In the Shadow of the Gruffalo – Arts Integration Lesson

By |2017-11-16T12:56:39+00:00April 1st, 2017|

Who doesn’t love a great story?  The Gruffalo is a children’s classic that has come to be treasured in the early childhood classroom.  It tells the tale of a tiny little mouse who goes for a walk in the woods only to encounter many different animals who would like to eat him.  As a way to protect himself, the sly mouse creates a monster called The Gruffalo to protect him from the predators.

In this PreK – Grade 1 arts integration lesson, we’re using this fantastic story to explore process drama and shadow movement.  Students start by listening to the story and making predictions using the Tableau technique about what will happen next.  After finishing the story, students watch a video from the group The Silhouettes that shows how you can use your body’s shadow to tell a story.  Finally, the students create their own Shadow Silhouette for each character in the story.

shadows of the gruffalo


What to Notice

It’s important that students have a chance to explore using their bodies through the Tableau technique before moving into the Shadow Silhouette later on.  Take as much time as students need to get comfortable with using their bodies with high, medium and low levels as well as working together in a group to create this frozen picture.  This will help the Shadow Silhouettes to be even more rich and varied later on in the pre-K lesson plan.

Also take note that we are focusing on character traits and setting through the reading standard.  Make sure that students are demonstrating those traits for their characters in their Shadow Silhouettes.  Guide them through that process!  It’s challenging for little learners to create these movements and act them out together because of the subtlety that naturally occurs due to the use of shadows.

Extensions for The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo lesson plan dives deeply into each character.  Once students have done this, they can then work on:

  • creating different settings for each character
  • creating the entire story (using beginning, middle and ending chunking)
  • developing alternate endings

all while using the element of shadow and light.  You can also connect this very easily to a science lesson exploring light and dark.

Additional Resources

Here’s a list of resources that may be helpful as you plan for The Gruffalo lesson plan:

The Gruffalo website

Preschool activities for The Gruffalo

The Silhouettes website

Want even more lessons like this?  Be sure to visit our Arts Integration and STEAM lesson page!

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Susan Riley is the founder and President of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.

Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.

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