Jack and the Missing Piece

Author: Pat Schories
Text Type: Fiction: Narrative—Wordless Picture Book

Summary: Jack, the dog, keeps knocking down a tower of blocks that the two boys are building, so he’s blamed when the piece that sits at the top of the tower is missing. Everyone is happy when Jack tracks down the missing piece.

Oral Language Teaching Strategy: Use Open-Ended Prompts While a few of your prompts will focus on eliciting exact information and ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ responses (Analyzing), the majority should be open-ended to invite thoughtful reflection and deeper responses.

Time: two 25–30 minute lessons, plus options for further lessons:
– Jack and the Missing Piece
dog puppet, cat puppet, two children puppets
Grouping: whole class or small group
Assessment: Kindergarten Oral Language Assessment Scale



Teaching Tip: Go over the story several times to familiarize yourself with the sequence of events, the characters, and the richness of potential storytelling details on each illustrated page. You need to know the story as you will be storytelling and using the visual text to support your oral narrative.

Activating and Building Prior Knowledge

  • Show students the front cover of the book and while tracking print, read aloud the title, author, and illustrator.
  • What do you think has caught Jack’s interest?

    Explain that Jack is the dog, and ask students to describe the front cover illustration. [Analyzing]

  • Tell me what you think might happen in this story as you check for clues in the title and the picture.

    Ask students to predict what the story might be about, based on the title, the front cover illustration, and their descriptions. [Making connections/predicting]

  • As we look at each of the pictures, I’m going to tell the story in my own words.

    Explain to the students that this book tells the story in pictures and has no words in it.

  • I’m wondering if the author gives us any clues about the missing piece on the front cover. Tell me what you’re thinking about that.

    As you tell the story, intersperse open-ended prompts and model flexible thought processes needed for a narrator, listener, or viewer.

Setting a Purpose for Listening

  • Ask students to find out what the missing piece is, and what happens to it, as they look at the pictures and listen to your story. [Analyzing/making connections/inferring]


  • Open the book and show students the pages as you tell the story. Students will need to be able to follow the visual text as well as listen to your storytelling. Project your voice to ensure that your words and intonation can be heard by the whole class.
  • Tell the story in its entirety during the first telling to maintain pacing, voice consistency for characters, atmosphere, and student engagement. Consider naming the two boys (e.g., Rav with dark hair, and Pete with ginger hair) to minimize potential confusion.
  • Pete’s thoughts (front cover) “Wow! I love playing with Rav, and we’re going to build the best tower anyone has ever seen.”

    Use the following techniques to ensure engagement and solid listening comprehension:
    • Use an interesting voice and consider using dialogue and changing your voice to match the character.
    • Use gestures and appropriate facial expressions that match the characters and the events, e.g., Pete’s hands and arms shielding his face, surprised and shocked facial expression as the blocks fly in all directions after Jack jumps on him.
    • Pace your storytelling so that it maintains the students’ attention.
    • Focus on oral and visual comprehension. Emphasize the key features that are crucial for understanding how a character is feeling (e.g., Jack’s tail is up and perky when he’s rushing to knock the blocks over and licking Pete’s neck—he’s happy and excited. Jack’s tail is tucked between his legs when Pete’s telling him to leave the room—he’s feeling badly.)
    • Focus on key visual features that have a direct impact on ongoing comprehension (e.g., point out the cat jumping off the chair, the cat finding and playing with the ‘crowning’ piece, and the cat heading back into the adjoining room when the boys open the door to see if Jack has the missing piece).
    • Invite participation using prompts (e.g., “What do you think Pete is saying to Jack?” [as Pete confronts Jack about the missing piece];  “What do you think Rav is saying to Pete?”[as the boys hunt for the missing piece]).


  • Revisit the purpose for listening by asking, “What was the missing piece?” Ask students to support their answers. [Analyzing]
    • What happened to the missing piece? [Making connections/inferring]
  • Provide open-ended prompts to help students explore the ‘purpose for listening’ query in greater detail.
    • How do you think the cat managed to take the missing piece to her chair? [Making connections/inferring]
    • Why do you think she took that particular piece? [Making connections/inferring]
  • Expand the comprehension discussion. Turn to pages in the text where you want to explore comprehension and give open-ended prompts.
  • Page 5, where the boys are placing the top piece. Prompts:
    • Why do you think the boys chose that particular piece to sit on the top of their tower? [Inferring]
    • What does that piece remind you of? [Making connections]
  • Page 6, where Jack jumps onto Pete. Prompts:
    • I’m wondering if Jack means to knock the tower down, or if the tower just happens to get in his way as he’s heading to do something else. What do you think? [Making connections/inferring/evaluating]
  • Page 15, where Pete carries Jack out of the room. Prompts:
    • How’s Jack feeling when Pete carries him out of the room? [Inferring]
    • What are Rav and Pete thinking? [Inferring]
  • Page 26, where Rav successfully places the last piece on top of the tower. Prompts:
    • What’s Jack thinking about as he watches Rav place that important piece at the very top of the tower? What makes you think that? [Making connections/inferring]
  • Page 27, end of the story. Prompts:
    • Which boy is most likely to be Jack’s owner? Why do you think that? [Making connections/inferring]



Preparation: Choose puppets to represent Jack, the cat, ‘Pete,’ and ‘Rav.’  Select two desks to represent the floor space of the adjoining rooms where the action takes place.

