Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

                  Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann have worked together for a very long time.  Now people are saying that Mary Ann is too old to work.  Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann set out to prove that they can still do the work of any modern machine.  Will they be able to?  What will happen to Mary Ann if they fail?  This classic story tells of a faithful friendship with a happy ending.


  •                   A book about construction and earth moving machines.
  •                   Construction plans for 4 simple structures.
  •                   Cookie sheet
  •                   One very strong magnet
  •                   Graph paper


  • Steam Shovel (an earth moving machine that digs great big holes)
  • Cellar (an underground room.  Sometimes called a basement)
  • Corner (the place where two borders or lines come together)

Before Reading the Story

                  Share pictures of construction sites and the kinds of vehicles/machinery that is used on a construction site.  As you look at the pictures, talk to the children about how each piece has a special job to do.  Look at the pictures and notice the size of the equipment, the kinds of wheels each has, and if the children can guess how the machine is used (for scooping, digging, rolling, carrying away debris).    Introduce the story by showing the children a picture of a real steam shovel and a modern shovel.

Literacy/Book Knowledge & Appreciation; shows growing interest and involvement in listening to and discussing a variety of fiction and non-fiction and poetry. 

 Reading the Story

                  Before you begin reading hang a piece of paper on the wall where everyone can see it.  Have a marker handy so that when you get to the parts of the story where MM and MA cut a corner, you can draw their progress.  On page 15 stop and ask the children what they think will happen to Mary Ann.  When you get to page 20, ask the children if they think MM and MA will be able to dig a cellar in just one day.  As you get to the pages where MM and MA make a new corner, have the children repeat Go Mike Mulligan Go!  On page 37 ask the children “How will MM and MA get out?  What do you think will happen?”

Literacy/Book Knowledge & Appreciation; demonstrates progress in abilities to retell and dictate stories from books and experiences; to act out stories in dramatic play; and to predict what will happen next in a story.

After Reading the Story

                  Point out the paper on the wall with the four corners nice and square.  Ask the children if they can name the shape.  Play a shape game with the children. Cut out the Mary Ann steam shovel and cut out 4-6 shapes that you are working on with you children large enough to cover the steam shovel.  The children can then take turns hiding the steam shovel under a shape and guessing which shape it is under by naming the shape.  You can add another teaching concept by making each shape a different color.  The guesser must then guess by naming the shape and the color (Is it under the red circle?).

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; begins to recognize, describe, compare, and name common shapes, their parts and attributes.


                  Magnet play today.  Take a large cookie sheet and tape some blocks to the ends to make a table with the cookie sheet being the top.  Put magnet marbles or small nuts and washers on top of the cookie sheet.  Put the strong magnet under the cookie sheet and show the children how dragging the magnet from underneath will cause the items on top to move.  You could also add a piece of paper and a small bit of paint so that when you drag the marbles/nuts, it makes marks upon the paper.

Science/Scientific Skills & Methods; begins to use senses and a variety of tools and simple measuring devices to gather information, investigate materials, and observe processes and relationships.

Music and Movement

                  Circle, Triangle, or Square by Hap Palmer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWtLONv826Y

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; begins to recognize, describe, compare, and name common shapes, their parts and attributes.

                  In the story MM and MA dig faster and faster.  Put on music that moves to different tempos and let the children dance or move accordingly.

Creative Arts/Movement; shows growth in moving to different patterns of beat and rhythm of music.

                   Play In and Out the Windows.    Have the children hold hands and make a circle with their arms up in the air.  Choose one person to step into the center of the circle.  As the children sing the verse, In and Out the Windows the child moves under arms and around and through the circle.  At the end of the verse another child goes into the center of the circle and the first child comes out and helps form the circle.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MibnLIXnLcE

Go in and out the windows,

Go in and out the windows,

 Go in and out the windows,

Now go and pick a friend.

Social & Emotional Development/Cooperation; develops increasing abilities to give and take in interactions; to take turns in games and using materials; and to interact without being overly submissive or directive.


                  Add any construction vehicles you might have.  Add hard hats and construction plans for a building.  Trace around blocks to make simple blueprints for the children to copy building or use the ones included.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; progresses in ability to take shapes apart and put them back together again.


                  Give each child a piece of graph paper and colored pencils.  Encourage them to make various sizes of squares.  After they color the squares they can cut them out and glue to a large piece of paper.

Literacy/Early Writing; experiments with a growing variety of writing tools and materials, such as pencils, crayons, and computers.

Writing and Library

                  In the story, MM and MA made nice straight corners as they dug their building.  Have the children trace around shapes and letters today.  Practice drawing nice straight corners when possible and then talk about the corners and help the children count how many they see on each of their tracings.

Literacy/Early Writing; experiments with a growing variety of writing tools and materials, such as pencils, crayons, and computers. AND Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; begins to recognize, describe, compare, and name common shapes, their parts and attributes.

Dramatic Play

                  In the story MM and MA worked together to dig a cellar for the town hall.  It was a hard job.  Give the children damp rags today and ask them to tackle the job of cleaning the dramatic play center.  Talk about working together to make sure that all of the items are put away in their correct space.  They can use the damp rags to wash the shelves, dishes, and furniture.  Make sure to thank them when they are finished for a job well done.

Social & Emotional Development/Knowledge of Families & Communities; develops a growing awareness of jobs and what is required to perform them.

Math and Manipulatives

                  Encourage the children to build houses today using Duplo’s, small cubes, dominos etc.  Use words to describe the parts of the house/building.  (Wall, roof, window, door)

Physical Health & Development/Fine Motor Skills; grows in hand-eye coordination in building with blocks, putting together puzzles, reproducing shapes and patterns, stringing beads, and using scissors.

Outdoors Play

                  Encourage the children to use the buckets and large trucks to pretend to be working a construction sight.  Add hard hats if you have any available.  They can pretend to dig out a foundation or build a tall building/mountain from the sand. If you do not have large trucks, the children could wash the bicycles and other riding toys.

Creative Arts/ Dramatic Play; participates in a variety if dramatic play activities that become more extended or complex.


                  As the children go to the next activity ask them if they can name things that have wheels.  List their responses onto a piece of paper.  When they run out of wheeled objects, ask them to name something that can be square or another shape that you are working on.

Approaches to Learning/Reasoning & problem Solving; develops increasing ability to find more than one solution to a question, task, or problem.


About Kerry CI am an Early Childhood Educator who has seen daily the value of shared book readings with my preschoolers. I use the book theme in my centers and can daily touch upon a variety of Early Childhood Domains which makes assessing the children easy and individualized.