Using Hands-On Activities and Resources for Teaching The One and Only Ivan

Novel Studies that Promote Higher-Order Thinking

If you read my Wonder post, you know that there is a great way to incorporate novel studies into your literacy classroom! No, not your traditional comprehension question and vocabulary novel study. A new and improved novel study.

“I’m not like a regular novel study. I’m a cool novel study.”

Teaching The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate has totally stolen my heart with this sweet story of friendship and freedom. The One and Only Ivan is a good choice for early novel studies. This story may be “easy” to read, but it touches on important matters of the heart!

I’m sure that your students like animals as much as the rest of us! And, I am also sure that they will enjoy reading a story about a gorilla, two elephants and even a little dog.  Along with a few other side characters, this novel takes you into the minds of four animals that call a local mall “home.”

The book has short chapters, that are divided by characters. So, you will be changing perspectives quite often. Taking a closer look at the characters thoughts and actions will allow you and your students to find themes that are present throughout the story. I suggest incorporating some element of reading aloud so that students can “hear” the different voices of the characters. I have found that hearing different voices encourages students to shift “voices” in their minds, while they are reading independently. This simple tool helps students when analyzing characters and organizing the plot.

Read on for more tips on how to break down this novel. 

Digging Deep with The One and Only Ivan Workbook

Like I previously mentioned, this novel study isn’t like typical novel studies. This printable workbook includes lessons an activities that allow students to apply a variety of literacy skills. They will be working on comprehension, plot and character analysis, theme, vocabulary, writing, figurative language and so much more!

The One and Only Ivan workbook will help you and your students break down this novel! It promotes higher-order thinking and comes with a variety of rigorous activities. Like the Wonder Workbook, this one has also been designed to meet each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students will be able to really dig deep into understanding the novel with activities under each of the following sections: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate and Create. Below are *some* of the ideas to incorporate from each section of the workbook.

Remember: This is where you will find comprehension questions for each section! Students can work through these independently, as partners or groups, or they can be used as a guide for discussion.

Understand:Have students dive into the plot! Use the chapter illustrations to have students represent the events from the story. OR use the Extended Plot Structure activity to activate students’ literacy skills!

Apply: Examine the TRUE story of Ivan, the mall gorilla and conduct animal research projects! Study the characters’ development throughout the novel. Get into Ivan, Stella, Ruby, Mack, Julia and Bob’s minds with the Characterization Flipbook!

Analyze: Identify strengths and traits of the characters with the Novel Trophies activity! Use the complexity wheel to drive discussion of the novel.

Evaluate: Use the Key Principles activity to compare principals and principles and their importance to the story. Think like a novelist! Pull back the layers of the story with the literary elements focus lesson or the identifying themes activity.

Create: Design a Zoo with the extension activity! Or have students use the Theme Project Menu to create individual projects!

The activities and lessons that come with this novel study will provide students with an interactive, hands-on approach to reading. They will be reading, writing, illustrating, creating, speaking, researching, discussing and so, so much more!

If you and your students would like a workbook full of activities that foster a holistic approach to reading, check out The One and Only Ivan Workbook. 


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Welcome! My name is Brittany Jeltema, also known as The SuperHERO Teacher, and I am a curriculum designer and classroom flipper. I have a strong passion for helping teachers reach as many students as possible through creativity, engagement, and empowerment!

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