Shared Reading: An Alien Birthday

Written by Ray Leoni
Illustrated by Russ Willms

Text Type: Fiction: Narrative—Fantasy Story

Summary: In this fantasy story, a boy, Juan is getting ready to celebrate his alien friend Zort’s birthday with him. He is imagining what the birthday party will be like, since he’s never been to his friend’s house before.

Text Features
Print Concepts
• consistent placement of text above the illustrations
• 1-3 lines of print
• rhyming words
• punctuation: period, commas, question marks, ellipses, exclamation marks
• environmental print on invitation and greeting card
• use of italics (p. 2, ‘me’)

Visual Literacy
• supportive, detailed illustrations
• thought bubbles
• invitation and greeting card visuals


Reading Strategies

• a range of comprehension strategies is integrated throughout the lesson
[Making Connections, Predicting, Self-Monitoring, Evaluating, Inferring, Synthesizing, Analyzing]
• the comprehension purpose for this reading focuses on Making

Working with Words
• predicting vocabulary to be used based on background knowledge
• comprehending vocabulary from context and illustrations

Assessment Opportunities
Note each student’s ability to:
• attend to and understand the text
• make connections across ideas from the Read Aloud and the first Shared
Reading piece
• predict and infer based on the information (visual and print) presented
• discuss the text with a partner (on-topic)

Time: approximately 25 minutes


Establishing the Inquiry Focus
  • Ask students what they learned from the book Friends about what a friend is, what different kinds of friends we can have, and what important things friends do for one another. [Analyzing]
  • Now, we are going to think about what kinds of new things we can try with our friends and why it is important to do so.

    Introduce the focus of inquiry by telling students we are going to learn more about friends and why we should be friends.
Activating and Building Background Knowledge
  • Based on the illustrations, what do you think this story is about? Do you think the story is about something real or pretend (fiction or non-fiction)? Why?

    Show students the front and back covers of the book and ask them to make predictions on what the story will be about. [Predicting/evaluating]
  • Were we right? Which clues gave you the idea that this was a story about a party? Which clues let you know this was not a real story, that it is pretend? What do you think the word ‘alien’ means?

    Read the title and then the question on the back cover. Praise and discuss the students’ earlier predictions. Introduce the word ‘alien’ to those students unfamiliar with it. [Analyzing]
  • What are some words about birthday parties that you know? What are some things that you might do at a birthday party?

    Now that the students know this is a story about a birthday party, brainstorm together some words about birthday parties that might be in the book. [Predicting/making connections]

Teaching Tip: Record words about birthday parties on cardboard cards, sticky notes, or an interactive whiteboard for later use (e.g., ‘party,’ ‘eat’, ‘special,’ ‘games,’ ‘play,’ ‘presents,’ ‘cards,’ ‘invitation,’ ‘celebrate’).

Setting a Purpose for Reading
  • Ask students to listen as you read the story to find out how the alien’s birthday party is similar to other birthday parties they may have been to. [Analyzing/making connections]


  • I wonder what aliens might do at their birthday parties. I wonder if we will find out where the alien lives. I’m wondering too, how many of our party words will be in this story.

    Reread the title, the author’s and illustrator’s names, and the question on the back cover. Remind students of their predictions about the story and birthday party words before beginning to read.

Teaching Tip: As this is a first reading, many students may not chime in. Instead, use oral cloze. Pause when you come to a word that the students predicted correctly and prompt them to chime in and say the word (e.g., ‘My friend is having a birthday ________.’). If students do not chime in, say the word and continue reading, trying again later in the story. Praise the students for predicting the word even if but a few chime in. [Predicting]

  • Discuss content by offering prompts:
    • (pp. 2–3) How do you think the boy feels about going to the alien’s birthday party? [Inferring/making connections]
    • (pp. 2–3) Do you think the boy might be feeling a bit nervous? Why or why not? [Inferring]
    • (pp. 2–3) What do you notice about the top parts of the illustrations? Why do you think these illustrations are in thought bubbles? [Inferring/analyzing]
    • (pp. 4–5): Why do you think there are questions on both of these pages? [Inferring]
    • (pp. 4–5) What do you notice about how the illustrations are framed? [Analyzing]
    • (pp. 6–7): What do we see in the illustration on these pages? [Analyzing]
    • (pp. 6–7) I wonder if the boy bought this card or if he made it? What do you think? [Inferring/analyzing]
    • (pp. 6–7) What information does the birthday card give us that we didn’t have before? (the characters’ names) [Analyzing]

  • The author tells us that the boy is helping his alien friend celebrate.What do you think the word ‘celebrate’ means?

