Standard Lesson

Shhh! Bear's Sleeping: Learning About Nonfiction and Fiction Using Read-Alouds

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 45-minute sessions
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Read-alouds provide an unmatched opportunity to engage students and motivate them to learn. This lesson uses read-alouds of Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky to teach about the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. Students are encouraged to participate in the read-alouds and to use singing and finger play to make meaning out of the printed words. As a final project, students use the knowledge they have gained to write a class book.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • According to research, all ages benefit from quality read-alouds. Reading aloud is the most important activity to build the knowledge needed for successful readers.

  • For younger students, reading aloud nurtures their language development and motivates them to read. Read-alouds increase real world knowledge and comprehension.

  • Quality read-aloud experiences must include a variety of books that capture the interests of students.

  • Children see books as worthwhile and become lifelong readers if they participate in quality read-alouds with an adult.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2002)

  • Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky (Putnam, 1996)

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Overhead transparencies and projector

  • Small paper bags (e.g., lunch bags)

  • Art supplies




1. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Every Autumn Comes a Bear by Jim Arnosky. The first is a fictional picture book that shows a bear sleeping in his cave while other animals join him for a midwinter party, eventually waking him up. The second is a nonfiction book about a bear that shows up at a farm every autumn. The story tells about a series of routines the bear does before finding a den among the hilltop boulders where he sleeps all winter.

2. Practice reading the two books aloud, preparing to pause and ask students questions as you do so. You may want to write some of the following prompts on sticky notes.

Questions for Bear Snores On:
  • (Page 1) Where is the bear?

  • (Pages 2-3) Why do you think the bear is curled up?

  • (Pages 4-5) Why is Mouse building a fire? Will it wake Bear?

  • (Pages 10-11) Why does Hare look frightened?

  • (Pages 12-13) What is in Badger's bag?

  • (Pages 14-15) Would it be hard to sleep if someone was crunching on nuts?

  • (Pages 16-19) What are the animals doing while Bear is sleeping? Would real animals do this?

  • (Pages 20-21) Mouse is adding something to the stew. What is it? Why is the mouse cooking?

  • (Pages 22-23) What is Bear doing? What made him sneeze?

  • (Pages 24-25) Why is Bear so grouchy? Would a real bear be grouchy?

  • (Pages 26-27) Bear is crying. Why?

  • (Page 30) Who is sleeping now?
Questions for Every Autumn Comes a Bear:
  • (Pages 1-4) What is the setting of the story?

  • (Pages 5-6) Can you tell what season it is? How?

  • (Pages 7-12) What do you think the bear is searching for?

  • (Pages 13-14) Where is the raccoon? What is the bear doing?

  • (Pages 15-21) As we look at the next few pages, what other animals are in the forest with the bear? Does the bear notice the other animals?

  • (Pages 22-23) What season is it now?

  • (Pages 24-25) Where is the bear going? What will he do there? Do you remember another name for a den?

  • (Pages 26-28) Why do you think the bear is curled up? How long will he stay in the den?
3. Use the National Geographic Kids: Brown Bears, North American Bear Center, National Wildlife Foundation: Grizzly Bear, and the NatureWorks: Grizzly Bear websites to find information to share about bears and hibernation. Pick the amount and type of information that is appropriate for your students (see Session 2, Step 1). You can also use the Facts About Brown Bears handout with your students.

4. Copy "Big Paws" and "Little Bear" from CanTeach: Songs & Poems - Bears and "Bear Finger Play" from Bear Unit: Mrs. Fischer's Kinder-Themes on chart paper or overhead transparencies. Practice the song "Little Bear," which is sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques," and the finger motions that accompany "Bear Finger Play."

5. Make a paper-bag bear puppet using the Bear Puppet Template to show students as an example.

6. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Stapleless Book. Make a transparency of the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Practice using prior knowledge to predict what will happen in a story

  • Actively participate in read-alouds of various texts by using songs, finger play, and puppets

  • Gain knowledge by learning about the hibernation of bears and by exploring the differences between fiction and nonfiction

  • Apply that knowledge and practice working collaboratively to write a story about bears

Session 1

1. Display the poem "Big Paws." Before you read it aloud, ask students to think about what animal the poem is describing. When you have finished sharing the poem, ask students what the animal is. Then ask them to tell you what clues told them it was a bear. You might write these clues on a piece of chart paper under the heading "About Bears." Ask students what the poem says bears do in the winter.

2. Introduce the story Bear Snores On by taking students on a picture walk through the book. As you look at the pictures, elicit students' responses about what the other animal characters are doing while the bear is sleeping. Ask students if they know what the words lair and hibernate mean, working toward the following definitions, which you can add to the "About Bears" list:
  • lair - a sleeping or resting place for wild animals; a den

  • hibernate - to spend the winter in a resting or sleeping state
3. Tell students that as you read, they should think about whether what happens in the story is true or not. Tell them that this story repeats the words "but the bear snores on" throughout the story and that they will help you by reading "but the bear snores on" with you.

4. Read aloud Bear Snores On. Allow students to say "but the bear snores on" as it occurs in the story.

5. After you are done reading, talk about whether what happened in the story is true or made up. Why do they think so? Questions for discussion include:
  • Do they think that real animals would sneak into a bear's cave during the winter? Why or why not?

  • Would real animals cook food using utensils, pots and pans, or campfires? Why or why not?

  • How do real animals communicate? Can real animals be friends?

  • How would a real bear treat small animals?
6. Read the story again, pausing to ask the questions you prepared in advance (see Preparation, Step 2).

