Bill Thomson's "The Typewriter" | A Lesson Plan

In his most recent book, The Typewriter, Bill Thomson delivers another visual adventure celebrating the power of the imagination. Here are some suggestions for using it in the classroom.
the typewriter In his most recent book, Bill Thomson, author and illustrator of Chalk (2010) and Fossil (2013), delivers another visual adventure celebrating the power of the imagination. The Typewriter (2016, all Two Lions; Gr 1-5), follows three children who discover an old manual machine one winter afternoon. As the children type words onto a piece of paper, they become transported into exciting —and sometimes scary—scenarios that they have created. “Beach” brings them to the seashore, “ice cream” produces a huge bucket of the treat, complete with shovels to eat it, while “crab,” sends a giant crustacean chasing after them. Like the other titles in Thomson's (nearly wordless) trilogy, the images in Typewriter are rendered in the artist's photo-realistic style featuring unusual and close-up perspectives. As the author/illustrator notes in his blog, “Wordless stories require the participation of young readers and offer the opportunity to create unique narratives by interpreting what is seen in the illustrations. This allows readers to develop an understanding of story structure, establish characters and settings, and hone prediction, sequence and inference skills.” In the lesson plan below, Dawn Jacobs Martin offers a wealth of standards-based suggestions on using Thomson's The Typewriter in elementary classrooms.

 A Lesson Plan for Bill Thomson's The Typewriter

by Dawn Jacobs Martin

Teaching note: This guide is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Reading (Literature).  As students answer each question please encourage them to support their claims with textual evidence. Guiding Questions: Pre-reading
  1. Vocabulary
    1. Ask: What is a typewriter? (Child Friendly Definition: A machine that lets people write letters and words on a piece of paper). How is a typewriter similar to a computer? How is it different? (show students several pictures of typewriters or a video of a person typing).  Let’s make typing fingers (have students pretend to type in the air) as we say the word typewriter 3x. (Reading Literature: Craft and Structure: RL.K.4, RL.1.4)
    2. For English Language Learners or Additional Support: Instructional Note. Preview the key words in the story by providing pictures and child-friendly definitions. The key words are as follows: Beach, Ball, Ice Cream, Crab, and Big Wave.
  1. Activating Background
    1. Ask: What is the role of the illustrator? Who is the illustrator of this book? How do you think this book will be different from stories with an author and illustrator? We are about to read a book with very few words and lots of illustrations. We will need to become reading detectives and look closely at the pictures to figure out what is happening in the story. (Reading Literature: Craft and Structure: RL.K.6, RL.1.6)
  1. Predictions
    1. Ask: Take a look at the cover of the book and the title.  What do you think this book is going to be about?  Next, review the first three pages of the book. Is there anything that you want to add to your prediction or change? (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.1, RL.1.1)
    2. Additional Support Prompts: On the first three pages of the book, where are the children? Which clues from the pictures helped you draw that conclusion? What do the children find? How do they find the typewriter? What do you think they will do with the typewriter?
Guiding Questions: During Reading
  1. Go to the page with the girl in pink holding a piece of paper. Ask: Why is the piece of paper important?  Why does a typewriter need a piece of paper? As we read it’s important we remember our important vocabulary word, typewriter. (Reading Literature: Craft and Structure: RL.K.4, RL.1.4)
    1. Extension Questions: The words on the front of the typewriter tell us the brand. What kind of typewriter did the children find? Why is the name “Spelling Bee” important? Where did the children find the typewriter?
  1. Go to the pages with the three children sitting around the typewriter with a blank paper. Ask: What letters can you find on the typewriter box? Which letters are capitalized? Which letters are lowercase? What sounds do the letters make? Are there any words that you can make with the letters on the box? What do you think the children will do next? (Reading Foundational Skills: Phonics and Word Recognition: RFS.Ka, RFS.1b)
    1. Additional Support: On the next page the illustrator will show the typewriter keys, each key has a printed letter. Let’s search for the letters that we’ve been learning about on the typewriter. What sounds do the letters make?
    2. Extension Activity: Every time a new word appears in the typewriter try to sound it out and then say it smoothly.
  1. Instructional Note. Each time a new word appears in the typewriter ask students to predict what will happen on the next page. Be sure to have students discuss whether their prediction was accurate when you arrive on the next page. For example, stop on the page with the first word (i.e., Beach) that the children type, and pose the questions below.  (Reading Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: RL.K.7, RL.1.7)
    1. Ask: What is happening in this picture? What do you think will happen on the next page? Why? (turn page) Based on the picture, did your prediction come true?
  1. Go to the page with the illustration of the giant “Crab.” Ask: How do you think the characters feel about the crab? Use the illustrations and think about how you might feel in that situation to guide your answer. (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.1, RL.1.1)
    1. Additional Support: Right now act out what you would do if a giant crab was chasing you?
    2. Extension Questions: Using the clues in the illustrations, draw three pictures that show how the characters feel during the beginning, middle, and end of the story. How do the character’s feelings change during the story?
  1. Go to the page with the illustration of the giant “Crab” being washed away to sea. Ask:  What do you think will happen next? What does it mean to say “The End?”  Can you think of another story we have read that concludes with these words? Can you think of another story where the characters have an adventure at the beach? (Reading Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: RL.K.9, RL.1.9)
  1. Go to the last two pages of the story. Ask: What happens to the typewriter? Do you think the children did the right thing? Why or why not? Use evidence from the story to support your ideas. (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.1, RL.1.1)
Guiding Questions: After Reading
  1. Ask: Is this story fiction or non-fiction? Why? Use evidence from the text to support your response. (Reading Literature: Craft and Structure: RL.K.5, RL.1.)
  1. Instructional Note. Students benefit from the opportunity to keep notebooks about stories that they read during the year. The notebooks can be comprised of illustrations, words, and/or descriptive sentences. To help students become familiar with the process complete the following steps, (a) collaboratively draw a picture on a large piece of paper, (b) add details from the story to the picture, (c) and label the details. (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.1, RL.1.1)
    1. Ask: Draw a picture in your journal to show a part of the story that is important. Be sure your picture has lots of details about the characters and events.
    2. Extension Activity: Write 1-3 sentences about what is happening in your picture.
  1. Ask: Let’s talk about the important events in the story. How are the items that appear during the story similar?  What happened in the beginning, middle, and end of the story? (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.2, RL.1.2)
    1. Additional Support: Open the book and allow students to use pictures as they retell the items and events that from the story.
    2. Extension Question: What do you think happens after the children leave the typewriter?
  1. Ask: Who are the main characters in the story? Where does the story take place, what is the problem and solution in the story? What is the important message the author wants us to learn from reading the story? (Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details: RL.K.3, RL.1.3)
    1. Additional Support: Record responses in graphic organizer below to help students visually see their ideas.SLJ_TypewriterPost_image1
    2. Extension Question: Go to the first page. Did anyone notice the butterfly? Which pages does the butterfly appear? Why do you think the author makes the butterfly part of the story?
Writing Activity
  1. Ask: If you had the typewriter what word would you write? Why? Write your word and draw a picture to show what would appear after you typed your word. Then, think of a few sentences that describe the events happening in your picture. (Text Types and Purposes. W.K.3, W.1.3)SLJ_TypewriterPost_image2
  About the Co-Author of the Article Dawn Jacobs Martin has spent her career supporting students with disabilities through various roles as a practitioner, researcher, Special Education Director, and Assistant Professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University.  She continues to improve the academic outcomes for students through teacher development, instructional design, and research in the areas of response to intervention, social support, and parent involvement.  Feel free to contact her with questions at  

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing