By Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Keith Baker
(Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993)
Obviously, Elephants Aloft is a terrific way to introduce prepositions
(or "location words"). On each page Rama and Raja demonstrate
the actual meaning of the illustrated word. Some activities that you might
do with your children are:
- On a set of large index cards, write a series of prepositions, one
on each card. Give each student a card and have him or her demonstrate
the meaning. For instance, the student with the word "beside"
might choose to stand beside the pencil sharpener. The student with
the word "over" might decide to hold one object over another
- With the same set of cards, have each student write a sentence on
the back, using the preposition. Have them use Rama and Raja in their
sentences. Then you could have the students form a circle and read their
Student A: Rama and Raja stepped into the puddle.
Student B: Rama and Raja walked along the riverbank.
Student C: The balloon squeezed between two tall buildings.
In this way, the students create their own story. (It can be just as
silly as they want to make it.)
- In groups, the students can extend #2 into making their own books.
Have them use words that aren't found in the actual book.
- Explore the language of the book itself. I chose the names Rama and
Raja from the BHAGAVAD GITA, an ancient holy text for the Hindu religion.
Rama means "joy" and Raja means "energy." Auntie
Rwanda was named after the African country, Rwanda.
- On a map that includes India and Africa, trace the route that Rama
and Raja took to get from one place to the other.
- Try to find some of the places they might have seen, such as the Taj
Mahal. What ocean would you cross if you were flying from India to Africa?
At one point in the book, Rama and Raja walk behind a waterfall. What
famous waterfall in Africa might that be? Is it north or south of Rwanda?
- Use this book to talk about the countries of India and Rwanda. What
is special and unique about each of them? What other animals would you
find in each country? Are there really mountain goats in India? Rwanda
was the site for Diane Fossey's important studies about the mountain
gorillas--are they still there? What kinds of plants grow in these countries?
SCIENCE & MATH
- There are only two kinds of elephants left on earth. Both of them
are in this book. What kinds of elephants are Rama and Raja? What kind
is Auntie Rwanda?
- What kinds of elephants are now extinct? Where did they live?
- What do elephants eat? How much do they eat? What kind of habitats
do they prefer? Do all elephants live in herds? Why or why not?
- What kinds of weather are best for flying hot air balloons? What kinds
of phenomena are required for flying them? For advanced students, you
could calculate how large a hot air balloon would have to be to lift
two young elephants.
- Using average wind speeds of ten miles an hour, how long would it
take to travel from say, the Taj Mahal to Rwanda?
- Rama and Raja aren't the first Indian natives to migrate to Africa.
South Africa especially has a large Indian population. What famous Indian
peacemaker lived there?
- Elephants are used for all kinds of tasks, from entertainment to hard
work. Have your students research the ways that humans have employed
- Rwanda is a mountainous country. Are elephants good mountain climbers?
What famous general used elephants to climb the Alps in Italy? Why?
- Some elephants have become famous--Black Diamond and Jumbo are two.
Can you think of others?
- Sadly, elephants today are the victims of poachers who kill them for
their ivory tusks. They are also being squeezed out of their natural
habitats. What steps are being taken today to protect elephants? What
other animals have ivory tusks?
- If you could take a journey by hot air balloon, where would you go?
What would do along the way? Who would you visit? What would you see?
- Tell about a trip that you've taken. Where did you go? Who went with
you? What did you do? How long were you gone?
- What if you could go anywhere you wanted? Would you take a hot air
balloon? You might prefer a train or a rocket or even a time machine.
Tell all about your journey. What places would you pass along the way?
- Do you have an aunt or an uncle, a close friend, or another relative
who lives far away? Write that person a letter today. Tell him or her
all the places you would see if you came to visit in a hot air balloon.
P.S. If you have a good idea for ways to use this book, please let me
know. You can write to me care of Harcourt Brace & Co., 125 B Street,
Suite 1900, San Diego, CA 92101 or email me at
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