and predators.  Make a den out of a small tent or a table covered by a blanket.  Learn about other animals that sleep in dens.

prepare: I love using words that children can easily incorporate into their daily lives.  Talk about what the bear did to prepare to hibernate.  Relate it to their lives by asking what they do to prepare for different activities such as lunch or going to bed.  Try to use it during the day such as “Its time to prepare to go to music.”

Discussion Questions:

What foods did the bear eat?

What would happen if the bear did not spend so much time looking for food?

Do you think this bear ever eats penguins (or another animal they will know does not live it the bear’s habitat)?  Why or why not?

Would you like to be a bear?  Why or why not?

Follow-up activities:

Movement: This is a great book for acting out.  Have the children make bear ear headbands.  Read the book again and let them act it out.

Science: Have the children ask questions about bears and then find sources (books, internet) to find the answers.  Have a variety of non-fiction books about bears for the children to enjoy.  Finish by having them write and illustrate a class book about what they learned.

Get pictures of a variety of different kinds of bears and have the children sort the pictures.  Make a set of bear concentration cards for the children to use.

Phonemic Awareness: Sentence segmenting  Before children can segment words into specific sounds they need to be able to segment sentences into words.  This is a good book to use because so many words from the book (bear, eat, can elk, ants, trout, etc.) are single syllable.  Multiple syllable words can confuse the children when they are first learning the skill.  Say a sentence of 3 to 5 words that describe something from the book.  The bear can dig.  Have the children repeat the with a brief pause between words to emphasize each one.  Have them say the sentence again and count the words their fingers while you do the same.  Repeat with a new sentence.  For more advanced children write the sentence on a chart tablet.  The number of words they counted should be the number of words that is written.

Art: Have the students look at Steve Jenkins’ wonderful illustrations for inspiration for making their own collages.  I would have paper bears (realistic, not teddy bears) available for them to use if they would like.  Include a variety of papers in different colors and textures (scrapbooking paper works great) that they can cut and tear to add to their picture.  Remember it’s the process not the product that counts.  Don’t provide the students with a sample they are supposed to copy.  If the children are struggling to figure out what or how to add something to their picture, help them by asking probing questions like “What did the bear see?”  or “What colors would you like to use to make a tree out of paper?”

Blocks: Include bears and a variety of natural loose parts such as rocks, branches, and pine cones for the children to use.

Math: Using small blocks or other items, let the children solve simple story problems about the bear’s food.  The bear saw 5 berries.  He ate 2. How many does he have left? The bear saw 1 elk in the meadow.  Then one more elk walked over.  How many elk are there now?

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.  Do you have other activities to go with this book?  Share them in the comments section.

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