    Clarify any vocabulary that may affect student comprehension (e.g., ‘celebrate’).


  • How is the alien’s birthday party like the ones you have been to?

    Ask students to discuss with a partner how the alien birthday party shown in the illustrations is similar to birthday parties they have attended. Have a few students share their responses with the whole class. [Analyzing/making connections]
  • How do you know that the boy is invited to the alien’s party? How can you be sure that he is happy about his invitation?

    Turn to page 2 and ask students to look at the illustration carefully. Use prompts to model how we know that the boy is invited and that he is happy to be going to the party. [Inferring/analyzing]
  • Review the different types of framing of illustrations in the book, noting the use of thought bubbles. Discuss which parts of the illustrations are imagined by Juan and which parts of the illustrations show things that are really happening.
  • Return to the recorded, predicted words about birthday parties and highlight the ones that appeared in the text.
  • The highlighted, predicted words can be placed in a centre along with letter cards or magnetic letters. Encourage the students to select one of the words, then find the letters they need to make it. Students can experiment to see if they can build other words using these same letters.

Teaching Tip: Students can print their selected word and any words they make from the letters on a small piece of paper folded to look like an invitation. Have the student write the selected word on the front and any words they make on the inside. A simple piece of brightly coloured paper or notebook paper could be used.

  • Play the song “Alien Birthday” from the Media Key or online. Note that the repeated refrain (‘Alien birthday/Alien birthday/My friend is having/An alien birthday’) is not included in the text of the book. Write out the refrain on chart paper for students to follow along as you track the print (in the book and on paper) on a second hearing of the song.

Teaching Tip: Print the refrain using a black marker, using a size similar to the text in the big book. A small drumstick or a plastic musical note can be used as a pointer to help engage reluctant readers in tracking print.

  • Place some birthday party props (e.g., hats, noisemakers, special plates, napkins) in the drama centre to encourage students to dramatize celebrating a birthday with a friend. You may ask students for contributions of birthday party props.

Teaching Tip: If students bring used items from their homes, you will likely get more diverse materials showing how birthdays can be celebrated in different ways.


Reading Strategies

• a range of comprehension strategies is integrated throughout the lesson
• the comprehension purpose for reading focuses on Inferring/evaluating

Working with Words
•  matching words and using known high-frequency words for self-monitoring
(e.g., ‘a,’ ‘to’)
•  rhyming words (e.g., ‘me/see,’ ‘day/play’)

Assessment Opportunities
Note each student’s ability to:
• match words and use known high-frequency words to monitor their tracking
• chime in on rhyming words
• attend to print and visual features (e.g., italicized ‘me,’ thought bubbles
• invitation)
• evaluate why the boy’s expression changes as he thinks about the party

Time: approximately 20–25 minutes


Establishing the Inquiry Focus
  • Ask students what they learned about friends from this story. Have students first share ideas with a partner, then have a few pairs share with the group. [Analyzing/evaluating]
Activating and Building Background Knowledge
  • Have you ever been to a party at a place where you’ve never been before? How did you feel before you went to the party?

    Ask students if they have ever been invited to a birthday party that happened in a place where they had never been before. [Making connections]
  • What do you notice about how Juan’s expression changes in the two illustrations? What other differences do you notice between these two illustrations?

    Ask students to study the illustrations on pages 2–3 and tell what they notice about the boy’s expression. Students may also share any other differences they note between the two pictures.
Setting a Purpose for Reading
  • Juan looks happy when he first is invited to Zort’s party, but then his expression changes. Let’s read to find out why Juan is not as happy as he thinks more about going to the party.

