Read Aloud: The Very Cranky Bear

Written and illustrated by Nick Bland

Text Type: Fiction: Narrative—Humorous Story

Summary: This humorous, rhyming text tells the tale of four friends, Zebra, Lion, Moose, and Sheep, who take refuge from the rain and cold in a cave, only to be driven back out by a cranky bear. Lion, Moose, and Zebra quickly come up with a solution to their problem—they think the bear will be happier if he looks more like them. Sheep, who is plain, is not so sure that this is the answer. Eventually, it is Sheep who comes up with the perfect solution by listening and doing something to actually help the bear fall asleep.

Text Features
• use of larger, stylized typeface for emphasis
• use of capital letters to indicate volume

Visual Literacy
• illustrations

Strategy Teaching • integrated throughout each lesson
• prompts focus on a range of strategies (Making Connections, Analyzing, Predicting, Inferring, Evaluating, Synthesizing, Sequencing)
• comprehension focus for listening highlights Inferring

Assessment Opportunities
Note each student’s ability to:
• attend to story reading
• participate in partner and whole-class discussions
• understand the inquiry question
• make connections between the story and their own lives

Time: approximately 30–40 minutes


Establishing the Inquiry Focus
  • Explain that you will be reading the students a book that involves a problem with a very unique solution. Tell students that the actions of the characters in the book might provide ideas about how we can solve problems.
Activating and Building Background Knowledge
  • What does ‘cranky’ mean? Why would someone be cranky? Have you ever been cranky? When? What happened?

    Read the title of the book, The Very Cranky Bear, and the name of the author/illustrator. Ask students to explain the meaning of the word ‘cranky’ and tell about a time when they were cranky. [Analyzing/making connections]
  • Show the front cover of the text and ask students how they know that the bear is cranky. Explain how the bear’s facial expression and his body language show us he is cranky or upset. Remind students that people often show us their feelings without telling us how they feel. ‘Reading’ people’s faces and looking at what they are doing with their bodies helps us to understand how they are feeling. [Inferring]

    What would your face look like if you were the very cranky bear? How would your body look?

  • Have students stand facing a partner and try to imitate the very cranky bear.
  • Discuss other feelings people might have (e.g., happy, sad, angry, excited, scared, nervous, upset, enthusiastic, wary). Lead pairs of students to show several different feelings while standing again to face one another.
  • Why do you think the bear is cranky? What do you predict the problem will be in the story?

    Ask students to predict why the bear is cranky and what the problem might be in the story. [Predicting]
Setting a Purpose for Listening
  • As I read the story, listen carefully to discover why the bear is so cranky. Look for the problem and how it is solved. Think about what we can learn about solving problems from this story.

    Instruct students to listen for the problem and how it was solved as the text is read aloud. Remind them to examine the illustrations carefully for clues about how the characters are feeling (facial expression and body language). [Inferring]


  • Read the text with expression and enthusiasm. Since the text has such a rhythmical flow and plenty of visual clues, allow students to join in with some of the rhyming words. Ensure that you take the time to share the illustrations as they allow a deeper understanding of the story.
  • Pause at various points in the text to discuss important aspects of the story. Alternate between asking students to discuss as a whole group and with partners. Prompts for discussion include:
    • (page where the animals come in from the rain into the cave) Moose is proud of his antlers, Lion his mane, and Zebra his stripes. What would you consider to be your best feature? Turn to a partner and describe your best feature. [Making connections]
    • (page where the animals come in from the rain into the cave) Sheep is described as ‘plain.’ What do you think her best feature might be? [Analyzing]
    • (page where Zebra and Moose are discussing their special features) What does Zebra think is the bear’s problem? [Analyzing]
    • (page where the animals are going back into the cave to help Bear) Why do you think Bear is cranky? How do you know? [Inferring]
    • (page where Sheep is waiting for the others outside the cave) Think-Pair-Share: Do you think the animals’ solution will work? Why or why not? [Predicting/evaluating]
    • (page where Bear has been “dressed” by the other animals) Look carefully at the picture of Bear with his new features. Do you think this solution was a good one? Why or why not? [Evaluating]
    • (page where Bear is telling Sheep his problem) What is Bear’s problem? How could his problem be solved? What could the animals do? [Predicting]


In the story, the bear was very cranky and kicked the animals out of his cave. Lion, Zebra, and Moose tried one solution. Why didn’t it work?

  • Review the problem in the story and the various solutions that were tried by the animals. [Analyzing]
    Ensure that students understand that the animals made an assumption about the bear’s problem and didn’t identify the real problem before trying to come up with a solution. Ask students how the animals might have found out about the real problem
  • When Sheep understood why the bear was cranky, she made him a soft pillow from her wool. This helped the bear fall fast asleep and the animals were able to go back into the cave out of the rain and the cold. Sheep’s solution worked. What other things could the animals have done to solve the problem?

    Discuss why the solution provided by Sheep helped to solve the problem. Have students think about alternative solutions the animals might have tried. [Evaluating]
  • Ask students what ideas they learned from this story that helped to answer the question: ‘How can we solve problems?’ Record any suggestions provided by the students on the web organizer. [Synthesizing]
  • Encourage students to try these ideas the next time they encounter problems or conflicts in the classroom or at home.


