TEACHER TUESDAY: Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

Hi Bookworms (and teachers)! If you’re reading this, it means that you have intentionally (or perhaps unintentionally) stumbled upon my newest feature – Teacher Tuesdays! This idea came to me as I was planning for an upcoming Language Arts unit, and realized that perhaps others could benefit from reviews of the children’s books I am using in with my class.

I have also decided to include potential lesson ideas and activity inspiration at the end of these posts (for those of you who are teachers, or who work/interact with children in some capacity). 

Each Teacher Tuesday review will contain a summary of the book, a recommended age range, my personal thought on the book, and potential classroom applications (linked to Ontario Curriculum). 

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This week’s Teacher Tuesday post is all about Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg, which tells the tale of two ants who decide to leave the safety of the others to venture into a danger-laden kitchen.

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SUMMARY: Accustomed to the orderly and uneventful life in the ant hole, all the ants enter the bizarre world of a kitchen in the search for sugar crystals for the queen. Two greedy ants stay behind in the sugar bowl, eating their fill and then falling asleep. Their slumbers end when a giant scoop drops them into a sea of boiling brown coffee. Further mishaps include a heated stay in the toaster, a hazardous swirl in the garbage disposal and a zap in an electrical outlet. When the ant troops return, the two bad ants gladly rejoin their friends and head for the safety of home.

RECOMMENDED AGES: 4 – 8 year olds (Grades K – 2). Older children may also enjoy reading Two Bad Ants independently.

MY THOUGHTS: Two Bad Ants has dazzling artwork that highlights the ants’ point of view, and children will be fascinated by the ant-eye view that Van Allsburg provides of common everyday items, such as sugar, coffee, and a toaster! Van Allsburg’s illustrations observe the world from unusual angles and perspectives as readers follow the ants on their journey. This book has the potential to serve as a mentor text for a variety of age groups and for a variety of topics, such as Voice (Point of View) and Descriptive Writing.

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  • From the Ants’ Eyes (Grade 1-3): To begin, read Two Bad Ants with the students. Show students the pictures as you read – while you read, ask students to point out how Van Allsburg uses the text and the illustrations to show the objects from the ants’ perspective. After reading and having a large group discussion, give each student a photocopied picture from the book, and have then examine the photo, then write their own 1-2 sentences from the ants’ perspective.
    • Potential Language Arts Expectations: Oral Communication 1.8, Reading 1.9, Writing 2.5, Media Literacy 1.5
  • An Ant Adventure (Grade 1-3): To begin, read Two Bad Ants with the students. After reading, brainstorm ideas as a large group about what objects might appear differently to an ant than to a human, and discuss how ants might describe these things. Record student answers on the board (chart paper or a digital screen would also work well). To consolidate, have students write their own adventures about ants, using their own ideas or objects from the list. Suggest that they use words that indicate how an object looks to an ant. Have them illustrate their adventures, and encourage them to visually show how the world looks to an ant.
    • Potential Language Arts Expectations: Oral Communication 1.8, Reading 1.9, Writing 2.5, Media Literacy 1.5


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