"Caps For Sale" Montessori Style Drama Activity & Much More!


All photos in this post are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company unless otherwise indicated.

This is an enchanting story of a peddler who takes an afternoon nap under a tree and wakes to find his wares (caps!) have been confiscated by a bunch of monkeys. The monkeys are wearing his caps and having a wonderful time hanging from the branches of the tree, while the peddler is becoming quite frustrated with those funny monkeys who happen to copy everything he does!

This book is available at this link: Caps For Sale at Amazon Books

Children have loved this story for generations and it is truly one of the greats in developing reading skills in young children. The drama between the peddler and the monkeys has that hallmark repetitive chant that so captures children's keen skills for memorization.

The peddler's repetitive demand:
"You, monkeys, you...give me back my caps!"
And, the playful monkey's chanting back:
"Tz... Tz... Tz... Tz....!" 
All adds up to a very easy way for children to interact with the story by chiming in on these repeating phrases!

I found this adorable version of the story on youtube and it shows how fun this story is for acting out in a little dramatic performance.

As you can see from my photo at the beginning of this post, our Montessori Preschool classroom had lots of fun acting out this drama (year after after group!)

My collection of grey, brown, blue and red caps (and one checked cap) came from the thrift store. But, I have also asked parents to contribute caps and that is always fun for the families! 

Go thrifting and grab a copy of the book from the library or the Amazon bookstore and you've got a great unit for your classroom studies. 

Our children have performed this little story outside under an actual tree (Outdoor Classroom!) and also indoors with our giant classroom felt "tree" that the children decorated with handmade leaves. You can see more about this activity at my posts here: The Art of Leaves, A Montessori Childhood Favorite! and here:Outdoor Classroom: The Importance of Drama

For our little performance, we attached leaves of autumn colors that the children had constructed using the insets from the Montessori Botany cabinet. We even hung some leaves from the ceiling to add to the atmosphere of our little stage area for the story. The children got very "arty" with their creations for this darling backdrop. One year, they decided to color the leaves with beautiful water colors and those leaves were gorgeous! 

To extend the learning, the typical Montessori educator will be adding related activities to the various shelves in the classroom. Of course, you can set up an Art tray for the children to create the leaves for the tree backdrop. 

For another shelf work, I decided to create a challenging fine motor manipulative activity after I got this fabulous idea from Leslie, a colleague of mine, a few years ago. 

This "Caps for Sale Activity" was on our Language shelf, but it could easily be placed in the Math or Sensorial area of your classroom since it covers so many areas of skills development! I have included this book in Cultural Studies (Slobodkina was Russian and the story definitely has that European flavor!) and Art History (Ms Slobodkina was part of the American Abstract Artists group.) You can read more about the author at this link: Wikipedia.Esphyr Slobodkina.

The materials I gathered for this work are available at Amazon, but you could also make your activity with objects you may already have in your environment.

I started with a WOODEN "JEWELRY TREE" that I found on sale many years ago in the warehouse at the Lakeshore Outlet near my home. But, I did find something comparable on Amazon at a fairly reasonable price. 

Here's the link for this version of a tree for our story: Wooden Jewelry Tree from Amazon.

You could also make your "tree" by placing a large branched twig (from nature) in a sturdy pot filled with sand or dirt.

Here's another idea for a tree that is made of wire and may be a little easier to attach the monkeys to the branches. The wire might just poke little fingers, so caution is in order depending on the age and development of your children. 

Here's the link for the wire tree:Wire Jewelry Tree at Amazon.

Next, I found a PLAYMOBILE ACTION FIGURE in my pirate collection and set him up as the "peddler" for the work. He had a peg leg, but his mustache was what made him look like the peddler from the story and the kids really liked him! 

Here's the link for the pirate figures at Amazon: Play mobile Pirate Set:

The next thing you will need are some math manipulatives that nest on top of each other and fit the head of the play mobile character just like a hat! 

These are called STACKING COUNTERS and there are 500 of them in 10 different colors! You only need the four colors in the story, but these are very useful in lots of other counting and color matching activities. I made a "checked cap" by drawing checkered lines with a fine sharpie pen on one of the white counters. This was perfect for the peddlers own checked cap in the story. 

Stacking Counters are available at Amazon at this link: Math Manipulatives Stacking Counters.

The final thing you need for this work is a BARREL OF MONKEYS! 

They are also available from Amazon: Barrel of Monkeys at Amazon

This activity was wildly popular with the older children (4 yrs and up) because it was very challenging and very satisfying! First of all, stacking the hats on the peddler is a bit tricky, and then hanging the monkeys from the branches of the trees is even more tricky. But placing the hats in the hands of the monkeys is the biggest challenge of all! 

I always include a copy of the book on the tray with this work so that the child can refer to the actual story as they create the little scene with these fun manipulatives. 

Of course, we can't have a unit on "Caps For Sale" without the song, "Monkey See, Monkey Do!" There are many versions of this song, but my favorite is the one from Kindermusik International. Here's that link at the iTunes store: Monkey See, Monkey Do Children's Song.

This is a delightful song that can be introduced at music circle as a really fun movement activity. Later, you can include the song in your little drama presentation. The children can sing the song while the peddler waves his finger, stamps his feet, and throws down his hat! 

After all, that is the idea behind Slobodkina's story to begin with, isn't it?!

Thanks for visiting my blog and I certainly hope that you enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you! I love to hear you ideas, so please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you like.

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