Teaching with Red and Lulu – December Book Activities

Red & Lulu is a holiday favorite picture book for many reasons. This book captures everything there is to love about New York City during the Christmas season. I highly recommend sharing this wonderful story with children at home and with students in the classroom.

Red and Lulu are a happy pair of cardinals living in their beautiful evergreen tree. One day, Red returns from finding breakfast to see that the tree with his beloved Lulu has been taken down and loaded to the back of a truck. After losing the truck, Red frantically searches New York City for days. Just when he is beginning to lose hope that he would ever find Lulu again, Red hears the sound of their favorite song, pulling him closer to being reunited with his dear Lulu.

This fabulous book is available on Amazon and at most bookstores.

Teaching Points

Red & Lulu is commonly used in second and even first grade classrooms, but I highly recommend this book for upper elementary too! This book is a wonderful mentor text for teaching plot through plot diagrams to third and fourth grade students.

After pre-teaching vocabulary and building schema, begin the week with an interactive read aloud. Discuss story elements including characters, setting, problem, and solution. Once students have built a solid foundational understanding of the text, it is time for a deep dive into developing higher level comprehension skills, including compare & contrast and plot elements.


Helping students understand the way stories are structured leads to deeper comprehension and increased understanding of theme and other underlying messages. Increased understanding of plot elements can lead to improvement in students’ writing too. Red & Lulu is a wonderful mentor text for helping students master plot elements.

It is helpful to display an anchor chart to give students a clear visual of the 5 plot elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. You can also download this free anchor chart for student notebooks.

Red & Lulu has rising action that can easily be broken into 3 major events leading to the climax, or turning point of the story. This makes Red & Lulu a great book to practice implementing plot elements.

Teachers can either write or stick parts of the story onto the large poster anchor chart for students to see. Students can then follow along on their own plot diagrams and either write or cut and glue sentence strips onto the diagram.

I personally prefer having students cut and glue the parts of the story onto the plot diagram. It saves time and allows students to focus more on parts of the story rather than staying caught up on copying words down.

Once students have a deep understanding of the story, they can think deeply about the text and move to answering higher order thinking questions.

Compare & Contrast

Comparing and contrasting is a skill that doesn’t always come easily to 3rd and 4th grade students. Thankfully, Red & Lulu provides many opportunities to practice this important reading skill. My Red & Lulu book companion includes a nonfiction reading passage about cardinals. Students can use this informational text, “The Northern Cardinal,” to compare and contrast to Red & Lulu.

Students can also practice comparing and contrasting the two settings from the story using a Venn Diagram.

After students are given the chance to analyze the relation between different settings and texts, they are ready to evaluate and create.

Project Assessment

By creating this trifold story brochure, students are given a chance to demonstrate a solid understanding of the text and evaluate the story. Students also make connections through writing.

A multiple choice and short answer assessment is also a great quick way to assess comprehension of the story.

Red and Lulu Writing Craftivity

Students can write a summary or reflection of Red & Lulu on the wing of this cardinal. There are three options for this craftivity: a red cardinal, a two-toned red cardinal, or a blank cardinal for students to color. This fun writing craft is now included in my Red and Lulu Book Companion.

The Red & Lulu Book Companion

This full book unit is available for purchase in my TpT store. It includes FIVE days of Red & Lulu lessons and activities.

These lessons and resources are also included in my 4th grade Reading Lessons for December. This product includes 4th grade daily mentor text lessons for the entire month of December. Teach inferences, cause and effect, plot, summary, character analysis, compare and contrast, theme, context clues, and more using your favorite picture books.

Fourth grade picture books for December include Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant, The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel, Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco, and Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares.

The Importance of Reading Aloud to Upper Elementary Students

Skeptical about reading picture books to upper elementary students? At one point, I definitely had my doubts about it too. However, I am so happy I reconsidered after a training I attended with a former literacy specialist. The benefits of interactive read alouds extend well into the upper elementary and intermediate grades.

Having the reading process modeled is so important for students of all ages. The photographs and illustrations reinforce understanding and make it that much more engaging! By reading aloud to students, teachers can effectively model fluency, help students develop vocabulary, promote classroom community, practice comprehension strategies, model higher order thinking, and more!

I hope you enjoy!

For more teaching ideas, lessons, and resources, follow me on Pinterest and follow my TpT store. I often post free activities and resources! Feel free to subscribe below for blog updates as well.

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