As you start back to school after Hurricane Irma, a book you may want to consider using in your therapy is Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne.  Calvin is what you would call a very unusual starling.  While his siblings and cousins are learning to fly, Calvin is much more interested in books about pirates, dinosaurs, and other interesting topics.  While the other starlings soared through the air, Calvin dreamed of becoming a great writer.  The other starlings called him names, and poor Calvin realizes that when it is time to migrate, he can’t fly.  As the other starlings carry him in the air, Calvin notices on their way south, how the winds are blowing hard, how the trees are bending, and how the air starts to smell strange.  Calvin knows it is a hurricane!!  Because Calvin read about hurricanes, only he can save the day for all the starlings!!

Calvin is a great story about perseverance, friendship, and kindness.  Using this book, you can focus on the Narrative Macrostructure (Character, setting, kick-off/initiating event, feeling, plan, planned attempts, direct consequence, and resolution), Narrative Microstructure (mental state verbs, cohesive ties, etc.) and expository text structures (descriptive, compare/contrast, list, sequence, cause/effect, problem/solution, persuade/convince/argument).  You could focus on key vocabulary such as starling, eaves, swoop, hover, soar, flutter, migration, and formation.  The list is really endless with the language skills that can be targeted using this book.

What is really ideal about using this book now, is that all of your students now have prior knowledge about hurricanes.  I’m sure they will want to share their experiences, and compare their experience with Calvin’s.  You can use the Think Aloud Strategy to help your students learn to verbally describe their prior knowledge about hurricanes with the content in the book.  It is a great opportunity to start an academic notebook with your students so they can record and represent their knowledge using pictures, graphic organizers, and text.

If you don’t have this book in your school media center, take a look at some of the videos on the internet of the story being read.  Here’s one to try:

I have included some lesson plans and activities I have found using Calvin Can’t Fly.  Be sure to look at the information from MindWing using this book to work on both narrative skills, and expository text structures.

Enjoy!  I would love some feedback on what you focused on with your students, and how your sessions went.

Jane Hastings, MMSc, CCC-SLP


Follow the links below for resources that include different lesson plans and worksheets for your students.

Do Your Best Intermediate Lesson Plan for Calvin Can’t Fly

Calvin Can’t Fly Expository Features and Social Situations

Source Credit: Kate Naritaat
Book Author: Jennifer Berne
Publisher: Sterling
ISBN: 978-1-4027-7323-5

FROM THE FLAP: Calvin was born under the eaves of an old barn with his three brothers, four sisters, and sixty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-two cousins. Calvin may be one of many, but he’s certainly different from the rest.

While the other little starlings learn to swoop and hover and fly figure eights, Calvin buries his beak in books. In the library his mind soars, taking him places his wings never could.

KATE’S TAKE: A fun fall read that celebrates books and being one’s self.

FALL FUN BOOKS: Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial, and Intrapersonal
Give each student a piece of paper with the sentence starter: In the fall I like to_____________. Ask each student to finish the sentence and draw a picture to go with it. Then, have students illustrate their sentences. Put each sheet in a three ring binder and make a class book to send home with the students.

FORMATION TAG-Bodily/Kinesthetic and Naturalist
Discuss the possible reasons why starlings might fly in formations. One reason is to protect themselves from possible predators such as hawks. Take students outside to play a game of predator vs. prey tag, hawks vs. the starlings. As the starlings try to cross from one line to the other, they’ll learn the benefit of flying in a group vs. flying solo.

STARLING BLACK BIRDS-Musical and Bodily Kinesthetic
These lyrics are adapted from Music Together
Starlings black birds-put hands in your armpits and flap wings
Crow flying round-flap arms out at your side
Nut hatch hopping down the tree-have one hand hop down your opposite arm
Chickadee, dee, dee, dee-hold both hands out front and open and close fingers to thumb like a bird beak, using quick, small motions
Caw, caw, caw, caw-do same motion as chickadee but open the beaks wider and at a slower pace
Repeat chickadee line and actions four times
This is a fun song to sing in a round, too.

Starlings form all sorts of amazing formations while flying through the sky. Ask each student to outline their favorite shape on a large piece of sky blue construction paper. Make bird stamps out of a potato or apple and have kids stamp multiple bird shapes inside their outline.

Divide a 8×11 sheet of paper into 6 parts. Trace a flying bird shape into each section. Write one of the following six words on each bird: Starlings fly south for the winter. Make enough copies for the class. Ask each student to cut out the six birds and glue them in order onto a long strip of paper made from a 11×18 sheet of construction paper cut in half length wise and stapled together. Ask students to glue the birds down in order on their paper.

Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss
How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
The Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
Wolf! by Becky Bloom



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