ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Counting Crows

Using innovative thinking to tackle life’s challenges


Key Staff

This is a multi-faceted project that can be led by the classroom teacher. It does not require outside instruction.

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques
Creative Thinking: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Life and Career Skills: Initiative and Self-Direction


This lesson blends math and art with literature and film using Aesop's fable, "The Crow and the Pitcher." The class will discuss the fable and its meaning. The class will compare the fable as a book and as a short film. Each student will design his or her own puppet and act out the fable using pebbles and water in containers. Students will also make predictions and then compare them to actual results. Finally, the class will see fiction become fact when introduced to a biologist’s observations of a bird similar to the crow.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Discuss "The Crow and the Pitcher" fable
  • Compare two mediums to tell the same story (book and film)
  • Create a crow sock puppet
  • Use prediction skills
  • Use measurement skills
  • Use calculation skills
  • Dramatize the fable using puppets
  • View a raven (similar to a crow) solve the same problem in nature

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discovery Learning
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Modeling

Assessment Type



What You'll Need

Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
  • Internet Access
  • Projector
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

  • Obtain a book copy of “The Crow and the Pitcher”
    (This could be a picture-book version to real aloud to the class, or an emergent/leveled reader for the class to read by themselves.)
  • View a video version of the fable.
  • Read science article and view the accompanying video.
  • Do the stone exercise yourself so you will know approximately how much water and stones you will need for each student (based on the size of your vases and pebbles).

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Concept of fable
  • Familiarity with Aesop
  • Measurement skills

Physical Space



  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction


Prepare work areas with table protection.
Distribute supplies.
Create prediction table.
Test web links and computer/projection equipment.

Accessibility Notes

Students with physical disabilities may need modified movements.


Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.



1. Invite students to tell you about a time when they were thirsty. Begin by asking the class, "Please raise your hand if you have you ever been so thirsty that you said, 'I'm dying of thirst!'" Call on those students who raised their hands and ask them to describe how they felt and how they were able to relieve their thirst and get something to drink. (Chart their responses on the board or chart paper for reference later in the lesson.)

2. Introduce the well-known fable by Aesop "The Crow and the Pitcher." Explain that the crow in this fable was also thirsty and felt the same way they had just discussed. He was dying of thirst! Briefly review that a fable is type of story with a moral or lesson. Explain that the moral of a fable is what the reader learns from it. Before you begin to read the fable, encourage the students to listen to discover how the crow solved his problem.

3. Read to the class (or have the students read independently or aloud) "The Crow and the Pitcher." Encourage dramatic expression.

Build Knowledge

1. Discuss what the moral of the story might be. This could be done in a whole class discussion, students could partner and share, or students could write their thoughts as a journal entry or creative writing project. As examples, any of the following morals could apply to this story:

  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Little by little does the trick
  • Where there is a will there is a way
  • Do not give up even when it seems impossible
  • Try hard; even the most difficult problems can be solved

2. List the students' ideas on the board to determine if there is a common theme to them. Generalize one moral that could be applied to the story.

3. View the film. Ask students to compare and contrast the book and the film:.

  • How are they the same?
  • How are they different?
  • Which did they like more?
  • Why?

4. Ask students if they have read any other stories that have a moral. Have students talk about the story and its moral.


1. Make the crow sock puppet. Draw an example of a Crow Sock Puppet Design on the board, a guide for which is available within the Resource Carousel. Model the steps in making the puppet. Glue two eyes to the sock and draw a beak with yellow fabric paint. After you have modeled this for the students, pass out the supplies and have them create their own puppets. Tell students they will wear their sock puppets later to act out the fable.

2. Review the fable with the students and have them explain how the crow solved his problem. Ask them if they think that the crow's strategy would really work. If no, ask them why not. If yes, ask them to explain how.

3. Ask students how they could test the crow's strategy to find out for themselves. When they guess it, reveal the supplies for the project. If they have trouble guessing, then reveal the supplies to give them a hint.

4. Have students predict the number of stones it will take to raise the water level to a predetermined line on the vase. Demonstrate how to measure the water and carefully pour it into the container. Demonstrate how the crow puppet will place stones into the container. (Do not share your own prediction. Do not demonstrate more than a few pebbles.) Enter information into the first two columns on the table. (This can be done independently or in groups.)






5. Prepare for the fable re-enactment. Distribute the supplies (vases, water, measuring cup, and pebbles) to the students. Have them pour the measured amount of water into the vase. Discuss how students can dramatize adding pebbles. What kind of voices will they use? What gestures might they use? How would a thirsty crow act?

6. Re-enact the fable. Have the students use their sock puppets to add the pebbles to the water, counting dramatically as they do so.

7. Record the results of the re-enactment. Have each student or group add information to the third column.

8. Analyze the students’ predictions. Explain that to determine the difference between the predicted number of stones and the actual number of stones needed, students must subtract. Have the students take out paper to figure the differences for one or more re-enactments.

9. Discuss how the crow felt during the re-enactment. Refer to the list with students' comments on how they felt if they were dying of thirst. Ask if any of their dramatizations showed these feelings.


1. Select one or more students or groups to share their re-enactments with the class. The selection can be based on the closest predictions or some other criteria.

2. Revisit the concept of fables and morals. Discuss the moral of the story and ask students to think of times when the moral applied to them or someone they know. Discuss why we have morals in stories and how can they help us.

3. Share biologists’ findings about the raven, a close relative of the crow. Explain that sometimes made-up stories, such as this fable, can resemble real life. Share the video of the rook filling the vase with pebbles to get water! (Depending on the interest levels of the students, the teacher may choose to show one or more of the video clips.)


1. Using the Assessment Rubric located within the Resource Carousel, assess students on the following:

  • Completion of puppet with the required components (2 eyes and a beak).
  • Their ability to predict.
  • The accuracy of their subtraction.
  • Their ability to dramatize the fable.

Extending the Learning

  • Students write and illustrate a parallel story to The Crow, with a similar challenge to solve.
  • Students think of a moral, then write and illustrate their own short fable.
  • Students with advanced computer skills can create their own computer-generated illustration or film of The Crow.


Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2: Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 7: Analyzing and explaining personal preferences and constructing meanings from classroom dramatizations and from theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes


Math Standard 1: Uses a variety of strategies in the problem-solving process

Math Standard 2: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of numbers

Math Standard 3: Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation



Genevieve Jackson
Original Writer

Carol Parenzan Smalley

Email Print Share


- +
Email a link to this page
Share This Page



Use this collection of resources and articles to devise an approach for supporting individual needs in the classroom: from English Language Learners or students with disabilities, to conflict resolution and giving feedback.



© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center 

with the support of

The US Department of Education 

ARTSEDGE, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David Rubenstein.

Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Center education and related artistic programming is made possible through the generosity of the National Committee
for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2019 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions


You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.