Carlo Collodi (pen name of Carlo Lorenzini) wrote his Adventures of Pinocchio in 1883. The book told the story of a wooden puppet who dreamed of being a real boy. American students usually are more familiar with Walt Disney’s 1940 animated film version of Pinocchio.
In either version, the action begins with Gepetto, a cobbler or toymaker who yearns for a son. He comes by a piece of sentient wood and carves it into a puppet. Finding that the puppet can speak and move, Gepetto makes sacrifices to send Pinocchio to school. On the way, Pinocchio is led astray and has various adventures. His desire to be good is in perpetual conflict with his gullibility and distractible nature, but he is rewarded when good and punished when bad. He gets in and out of scrapes, aided on an emergency basis by the Blue Fairy, and at last finds himself in the belly of a shark or whale — where he finds Gepetto, who has been looking for him throughout his adventures. Together, they escape and return home, where Pinocchio becomes a real boy and Gepetto rejoices to have a son at last.
Pinocchio is a fairy tale rather than a folktale, since it contains magic and in fact contains a fairy, but there is also an author, unlike the many fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and other folklorists.
- You can read Pinocchio here, page by page, with the 1927 illustrations.
- This shorter version of the story is printable.
- Here’s an illustrated online story book.
- The Story of Pinocchio is a nicely illustrated picture book.
- Disney’s Pinocchio may be the most familiar version for many kids.
There are a lot of different episodes in the story. Divide the class into groups and give each group an episode to retell. The retelling could be a labeled drawing, an acting out of the scene, a puppet play (check out the Pinnochio Hand Puppet ) or a tableau with a narrated summary of the scene.
Put the titles of the episodes onto sentence strips and tuck them into a pocket chart, letting the class give you the order in which they occur in the story. Then let the small groups present their episodes in order.
Here are some printables for Pinocchio:
- A basic worksheet for young children.
- Enjoy coloring sheets based on the 1940 Disney film illustrations.
- Use this pattern to make a paper Pinocchio marionette. You can also find a Pinocchio Hand Puppet ready-made.
- A mask to print out will help with retellings, or make a fun start for a bulletin board.
Once the story is clear, consider some cross-curricular connections:
- One big issue in Pinocchio is the distinction between real vs. imaginary things and events. Pinocchio is a living puppet made of sentient wood, but he wants to be a real boy. Use a Venn diagram to list the characteristics of a real boy and of Pinocchio, as presented in the story.
- Take the sentence strips showing the episodes of the story and sort them into things that really could happen and things that could not.
- Have students rewrite the episodes to be more realistic for daily life. For example, the equivalent of being lured away to “Toyland” might be being drawn into drug use. Is it possible to see the story of Pinocchio as being symbolic of real things?
- At the end of the story, Pinocchio becomes real, through having had kind impulses and unselfish actions. In what sense is this characteristic of “real” people? Is this a different use of the word “real”?
- This Pinocchio logic puzzle is a challenging one.
- One of the most memorable episodes in the story is the one in which Pinocchio tells a lie and his nose gets longer. Many people have mental subsets or rules about lying; for example, some may feel that lying is acceptable when it is intended to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or that some kinds of untruths are too small to count as real lies. Hold a debate on the question “Is it ever okay to lie?”
- Another character issue, especially in the Disney version of the story, is the contrast between “following your dreams” and following rules, between doing what you want and doing what you should, between pleasing yourself and pleasing others. Middle school students often face these dilemmas. Use Pinocchio’s experience of this as a discussion and writing prompt.
- It is easy to find political cartoons portraying various figures with long noses to symbolize lying. This is a great example of how a piece of shared cultural knowledge makes it possible to convey an idea efficiently. It is also an interesting way to bring political cartoons into the lesson (they show up in our frameworks year after year, so you need some new ideas). If you make a classroom collection of these, you might want to make an effort to keep it fairly even between political parties.
- Mix current events and character education with an interesting lesson plan on lie detectors and ethics. The lesson includes truth and bluff games, data on lie detectors and their historical forerunners, and references.
- In addition to real vs. imaginary, Pinocchio also focuses on living vs. nonliving. A tree is a living thing, but can a piece of wood be living? This is a good time to sort familiar things into living and nonliving. After sorting, have students state their criteria. Does it breathe, grow, and/or move? This triumverate of criteria was the oneSesame Street taught, and it’s not a bad start. Depending on grade level, consider other means of sorting, and have students create a flow chart for making decisions about whether things are living or not.
- “The Pinocchio Effect” describes research being done on lying. This is an interesting article on a scientific field that is not often discussed in our classrooms.
- Check out sapient pearwood, a type of wood in the novels of Terry Pratchett. To practice hypothesis testing, begin with the hypothesis that Pinocchio was made of sapient pearwood and search the article (at the link) and the story to find evidence to prove or disprove this hypothesis.
- The story of Pinocchio comes from Italy. Study about Italy, using this collection of links as a starting point.
- Pinocchio is a story about a puppet, but also about a father and son, and especially about a man who wants to be a father, but is not able to. Read the story for images of fathers it offers. If Pinocchio describes characteristics of fathers in 19th century Italy, can we conclude that fathers are different in 21st century America? Have students write about ways that their fathers are like or unlike Gepetto.
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