Session 2

1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the "About Bears" list and asking students if they have anything to add to it. When they are finished sharing, discuss the other information you have prepared for them (see Preparation, Step 3). Record information they did not know on the chart paper for use in Session 3.

2. Display the song "Little Bear" (from CanTeach: Songs & Poems - Bears). After you sing the first verse, ask students to sing along with you.

3. Display the "Bear Finger Play" poem (from Bear Unit: Mrs. Fischer's Kinder-Themes). Demonstrate how students should use their fingers to act out the motions. Ask students if there is anything in the poem that should be added to the "About Bears" list.

4. Show students the bear puppet you have created. Have students create their own puppets using the Bear Puppet Template. Ask students to name their puppets. Collect the puppets to be used during Session 5.

Session 3

1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the "Bear Finger Play" poem. Review how to do the finger motions as you read aloud the poem.

2. Review the "About Bears" list. Talk about the story Bear Snores On and how what happens in the story is similar or different from the information on the chart paper. Tell them that today you are going to read a true story about bears and hibernation.

3. Show students Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky. Tell students that this book will give information about real bears. As they take a picture walk through Every Autumn Comes the Bear, they will try to predict where bears live, what they do just before winter, and where they will stay during the cold winter months. Use the prompts you prepared (see Preparation, Step 2) to take a picture walk through the story. After the picture walk, ask students where they think bears live, what bears do to prepare for winter, and where bears spend the winter months.

4. Read aloud Every Autumn Comes the Bear. At the end of the story, ask students if their predictions about bears were correct. Discuss with students that bears:
  • Live in forested mountains, meadows, or river valleys.

  • Prepare for winter by drinking water and eating lots of food to store extra fat.

  • Dig a den or look for a cave to stay during winter.

  • Curl up in a den to conserve heat.

  • Live off stored fat during the winter.

  • Hibernate or sleep all winter.
Ask students if they need to add any new facts to the "About Bears" chart.

5. Using one sheet of paper with the heading "Ways Bear Snores On and Every Autumn Comes the Bear are similar" and one with the heading "Ways Bear Snores On and Every Autumn Comes the Bear are different," help students compare the two books. Similarities might include the fact that both stories are about a bear hibernating in a den or lair, both include additional animal characters, both take place in winter, and both show bears sleeping in a curled position. Differences might include that the animals talk and cook stew in the fiction story, the drawings look more realistic in the nonfiction story, the bear is friendly with the other animals in the fiction story but not in the nonfiction story, and that other animals share the bear's den in the fiction story.

Session 4

1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the "About Bears" chart. Invite students to share any additional facts about bears and hibernation that are not included on it.

2. Tell students that they will be writing a book using some of the facts from the "About Bears" chart.

3. Take a vote about whether the class book should be fiction or nonfiction. Work with students to choose appropriate facts from the "About Bears" chart to use in the story. If students decide to write a fictional book, talk about what aspects of the book will be fictional. (Will the bear have friends? Will he wear clothes?) If the book will be nonfiction, decide what aspect of a bear's existence the book will focus on (for example, hibernation).

4. On a blank sheet of chart paper, write down the facts or sentences you develop together and ask students what order they think they should appear. You might choose to number the facts or sentences or to rewrite them in the correct order.

5. Show the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet. Using the sentences you have developed together, write one on each page. Ask students to help you choose a title for the book and what type of layout you will use for each page.

Session 5

Note: Before you begin this session, use the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet you created with your class and the Stapleless Book online tool to create the class book. Make a copy for each student.

1. Read aloud the class book, pausing at the end of each page to ask students what types of illustrations they think could be used.

2. When you are finished reading aloud, allow students to illustrate their books.

3. Allow students to share their books and the puppets they made during Session 2 with each other. They might choose to read the books to their puppets or have the puppets read the books aloud to each other. Emergent readers might choose to have their puppets act out the book's events.


  • Find pairs of rhyming words in Bear Snores On. Ask students what makes words rhyme. Have them use ReadWriteThink's online Construct-a-Word tool to make rhyming words.

  • Read Karma Wilson's other stories Bear Wants More (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2003) and Bear Stays Up for Christmas (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2004). The rhymes and repetition in these stories make them great read-alouds.

  • Place other books about bears in your classroom library including:
  • Where Do Bears Sleep? by Barbara Shook Hazen (HarperFestival, 1998)

  • Sleepy Bear by Lydia Dabcovich (Puffin, 1985)

  • Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox (Harcourt, 1999)

  • Brown Bears by Diana Star Helmer (PowerKids Press, 1997)

  • Bears are Curious by Joyce Milton (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1998)

  • Grizzly Bears by Patricia Kendell (Raintree Steck-Vaughan Publishers, 2003)

  • Where is Bear? By Leslea Newman (Gulliver Books, 2004)
  • Visit Karma Wilson's website and Jim Arnosky's Outdoor Journal. On Karma Wilson's website, you will find a teacher resource page with recommended activities and links and a picture of a real bear's paw print. Jim Arnosky's website has an example of a simple nonfiction story and numerous coloring pages.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe students' participation during the read-alouds, finger plays, and songs. Are students listening actively and answering questions?

  • Take anecdotal notes about what students report about bears during Session 1 and what they know about bears during Session 4 when you are working on the class book. You may choose to give students a short quiz where you ask them questions from the "About Bears" list.

  • Assess how well students can distinguish between fiction and nonfiction during discussions of the two books and while the class book is being created. You might also choose two books on a different topic and ask students to identify which one is fiction and which one is nonfiction after a read-aloud session. Discuss why they made the choices they did.