Good Night, Gorilla Lesson Plans

Is Peggy Rathmann’s Good Night, Gorilla really a classic? I think so. For little children, this nearly wordless book provides just the right amount of plot and character. There’s wit and suspense. If you’re three, it’s absolutely gripping.

The story is simple. The gorilla steals the zookeeper’s keys as the zookeeper is bidding all the animls goodnight. The gorilla frees all the animals, and they follow the zookeeper around the zoo as he says his goodnights, and then home. All the animals cuddle down in the zookeeper’s bedroom while he goes to bed, without being noticed. When the zookeeper’s wife tells him “Goodnight,” though, all the animals answer in a page of solid black with multiple “good night” speech bubbles. The zookeeper’s wife returns all the animals to the zoo — almost!

Here are some ideas for ways to use this book in your classroom:

  • Read it aloud first, just for fun.
  • Ask students to list all the animals they remember from the book. Go back through and find them all. Write a list of all the animals on the board, or make word cards for each animal to use all year for literacy work.
  • The next time through, ask “What’s he doing?” “What are they doing?” “What is she doing?” and get a nice collection of verbs going. Words like “going” and “taking” will come up, but you can also suggest words like “creeping” and “leading.” Afterwards, close the book and ask questions like “What did they do?” and  “What did she do next?”
  • There is no better book for learning “Good night” as a sightword phrase. Turn the book around and point to all the repetitions of the word, letting your students read it out loud.
  • I also like this book for learning about the letter G. We have the Gs in “good,” “night,” and “giraffe,” which pretty well covers the letter’s sounds.
  • I like the fact that the zookeeper’s wife just kindly returns all the animals to the zoo, instead of getting upset or angry. Talk about times when people can choose to fix a problem calmly.
  • National Geographic’s Gorilla Page is a great introduction to gorillas.
  • Make a zoo animals rhythm band with beautiful patterns from Jan Brett.
  • Finish up by discussing how quiet the animals must have been for the zookeeper not to notice them. Ask the children all to be that quiet. This can lead into nap time, or just give a brief respite in a boisterous day.

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