To Squish Or Not To Squish

It's been about twelve years since I discovered the illustrated picture book Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose. Kaitlyn's first-grade teacher, Angela Koopman, had it on her wish list at the Book Fair that year, so I bought a copy for her and figured I'd best get one for our family. It was perfect timing for me because a career change had taken me from being a high school counselor to a middle school filled with fifth and sixth graders, and this little jewel with a powerful punch served as my very first guidance lesson tool to teach respect and the golden rule.

I made an acronym out of the word ANTS and created a bookmark using these four virtues as talking points to use with the students to enrich the lesson. After reading the tale aloud, we took a look at who the ants are in our lives and what is our ANTidote for handling them?  

                    A is for Awareness
                    N is for Negotiation
                    T is for Tolerance
                    S is for Sensitivity

The lesson went really well, so I posted it online at my little school webpage for our parents to read. The author found my article and wrote me an email to thank me for the interesting spin I'd put on his work. He encouraged me to submit the idea and a copy of the bookmark to Teaching Tolerance magazine and guess what?  They liked it and my review was published!  If you own a hardcover copy of the eighth edition or later, you'll see an excerpt from that article on the back jacket cover.

It's too small to read, but this is how the article looked!

A few years later, we hosted a Picnic With The Author Of Ant and Phil came to Family Character Night, where he brought his book to life by acting it out for us. He followed that with an old-fashioned Sing Along and it was a glorious gathering. If you don't know this gem, which is available in twelve languages, I'd encourage you to check it out.  It will always be one of my all-time faves! There's even a musical score in the back if you'd rather sing the book. Click here to hear the song.

A few of our first-grade classes are currently in the midst of a PBL (Project-Based Learning) study using this book but substituting the word spider for ant.  They are working on deciding whether or not they should squish spiders, not based on how they feel about spiders, but by looking at the data that they find out about them from their research. Are spiders actually our friends? I can't wait to hear what they decide.  

If you love picture books as much as I do and want even more titles that you can think about, explore, and teach with, you simply must visit


  1. Love this book and use your bookmark too! We talk about how the ant used negotiation skills and what it means to walk in someone's shoes. We then hold a debate and have one side of the classroom take the squish statement and the other not to squish. The kids love this. A third grade teacher then used it to teach persuasion writing.

  2. Just pinned the book to my Picture Books board. I have never heard of it! I love the project that the first grades are doing! We save bugs in my class....but never spiders. How terrible!
    Rowdy in First Grade

  3. MyMyMy.
    Just when I thought I couldn't be any more awestruck by the things you do and say, I read this.
    Because we are struggling SO much with treating each other with kindness at my school, this really hit home.
    Thank you for giving me another resource--and renewed motivation--to help kids examine their choices.
    You're a gift to the world, Barbara!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. Back again.
    If you go on Amazon and find this book... and then click Search Inside... and then scroll down... THERE YOU ARE!


    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  5. You know, I've seen this book so many times, and have never read it. Guess what - it's on my wishlist now. And I'm with Kim - my class could REALLY use this!!! Thanks for even more inspiration ... as always.

    Runde's Room

  6. What a great book!!! It's on my wish list for next year !!!! Thanks Barbara!

    ❤ Mor Zrihen from...
    A Teacher's Treasure
    Teaching Treasures Shop

  7. Hi Barbara - thank you so much for visiting my blog and posting a link to it in yours! I really appreciate it. I've never read Hey, Little Ant, and it sounds like it would be a great candidate for Perfect Picture Books - I'll have to ask my library for it. I love your description of how you used it! The format for Perfect Picture Books is on the Perfect Picture Book tab of my blog, all the way at the bottom, if you feel inclined to join us any week :)

  8. Thank you for sharing this! My kids love this book, and your post will help us to look at it with new eyes.

    :) Abby @ Third Grade Bookworm

    1. This is one of my favorite books to use. I also use the bookmark activity. We use the word Acceptance for Awareness. The students then make ants using their fingerprints(body) and thin sharpies(legs) on their bookmarks


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