    Ask students to read the book with you to find out why Juan is not smiling when he thinks more about going to Zort’s party. [Inferring/synthesizing]


Teaching Tip: Again, you may choose to use oral cloze as you read, featuring the pairs of rhyming words (pp. 2–3, 4–5, 7–8). On each spread, read the first page that contains the first word of the rhyming pair, then pause for students to chime in on the second rhyming word (e.g., you read ‘me’ and students chime in on ‘see’). [Predicting]

  • Read the text, tracking the print and being careful to emphasize appropriate punctuation use in your reading.
  • The word ‘me’ is in italics—this means we should put emphasis on the word when we read it. Listen carefully as I read the sentence again.

    After the students chime in on the word ‘see,’ go back to page 2 and frame the word ‘me.’
  • Where do we start to read? Yes, that is the first word. This is where we go next. Who can find the word ‘a’?

    Ask students to show you where to begin reading and the locations of a few known high-frequency words (e.g., ‘a,’ ‘to’). [Print concepts]
  • What game do you think the friends are playing? Do they look like they are having fun?

    After reading page 5, pause and ask students to tell you what kind of game the friends are playing. [Analyzing/inferring]
  • What is Juan looking at? What makes you think this? Let’s read the message on the birthday card together.

    After reading pages 6 and 7, pause and ask students to examine the illustration. [Analyzing/making connections]


  • Ask students to share with a partner why they think Juan’s expression changed after he received the invitation to Zort’s party. Encourage them to give specific ideas to support their answers. Have some partners share their responses with the group.
  • Ask students to tell a partner about a time when they tried something new or went somewhere new with family or friends. Encourage students to tell how they felt before the new experience and after the new experience. [Making connections]
  • Do you think it is a good idea to go to new places and try new things, like Juan does in this story? Why do you think so?

    Ask students to reflect on why it is good to try new things, like Juan does in the book. [Evaluating]
  • Ask pairs of students to work together to role-play Juan’s and the alien’s feelings, portraying the situation in the book. [Inferring]

Teaching Tip: Ask students to bring in greeting cards from home that they have received in the past, and bring some in yourself. Place the cards in a basket at the drama centre and allow students to look through the cards as they accumulate. Students may use the greeting cards in sorting activities or as models for creating their own greeting cards.

Working with Words
  • What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word ‘see’? What letter makes that sound? What other letter(s) can you hear? How many letters are in the word? Let’s say these two words together and hear them rhyme.

    Find the word ‘me.’ Explain that this word rhymes with the word ‘see.’ Ask students to predict the first letter of the word ‘see.’ Say the word ‘as slow as a snail’ and ask what other letter(s) they can hear. Have a student locate the word on page 3 and then frame it. Continue to work on the concepts of what is a letter and what is a word. [Word matching/word/letter concepts]
  • Find the word ‘day.’ Use the same activities as above to work on Word/Letter Concepts and Rhyming.


Reading Strategies

• a range of comprehension strategies is integrated throughout the lesson
• the comprehension purpose for reading focuses on Evaluating/synthesizing

Working with Words
• high-frequency word recognition
• building words

Assessment Opportunities
Note each student’s ability to:
• match words and use known high-frequency words to monitor their tracking
• chime in confidently with the reading
• build words
• evaluate the author’s big idea, or message

Time: approximately 20–25 minutes for the shared reading lesson, plus 15–20 minutes of modelled/shared writing to create a chart supporting the inquiry: Why should we be friends? (All of these lessons and activities do not need to occur on the same day.)


Establishing the Inquiry Focus
  • Tell your partner one reason we should all be friends. I could tell my partner that we should all be friends because having friends makes us happy.

    Ask students to think about why we should be friends and have them share a reason with a partner. Have some pairs of students share their ideas with the class. Jot some of their ideas on chart paper or an interactive whiteboard for future reference. Model a response for the students. [Evaluating]
Activating and Building Background Knowledge
  • I remember going to a friend’s birthday party when I was your age. There were different foods to eat and they had a piñata. I didn’t know what a piñata was. I was a little worried when I got there, but I ended up having a great time.

