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Charlotte's Web Critique, Analysis, and Activities for Lesson Plans

Charlotte's Web
$8.99
By E. B. White, Kate DiCamillo

Whether you're an educator or a parent, a good critique analysis can be quite a useful guide in getting the most out of a book.  Here is a brief breakdown of E.B. White's classic, Charlotte's web, loved not only for its wonderment, but also for its layered messages and beautiful-coming-of age rendition.  Its qualities make Charlotte's Web a fine choice for a variety of age groups and developmental levels.  Chances are, this is one story that will be read more than once, for just those reasons.  Lesson plan ideas are included at the end. 

 White, E.B.   Charlotte's Web.  Ill. Garth Williams.  New York: Harper Collins, 1980. 

Category: Animal Fantasy

Approximate Age Group:  Middle Elementary

Analysis:

 This book is a classic animal fantasy.  Wilber and the rest of the Zuckermans' farm animals have the ability to speak.  Their emotions are big, and they do their best to reason.

One of the main themes of this story concerns death, both physical (that of the wise and eloquent Charlotte), and metaphoric (that of a friendship between Fern and Wilbur, or one could say a loss of innocence to both).  Animal fantasies provide places and characters that ease the seriousness of issues such as this. 

White provides humor and a unique animation of the characters through dialogue.  The dialects here match the personalities of the animals.  For example, the goose has a wonderful stutter: "At-at-at the risk of repeating myself..." 

in this story, the setting is both integral and backdrop and follows the moods and themes of the story.  Weather and seasons are of integral and metaphorical importance to the setting, even more so because Wilbur's story takes place over the span of a year, from spring to spring, from his birth to the birth of Charlotte's babies.  In the summer, there is life, and growth and friendships, and, "Dandelion stems are filled with milk." 

The point of view throughout the story is third person, a good choice for this particular story.  It allows the reader to experience this story from a more rounded view of the characters and their actions, without the overpowering effect of an omniscient narrator or the one-sidedness of first person. 

 

Flat characters such as Charlotte, Templeton, and the other farm animals help give stability to the story and help us better see the changes and growth of our two rounded characters, Fern and Wilbur.  The chronological episodic plot also serves this purpose well, each chapter following the episodes of Wilbur's life, and so that of Fern. 

The simple, straightforward plot line, and the full, animated use of dialogue, makes this a choice read-aloud book.  The end of each chapter provides a good transitional stopping point for when the story needs to be divided into more than one sitting.

Activities

Have the children write a journal entry as Wilbur to Charlotte's babies, telling them what kind of a "spider" their mother was and what she meant to him.

Great opportunity to visit a small local animal farm with small farm animals such as pigs and geese or ducks.

Have students design their own web with a feel-good, fabulous word in it and display them.  You can make a list on the smart board of x amount of adjectives or phrases (depending on the amount of students) and assign one to each student (they can choose from a hat as well). 

Talk about some of the things each student would do differently than the characters of Charlotte's Web, like maybe some different decisions they would have made along the way.

Talk about fears and ways to overcome those fears.

Great opportunity to talk about unlikely friendships and what each child has to offer another friend and what they look for in a friend.

Take a photo of each child and have them place their face on their favorite character (pre drawn or they can draw it themselves).

Have your own great activity?  You can share in the comments below.