  • Set up the retelling by explaining that you’ll be telling the story again and that, although the story will be the same, your words might be slightly different to those you used the first time because you can’t remember your exact wording.
  • Review the characters. Ask students to name each of the four characters in the story, and show them the puppet that will represent each one.
  • Introduce the props by asking students to imagine that the two empty desk tops are the two rooms in the story. Invite the students to name the items that were in the room where Pete and Rav were playing. As the items are mentioned, place them on the first desk (e.g., six blocks which will become the tower, a different item to represent ‘the missing piece,’ and Pete and Rav). On the adjoining desk place and name Jack and the cat, and items which represent Jack’s cushion (e.g., a dark blue card), the cat’s chair (e.g., a light blue card), the chesterfield (e.g., a green card) and the bookshelf (e.g., two or three books) Talk aloud saying, e.g., “Here’s Jack’s cushion. I’m going to have him sitting there for the beginning of the story, and I’ll sit the cat in her chair here…”
  • Explain that you’re going to tell the first part of the story, then ask four students to use the puppets and props to act out what’s happened so far. You’ll tell the next part of the story and ask four different students to be the puppet characters acting out that section of the story. Continue until you have completed the storytelling and each of the segments has been acted out, with every student participating.
  • Tell the students that, when it’s their turn to handle the puppets, they should follow the storyline but use their own words to describe what their character is seeing, thinking, and doing.

Teaching Tip: Before beginning, tell students which character they will be playing (consider creating a chart of the students who will act as the characters, and the different segments). Caution Jack characters to knock down the tower gently enough that the six blocks can be collected easily for the next ‘scene.’

Setting a Purpose for Listening

  • Ask the students to think about whether Jack understands why Pete and
    Rav get annoyed with him. [Making connections/inferring/evaluating]


  • Provide a model for the students. Start retelling the story so that you establish an interesting tone and pace and model possible dialogue.
  • At the end of each segment, invite four students to adopt the characters’ parts, and to present a re-enactment of the segment using the available props and contributing their own dialogue. Remind students to listen to what other characters are saying, and to take turns responding and speaking.
  • That’s a great idea that you can use when you’re making up a different story later, Shani. Check the picture again, and tell us what you think the cat was really thinking when she jumped off the chair.

    If any student’s dialogue diverges from the pictorial storyline, provide a prompt to return to the route laid out in the original story.
  • If any gaps occur in the storyline during re-enactments, ask open-ended prompts to elicit responses that bring the story back into alignment.
  • Discuss and clarify vocabulary and comprehension issues as needed.


  • Okay. You think Jack does (or doesn’t) understand why the boys get annoyed with him. Tell us why you think that.

    Review the purpose for listening and ask students to discuss whether Jack understands why Pete and Rav get annoyed with him.


Reconstruct the Story

  • Reconstruct the story with the class having students act out the story in groups of four (one student per character in each grouping). No props will
    be needed. The intent is to have students use interesting and appropriate vocabulary as they act out the events.

Teaching Tip: If you don’t have enough room for this activity in your classroom, move to a larger space like the gym. Circulate around the groups, using open-ended prompts if needed to keep the story retelling/re-enactment ‘on track.’ As a closing activity, invite one or two of the groups to demonstrate their retelling/re-enactment for the rest of the class.

Focus on Story Structure

  • Remind the students that fictional stories generally have clear beginning, middle, and end sections. Have the book handy so that students can locate pertinent illustrations as they verbalize the contents of each of those sections in the story of Jack and the Missing Piece.

Retell the Story from a New Perspective

  • Woof! What are Rav and Pete building in the next room? It looks like they’re having fun. I’m going to run in there and play with them. Woof! Woof! Here I come!

    You may decide to give the students experience with another viewpoint in the story and retell the story from Jack’s perspective. The story will change from a third person narrator to a first person ‘I’ viewpoint. Model the beginning of the story using Jack as the narrator and show how the story may change slightly when you tell it from another character’s viewpoint.

    Then invite student participation in the retelling. You may structure this new way of retelling by inviting students to retell a page or two and then alternate by modelling the first-person viewpoint yourself and returning to student retelling.


  • Ask students to use the puppets to retell or role-play the story for other groups.
  • Imagine that the piece is still missing when you make up a different ending for the story. What if it can’t be found? What if someone else took it? I wonder how your story will end.

    Invite students to think of a different ending to the story and to role-play their ‘revised ending’ by acting it out themselves or using the puppets as the characters.
  • Ask students to draw or paint a picture of their favourite part of the story.
  • I’m wondering what kind of adventure Jack, the cat, and the boys might have next. Talk about your ideas in your group and decide which new story you’d like to act out.

    Invite students, in groups of four, to think up a completely new story, featuring the same characters. After allowing time for practise, have groups perform for the whole class.
  • Encourage students to demonstrate how they would move, if they were Jack or the cat, when they felt happy, sad, curious, sleepy, scared, and/or hungry.