  • It is important for young students to listen to a text more than once in order to comprehend any new vocabulary and to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the text.
  • During a further rereading of the text, review vocabulary for comprehension. Many descriptive words may require clarification (e.g., ‘cranky,’ ‘marvellous,’ ‘mane,’ ‘fantastic,’ ‘plain,’ ‘gnashed,’ ‘thoughtful’). You may wish to involve students in the oral language game, Action Antics, where they can use the vocabulary in an active way. In this game, repeated character names or words are given actions, sounds, words, or sentences (e.g., for ‘Moose,’ students would place their hands spread wide on their heads and chant “marvellous, marvellous, marvellous”). Read through the text slowly and have students listen carefully so they can join in and respond with the assigned actions, sounds, words, and/or sentences each time they hear the character’s name. To avoid students’ confusion, it may help to add some actions to one reading, then add additional actions for a further reading.
  • Reread the text and have students focus on the feelings and thoughts of the characters as the story develops. After reading, have students use puppets (e.g., lion, moose, zebra, sheep, and bear) or the Bear Mask, Sheep Mask, Zebra Mask, Moose Mask, and Lion Mask BLMs to act out the characters’ feelings and thoughts. Use the following prompts to lead the discussion and role-plays:
    • How did the bear feel when he was awakened by the visitors to his cave? [Inferring]
    • How do you think Zebra felt when Moose said ‘Stripes are silly’? How could Moose have disagreed with Zebra in a nicer way? What could he have said instead? [Inferring/evaluating]
    • How do you think Sheep felt when she didn’t have anything to give the bear in the beginning? [Inferring]
    • How do you think Sheep felt when she was able to help the bear? [Inferring]
    • What do you think Sheep’s friends thought once they saw how helpful and thoughtful she was? [Inferring]
  • Remind students of the inquiry question, ‘How can we solve problems?’, and ask if they have more ideas about how to solve problems to add to the web organizer (e.g., look at people’s faces to see how they are feeling, ask how they are feeling).
  • How would the story change if it took place in the ‘dry dusty desert’? Would the problem change? Would the solution change?

    Brainstorm with students an alternative setting for the story. Flip slowly through the text while students consider how the story might change in a new setting.


Young students explore and research in multiple ways. Consider using some of the following suggestions to extend the inquiry.

  • Because of the rhythmic language in The Very Cranky Bear, students may find it enjoyable to dramatize sections of the text. They may be inspired to do so by viewing the following video clip of a Grade 1 class where individuals took turns acting out and reciting each page.
    “Grade 1 Class Reading The Very Cranky Bear
  • Begin a chart to compare the texts in this unit and other books you may read as a class that portray social problems. Record how problems were solved in each text studied and have students suggest other ways to solve the problem.
Problem and Solution Chart




Other Ways to Solve

The Very Cranky Bear

– Bear was cranky because he wasn’t able to sleep so he chased the other animals out of his cave

– Sheep listened to Bear and made a pillow to help him sleep


  • At centres, promote problem-solving skills by providing inquiry questions and exploratory materials (e.g., at the sand and water centre, pose the questions: “What do you notice about the way sand moves? What are some ways to make water move?”). Provide laminated chart paper or an easel for students to record their thinking as they problem solve and pose their own questions.
  • Observe students’ use of problem-solving strategies as they interact at centres. Notice and name the positive strategies used by students while playing. Reinforce these with the class by asking students to share their solutions to problem situations (e.g., how students determined who would be first to use new materials at a centre).
  • Have students draw pictures that show how the problem was solved in the book. Encourage students to label their drawings or write a sentence about how the problem was solved. Alternatively you may scribe a dictated sentence for each student as you circulate through the class.
  • Read and discuss other books that involve conflict or problem situations. The following texts might promote extensive dialogue:
    • Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton: HarperCollins, 2005 (Fiction: Russell the Sheep has difficulty falling asleep until he comes up with his own solution)
    • One by Kathryn Otoshi: KO Kids Books, 2008 (Fiction: a clever exploration of bullying through the use of colours and numbers)
    • The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi: Dell Dragonfly Books, 2003 (Fiction: a girl is new to a school and has a name that no one can pronounce)
    • The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill: Scholastic Press, 2002 (Fiction:  a new girl at school solves the schoolyard bullying problem with an easy approach)
    • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: Atheneum, 1972 (Fiction: Alexander is having a very bad day and his only solution to this problem is to run away to Australia)
    • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes: Greenwillow, 1996 (Fiction: when Lily is being disruptive in class, her teacher takes away her beloved purple plastic purse. Lily has to find a way to apologize for the misdeed.)
    • Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007 (Fiction: a young girl’s dog gets into trouble every time he visits her parents’ homes, leaving her to find a way to solve the problem)
  • Link to other Read Aloud texts in the original Kindergarten Literacy Place for the Early Years that feature problem situations which young children may encounter. For example, in Bernard’s Bath, Bernard’s parents are trying to find a way to get him to take a bath. In Bibi and the Bull, Bibi solves the problem of the bull getting loose by mimicking its actions. The text, David’s Drawings, shows how a young boy handles a frustrating situation in a generous way, contributing positively to the classroom community. You may wish to reread these books to the students, extending the inquiry about problem solving to the problems and solutions portrayed, or you might put them on your list to read next if they haven’t already been introduced.
  • At the drama centre, invite students to act out the story of The Very Cranky Bear using puppets or masks. As a further extension, pose the following questions to invite students to alter the story:
    • How would the story change if the bear was happy?
    • How would the story change if the bear didn’t like the pillow?
    • How would the story change if there were different animal characters in the book (i.e., no Sheep)?