    Have students tell about a party they have been to where they tried something new. Encourage them to think about the food they ate, the games they played, and the place the party was held. Model a response. Use prompts to keep the discussion focused:
    • Where was the party?
    • What did you have to eat? Were the foods different from what you are used to?
    • What games did you play that you hadn’t tried before?
Setting a Purpose for Reading
  • Let’s read the book again and look for clues about why the author wrote this story.

    Tell the students that we are going to read the book today and think about why the author wrote the book.


  • Read the story together, encouraging all students to participate. If students read confidently, make your voice quieter until they need more of your support.
  • Read the text together with students and ask a volunteer to track the print using a pointer. Halfway through the story, you may wish to ask another volunteer to track the print. As you read with students, be sure to emphasize appropriate use of punctuation appropriately. As you read, pause and use the following prompts to discuss the text:
    • (p. 2) What kind of friend is Juan talking about in the book? Why might an alien’s birthday party be different than another birthday party? [Analyzing/inferrring]
    • (p. 3) This sentence is a question because it ends with a question mark. Who can point to the question mark? Why do you think Juan is wondering what he’ll see at the birthday party? [Analyzing/evaluating/making connections]
    • (p. 4) What question does Juan wonder about here? Would you be wondering what you would eat if you were going to an alien birthday party? [Analyzing/making connections]
    • (p. 5) What question does Juan ask on this page? [Analyzing]
    • (p. 6) Why does Juan say the party is going to be different? [Analyzing/evaluating]
    • (pp. 6–7) Why do you think the author and illustrator included a birthday card on this page? What does the birthday card tell you about whether or not Juan is going to go to the alien’s birthday party? [Analyzing/synthesizing/evaluating]
    • (p. 8) Why do you the last page of the book shows the boy walking toward the alien’s house? What information does this give you? [Evaluating/synthesizing]


  • I think the author had a big message for us when he wrote this book. Can you think what it might be? Remember, we have been thinking and talking about how we should all be friends.

    Ask students to talk with a partner about why they think the author wrote this book about going to an alien birthday party. Encourage students to think about how the story relates to the idea that we should all be friends. Use prompts to keep the conversation focused:
    • In what ways are Juan and the alien different? In what ways could you say they are the same? [Analyzing/synthesizing]
    • What is Juan going to try for the first time, just because he and the alien are friends? [Inferring/analyzing]
    • How do you think the alien would have felt if Juan didn’t go to his party because he was worried about trying something new? How do you think the alien feels when Juan comes to his birthday party? What do you believe the author wants us to think about trying new things with our friends? [Evaluating]
  • Extend students’ comprehension by noting what the students have learned about why we should be friends. To create a chart, use modelled/shared writing techniques on an interactive whiteboard or chart paper. This would be a good time to refer back to the ‘I See/This Means’ T-chart and the ‘What is a Friend?’ chart created during the lessons for Whoever You Are and Friends.
Working with Words
  • Have students look in the text for high-frequency words they know and have them frame the words with a cardboard cut-out frame, a coloured acetate rectangle, or Wikki Stix. The following Kindergarten high-frequency words are in the text: ‘My,’ ‘is,’ ‘a,’ ‘and,’ ‘he,’ ‘me,’ ‘to,’ ‘I,’ ‘we.’ [High-frequency word recognition]
  • Provide students with letter cards and ask them to build each framed word in turn by placing the correct letter cards in the pocket chart. Later, students can shuffle and rebuild the words at a centre, using word cards to check their answers. [Word building]
  • For a demonstration lesson for the following word solving and building activity, see Literacy Place for the Early Years Kindergarten Working with Words Guide, pages 61–64. See also the reproducible large letter cards on pages 115–128 and small letter cards on pages 111-114 of the Kindergarten Working with Words Guide. [Building words]

Key Word: celebrate
Context: An Alien Birthday, page 8

Building Words




Word Pattern Sorts
Words starting with ‘t’ Three-letter words Rhyming pattern ‘at’






Transfer to a Reading Context
    • mat (I am on the mat.)
    • fat (The fat rabbit went away.)

Transfer to a Writing Context
    • tub (I want to write ‘I have a big tub.’ Which letter does ‘tub’ start with?)


