The Big Top: A Circus Unit

Who doesn’t love the circus? There are so many wonderful acts and animals for children and adults to see. If you are feeling that you need a boost to finish out your school year, here is a list of books and some activities that are circus themed.


The Circus Alphabet, Linda Bronson This simple rhyming text and alphabet book is terrific for younger children.

Circus Caps for Sale Esphyr Slobodkina  A lovable hat peddler unwittingly gets involved with a circus, animals and all!

If I Ran the Circus, Dr. Seuss A rhyming text of outrageous characters and antics involving a circus.

Olivia Saves the Circus, Ian Falconer Olivia is an adorable pig who relates her circus experiences that your children will enjoy reading.

The Circus Ship, Chris Van Dusen  This is based on a true story about ship wrecked animals off the coast of Maine.

Language Arts Ideas for the Above Mentioned Books

 The Circus Alphabet

Your circus performer can choose the letters from their name to make their own circus alphabet. Here is an example:

M is for money to buy a ticket for the show.

E is for electricity to pop the popcorn fluffy and light. (All I could think of since elephant  was the obvious choice!)

L is for lion tamer bold and brave.

You can reinforce the ideas from The Circus Alphabet by going to the page, Happy Together,   to make fabric alphabet letters. I think this would be fun to hang on a clothesline like they show since in the back of my mind I can see circus performers hanging their laundry between caravans. This is an especially nice idea for preschoolers and beginning readers.

 Circus Caps for Sale

Help the cap peddler by making an advertisement for his caps.

Act out the story.

You can also read one of my all time favorite books with the same peddler called Caps for Sale

 If I Ran the Circus

Write your own story about how you would run the circus. Illustrate and share your story with someone.

Olivia Saves the Circus

After reading the book discuss fact, fiction.

Read more stories of Olivia the Pig.

The Circus Ship

Draw pictures of the animals that were shipwrecked.

Make up a different tale or poem about what happened to the shipwrecked animals.

Join a Circus (Activities)

Have a parade The circus comes to town with a parade so why not decorate bikes and wagons with streamers and balloons and have a circus parade? The children can dress up as various circus performers such as acrobats, ringmaster, clowns, etc.

Tightrope walking Use the clothesline from the fabric alphabet letters (Happy Together website) to use as a tightrope on the ground. This is a great way to  practice balancing.

Strongest Person in the World Have a contest to see who is the strongest by weight lifting. If you have 1 or 2 pound weights you can see how many times each person can lift them. Extend the contest by making  it a math lesson by graphing the results.

Lion Tamer  The children can take turns being the tamer and the lions. This can be done by setting up an obstacle course that the lions must complete upon command. Your obstacle course could include the following:  green and red construction paper circles, a jump rope, and a hula hoop. These are just a few ideas, if you are creative, don’t stop there!

The lion tamer would give directions and say something like this,

” Lions, jump from the green circle to the red circle.”

“Lions, crawl on the ground until you reach the tightrope.”

” Walk across the tightrope and do a somersault at the end.”

“Jump into the hula hoop. Put your paws in the air and roar as loud as you can!”

Switch and let someone else be the new lion tamer.

You can make the lion act as long as you wish. Several sets of directions can be typed out ahead of time for reading skills or you can let them improvise, depending upon how much you want to put into this. By doing this activity  listening and following directions are employed in a fun way.

Acrobats Do you have a child who enjoys gymnastics? They could create an act by doing cartwheels, backbends, and somersaults.

Clowns  A circus is not complete without clowns! You could make balloon animals and come up with a funny act. Have your clowns wear face paint and pantomime. Let the audience guess what they are pantomiming. Here are some ideas for pantomime:

Eating popcorn, playing instruments (trumpet, trombone, bass drum, flute, etc.), selling concessions through the crowd, giving away flowers, feeding the animals, etc.

Have fun!

4 thoughts on “The Big Top: A Circus Unit

  1. Pingback: Picture Book Review: Circus Stories | The Lupine Librarian

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