FREE Literature Unit Study Ideas for Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

 Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White is a classic children’s favorite. Most kids love Wilbur and cheer Charlotte on as she works to keep him alive throughout the story. If you’re looking for an already created unit study to use with Charlotte’s Web, make sure you check out the Charlotte’s Web Unit Study and Complete Notebooking Packet in my store. It has a full unit study, including a daily suggested schedule, notebooking pages, and more.

Free Charlotte's Web Literature Unit Study

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About the book:

Fern Arable is a girl growing up in the earlier 1900s. Life is pretty simple for her, growing up on a farm. One morning, however, she sees her father headed out to the pigpen with an ax. A new litter of pigs was born, and there is a scrawny runt that he’s decided to kill out of mercy. Fern has other ideas. She stops her father and pleads with him to let her raise the baby pig. Like many fathers, he eventually succumbs to his daughter’s pleading. Fern turns the pig, which she names Wilbur, into her personal doll baby: feeding him from a bottle round the clock, coddling him in blankets, and pushing him around in her doll carriage.

Things are going well until Fern’s father informs her that Wilbur is doing so well that he now needs to go and live with all the other grown up pigs on her Uncle Henry’s large farm. Fern takes up visiting her little friend almost every day, meeting his new friends in the barnyard. Wilbur, however, is lonely in his new life until he meets Charlotte, the large spider above his home. As Wilbur- and Fern- realize that pigs don’t ever really live past their first year (and a visit to the butcher), they despair. But Charlotte steps in and begins to weave magic with writings in her web that praise the wonderful pig below her.

Charlotte’s efforts are a beautiful look at friendship. As Uncle Henry realizes what an awesome pig he has, his feelings about killing Wilbur change, and after a successful trip to the county fair, he changes his mind and decides Wilbur will stick around. Unfortunately, Charlotte has come to the end of her brief spider’s life. But Wilbur will still meet her children and form new friendships in the end.

Things to talk about:

There are so many great themes here- growing up and friendship and self sacrifice- that, although younger children will enjoy hearing the story of cute pigs and animals who talk, you can really have some meaningful discussions with older readers.

  • Why do you think Fern’s father was going to kill Wilbur? Was he right or wrong to want to do this?
  • What do you think about Uncle Henry planning to kill Wilbur? (This can open up great discussions but may encourage your children to be vegetarians.)
  • Do you think it was unusual for Charlotte to befriend Wilbur? Why do you think she did?
  • Talk about ways in which Charlotte showed self-sacrifice in her relationship with Wilbur. Do you think Wilbur really knew and appreciated what she was doing? Do you think we sometimes take for granted the kind things others do for us?
  • Do you think that Wilbur was self-centered?
  • How did Fern change throughout the story? (This is actually an excellent book for character analysis of several of the key characters.)
  • Did you like the book’s ending? Why or why not?

History/social studies learning:

  • Although the farm in this video is a modern one, this 4-H video shows family life on a farm.
  • Nothing in the book ever tells us the time period of the book. (It was written in the 1950s and was probably pretty current for the time.) Have kids analyze the cultural elements in the book- transportation, communication, entertainment- and discuss the time period in which they think it is set and why.
  • This photo gallery from Time magazine has some great pictures about the history of county and state fairs.
  • Read more about the history of county fairs and how they’ve changed on this site.
  • On this 4-H site, children can take virtual field trips to farms of various types.

Science learning:

Language arts learning:

  • Use this free character sheet from abcteach to match the story’s characters with a description.
  • Throughout your reading, keep a character timeline. At the beginning of the reading, choose one character from the story. Draw a blank timeline and label it with chapter numbers instead of dates. As you read, record one or two things about your character’s personality or actions from each chapter. At the end of the story, you’ll be able to see how your character changed.
  • Talk about what it means to use descriptive language. Look up a definition as well as several synonyms for each of the words Charlotte uses.
  • Charlotte does a great job “advertising” for Wilbur. Write your own advertisement for Wilbur. What would you say to make him look good?
  • As you read through the book, complete this free story chart printable from abcteach to look at the elements of the story.
  • Creative writing: Have your student imagine that he gets a chance to go to the county fair with Fern. Tell about the experience.

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Free Charlotte's Web Literature Unit Study

Hands-on activities and crafts:

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Other resources:

  • If you’d like to listen to the story instead of reading it aloud, you can find the Charlotte’s Web audible edition.
  • There are several movie versions of the story. Mine is the live action movie from 2006.
  • Shmoop– which is an awesome free site with book notes for many classics- has a great full book synopsis as well as chapter by chapter summaries of the book. There are also links to quizzes, flashcards, and other activities. (Shmoop is a little tongue in cheek, and really young readers won’t “get it,” but older elementary students and older who are reading the book will find it extremely funny.)

Other books to read:

Charlotte's Web unit study

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