Many texts benefit from being reread with students to enable the books to become familiar and to increase participation in the shared reading. Over time, share the pointer with students in turn, so that they demonstrate how to track print in a big book.

Teaching Tip: Rereadings can occur with a whole-class group or in small groups. If you have students who need more support, consider a small-group session, as teaching can be more individualized.

In each rereading, select ideas from the following three areas based on the needs of your students.

Print Concepts, Book Handling, and Text Features
  • Show me the first word. Point to the first letter in that word. Where do we read next? (Movement to the next line.)

    When using small books, encourage students to use a chopstick or ring on the pointer finger to track the print. Students’ confidence should develop as the text becomes more familiar. Offer prompts to refine and expand print concepts. [Tracking print]

Teaching Tip: A new, unsharpened pencil also makes a good pointer.

  • Attend to ‘big’ letters and ‘little’ letters (e.g., “There is a big [capital] ‘M’ in ‘My.’ Be sure to point to it. Can you find the small ‘m on this page?” [Point to ‘me’ in italics.]).
  • You know the word ‘to.’ What is the first letter in ‘to’? Find the word ‘to’ on this page.

    Ask students to do a word hunt for high-frequency words that they know or are becoming familiar with.

  • Discuss why the author may have used the ellipses on pages 6 and 7 of the text. [Analyzing/evaluating]
Focusing on Comprehension
  • How did the illustrator show what Juan was thinking in the book? Why do you think the author and illustrator wanted to show Juan’s thoughts about the birthday party instead of showing him at the birthday party?

    Review the big idea of the book, then discuss what clues the illustrator and author gave to readers to tell them what the big idea is. [Analyzing/synthesizing/evaluating]
  • Display the digital cloze version of the text on the Media Key. Working with the whole class or with a small group, reread together and encourage students to supply the missing words (spaces for words highlighted in yellow). You may decide to pause to consider word predictions and prompt, “Does that make sense?” or “Does that sound right?” Then click on the colour-highlighted spot to reveal the word, saying, “Let’s check that out.” An option on the tool bar allows you to create your own cloze versions of the text to meet the needs of the students you are working with. Click on the ‘Help’ button to find out how to use the different featgures of the digital texts.
Working with Words
  • Select a few longer words from the text (e.g., ‘birthday,’ ‘party,’ ‘friend,’ ‘special,’ ‘different,’ ‘celebrate’). Have students say the words ‘as slow as a snail’ and clap the syllables. (See the “Speaking as Slow as a Snail” lesson in the Kindergarten Working with Words Guide, p. 28.) [Phonemic and phonological awareness]
  • Build words from the high-frequency word ‘and.’ Find the word in the text before making the word in a pocket chart. Demonstrate how you can say ‘and,’ add a ‘b’ at the beginning, and make the word ‘band.’ Encourage students to help you think of other letters that can be added to the word ‘and’ to create new words (e.g., ‘s,’ ‘h,’ ‘l’). This activity can be done as a whole class using a pocket chart or in small groups giving letter cards to each student to build words along with you. (See the reproducible large letter cards on pages 115–128 and small letter cards on pages 111-114 of the Kindergarten Working with Words Guide.)


You may consider using some of the following suggestions to extend the inquiry.
  • Encourage students to plan a different kind of birthday party to the one in the book in the drama centre. Encourage small groups of students to work together. Provide props, or allow time for students to make their own props at the art centre. Groups may want to perform their ‘different’ birthday party for other small groups or for the whole class. Encourage students to design an invitation to their party, think about where their party is taking place, the food that will be eaten, and the games they will play.
  • Work together with students to develop a role-play in which a student (or small group of students) is worried about trying something new with a friend (e.g., playing at a new park, an unfamiliar type of party, going to a friend’s house, going on an excursion to an unfamiliar place) and then tries the new activity. Develop a script through a shared writing exercise, then allow time for students to practise before performing their roles for the group.
  • Students can paint or make their own cut-and-paste pictures of a different kind of birthday party. It can be a party they have attended or a make-believe party. Encourage them to give their picture a title.
  • Remind students of the collection of greeting cards that the class has been gathering. Encourage students to explore and read some of the cards in the collection.