The Elephants'

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					Elise Hurst
The    Elephants’

Big Day Out
Teacher’s Notes
Nancy Mortimer

The Elephants’ Big Day Out by Elise Hurst is a warm, imaginative and funny
story about three elephants living in the Zoo who would love to have an
adventure. Finding themselves out of their cage one night, they proceed to the
city to explore. While there, the elephants disguise themselves to try to fit into the
human environment. Back at the Zoo, the situation is mirrored when the
zookeepers disguise themselves as elephants to keep the animals’
disappearance a secret. The charade is complete when the zookeepers have to
return to the elephants’ cage after taking part in the Zoo Parade. Here, they
realise how cramped the enclosure has been for the animals. A new enclosure is
built and the real elephants happily return. A new spirit of co-operation and
understanding prevails, as the elephants retain some of their freedom. This book
is told from the elephants’ perspective and allows children to empathise with the
Elise Hurst’s delightful illustrations allow plenty of scope for children to interpret
and express opinions. Very young children will enjoy this fun story and be able to
let their imaginations work overtime to enter into the spirit of the tale.

              These notes can be photocopied for class use.
        They and other resources are available at no charge from the
                          Lothian Books’ website:

         Level 5, 132-136 Albert Road
         South Melbourne. VIC. 3205
         Copyright: Nancy Mortimer

    Show the book to the children before reading and talk about what is on the
    front cover

    Talk about the title and what the story might be about

    Read the story to the class

    What sort of a place is the zoo?
    How many elephants are there?
    Where do they live?
    What are their names?
    What happens once every week?
    What did the elephants long for?
    What did the elephants do to occupy themselves at night?
    How did the elephants get out of their cage?
    What sort of night was it?
    How do you know?
    Where did the animals go?
    Why did they leave the zoo?
    What did the elephants need to do when the sun came up?
    How did the elephants make money?
    Why did they need it?
    What did they do with it?
    How did they get around?
    What did they see?
    How did they get back to the zoo?
    Were the elephants missed?
    How do you know?
    What happened when the parade came past?
    What did they think when they saw the parade?
    What happened when the pretend elephants got back into the their cage?
    What did the elephants observe happening to their cage
    What did the elephants see?
    What was it like?
    What were the people’s reaction when the elephants revealed
    Why was life just perfect at the end of the story?

       Ask the children to draw their own enclosure for an elephant (or any
       animal). What things would be in it? What would the animal need for fun
       and for shelter? Could another animal live with it to keep it company?
       Which one?
       Find other stories that are about elephants and read them in class.
       Ask children to bring stories from home that are about elephants, animals
       or Zoos.

   • Compile a list of animals that appear in the story.
   • Allow the children to study the illustrations closely and to make their own
     remarks and comments about the story and what they can see in the
   • Talk about the colours of the different animals
   • Talk about Elise Hurst’ s use of black and white
   • What is it used to depict?
   • Find examples of movement in the illustrations and talk about how this is
   • Look at the way the pictures are placed on the page and talk about this.


             Make a list of the animals that are mentioned in the book.
             Put unusual words on the board and explain their use and effect:
             for instance, scudded, ghostly
             What do scary stories and horrible monster mice, bring to mind?
             Make up more words that rhyme, like hustle and bustle
             From the story, make a list of action words.
             Make a list of opposites, such as: day and night, big and little
             Make a list of workers that appear in the story


   •   What have you seen elephants do? How do they move? Why would
       elephants like to play in water? Did you know they like to paint? Why
       might they like doing thing?
   •   What is special about an elephant? Why do they have such a long nose
       and big ears – what are these useful for?
   •   Where do elephants live in the wild?
   •   Why do we have animals in a zoo? Why might zoos be important?
   •   The elephants dressed up when they were in the city – why did they do
       this? How would you dress up to live in the jungle?
   •   Ask the children to tell the story in their own words.
   •   What sort of story is The Elephants’ Big Day Out?
   •   Describe the elephants’ new home.
   •   Tell how the story ends.
   •   Is this a true story?
   •   Ask children to tell about a big day out they have had or would like to
   •   Children can research elephants and relate their findings to the rest of the
   •   Ask the class why elephants are scared of mice.

Talk about:
      adventures                                    atmosphere reflected by
      disguise                                      different pictures
      responsibility                                camouflage
      understanding                                 having fun
      being wanted                                  costumes
      parades                                       pretending
      zoos                                          what is real
      animals                                       the imagination
      the position animals sleep in                 fantasy
      the positions we sleep in                     perfect


   •   Ask the children who has been to the zoo and then these children can tell
       other members of the class of their experiences
   •   Find recorded stories about elephants or other animals that appear in The
       Elephant’s Big Day Out and play these to the class


   •   Allow the class to have a day where they can dress up as an animal or
       someone to do with the zoo.
   •   Allow children to work with clay to create their own elephants and their
       own animals that you might find in the zoo.
   •   With paints, allow children to mix colours: black and white to make grey,
       blue and yellow to make green, red and yellow to make orange.
       Experiment with different mixtures to make different shades.
   •   Allow children to paint their own elephant on a large piece of black paper.
   •   Look at the different shapes that appear in the book.
   •   Make a list of these.
   •   Look for songs about elephants and other animals and sing them together.
   •   Have different children pretend to be an elephant - large and slow, and
       others to be the mice. Allow children to depict these roles.

About the author / illustrator:

Elise Hurst (nee Fowler) is a full-time artist, living and working in Princes Hill,
Victoria. Elise grew up in an artistic family and was painting pastel landscapes
while at school. With a background in fine art, she now works predominantly as
an illustrator and is also the author of several picture books. She has won many
awards for her artwork.
Her previous Lothian book was A Dream of Bunyips Dancing, which she wrote
and illustrated.