My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Teacher Guide by Ashley Trudeau

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My Father's Dragon Lesson Plans

Student Activities for My Father's Dragon Include:

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is an exciting read-aloud for young children. In the story, Elmer Elevator explores Wild Island on a rescue mission to save a baby dragon. He encounters many frightening sights, but his quick thinking and ingenuity prove no match for anyone standing in his way. This funny and creative story will capture the attention of any reader, no matter the age!

My Father's Dragon Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Character Map Graphic Organizer | My Father's Dragon

As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

Here is an example for Elmer Elevator:

Physical Appearance

  • Young boy
  • Wears rubber boots

Character Traits

  • Brave
  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Imaginative
  • Resourceful
  • Smart


  • "One cold rainy day when my father was a little boy..."
  • "My father thought of the cat and knew this wasn't true. But of course, he had too much sense to say so. One doesn't contradict a hungry tiger."
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My Father's Dragon Vocabulary Lesson Plan

Copy Assignment

Another great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from My Father’s Dragon.

In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text. The sentences and images validate the understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the novel.

Example My Father's Dragon Vocabulary Words

  • knapsack
  • hold
  • solemn
  • suspicious
  • glaring
  • scarce
  • summon
  • cargo
  • conduct
  • disorderly

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in My Father's Dragon by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

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Plot Diagram | My Father's Dragon Summary

Copy Assignment

Students decide on what are important parts in the text and categorize them into the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Having students decide on the beginning, middle, and end will help them break the text up and make it easier to choose one or two main events to create. Students can plan their ideas with a partner or individually and decide what main parts they would like to add to their storyboard.

The storyboard below shows one example for the beginning, middle and end, but you could set a number of frames for the students to use depending on the ability of the student or the length of the text.

Example My Father's Dragon Summary


Elmer Elevator befriends an alley cat who tells him of a mysterious island called Wild Island. The cat says there is a baby dragon there that is tied up and forced to carry people and cargo up and down the river. Elmer decides he will run away to Wild Island to save the dragon.


Elmer hides in a cargo ship and eventually makes it to the island. On the island he runs into many animals that block his path to the dragon. Elmer uses his supplies from his knapsack to help him get past the animals. For example, a lion has snarly hair, so Elmer gives him a comb and shows him how to brush his hair and tie it up.


To cross the river, Elmer ties the crocodiles tails together with a band and a lollipop to form a chain. He runs across, but the animals chasing him get stuck in the middle of the river on the crocodiles backs. Elmer reaches the dragon, cuts him free from his rope, and together they fly away from Wild Island.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Make a storyboard summary of My Father's Dragon.

  1. Make a picture that shows the beginning of the story.
  2. Make a picture that shows the middle of the story.
  3. Make a picture that shows the end of the story.
  4. Write a sentence under each picture.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

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Making Predictions in My Father's Dragon

During this read-aloud, students are going to have many predictions or inferences, on what they think is going to happen next. A great idea for a storyboard is to have students illustrate their predictions. Plan on specific stopping points while reading, and have your students predict what will happen. They will illustrate their prediction in a storyboard cell and use evidence from the text or prior knowledge to back up their prediction.

The main focus for the storyboard example below was to predict what Elmer will use from his knapsack. The story lists exactly what Elmer brought with him on his trip:

  • gum
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • a comb / hairbrush
  • 6 magnifying glasses
  • 2 dozen pink lollipops
  • rubber bands
  • jackknife
  • hair ribbons
  • grain sack with the word cranberry

Using this knowledge, and the narrative about the specific animal, one can predict what they think he will use and how he will use it to escape.

What do you predict Elmer will use from his bag to help him escape from the animal?


When Elmer meets the Rhino for the first time, the Rhino is weeping because his tusk is now yellow instead of white

"When I was a young rhinoceros, my tusk was pearly white, but it has turned a nasty yellow-gray in my old age, and I find it very ugly.”


I know Elmer packed a tooth brush and paste, I think he is going to give it to the Rhino to help him clean his tusk.


Elmer runs into a lion who is yelling and angry because he has blackberry twigs stuck in his hair.

"A lion was prancing about clawing at his mane, which was snarled and full of blackberry twigs.”


I think Elmer will use the brush or the comb to help the lion brush his mane.

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Themes of My Father's Dragon

Several themes are present in the story. Students can pick a theme to explore and should support their choice with specific details or events from the text. One prominent theme is "bravery". To rescue the dragon, Elmer has to be brave, and throughout the story he shows many ways that he acted this way.

Example 1

A fisherman, shaking while talking, tells Elmer that people have tried to explore Wild Island but never returned. Elmer is brave because he did not let this bother him, and he kept on his journey to the dragon.

Example 2

Elmer gets surrounded by seven tigers. He is not scared, instead he uses his quick thinking and gives the tigers 'special' chewing gum. This distracts the tigers so Elmer can escape.

Other themes that can be examined are: cleverness, resourcefulness, and heroism.

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A Quick Synopsis of My Father's Dragon

My Father’s Dragon is narrated by a young child telling the story of his father, Elmer Elevator, rescuing a baby dragon.

One day, Elmer Elevator meets an alley cat. He offers to take the cat to his home to give him shelter and milk, but his mother refuses to let the cat stay in the house. Despite not being able to keep the cat in the house, Elmer and the cat become good friends. The cat asks Elmer if he would like to fly, but not in an airplane. Elmer says he would love to be able to fly away to anywhere he desires. The cat tells Elmer about his trip to Wild Island, where a baby dragon is held captive and forced to transport the locals and cargo from one side of the river to the other. Elmer decides he will venture to Wild Island and rescue the dragon. Together, the cat and Elmer pack all the necessities for the trip. Elmer stows away on a ship and reaches the Island of Tangerina.

On the island, Elmer collects many tangerines, which he keeps in his knapsack with his other supplies. He sets off at night to cross the Ocean Rocks (the Ocean Rocks link the Island of Tangerina with Wild Island). When he arrives on Wild Island, Elmer finds he is not wanted, and has been labeled an ‘invasion’. Elmer tries to take the quickest route to the dragon, but he is blocked by many animals: seven tigers, a rhino, a lion, a gorilla, and six monkeys. He uses his wits and the supplies in his knapsack to get by each of the obstacles.

When Elmer reaches the river, he knows he has to get across, both because that is where the dragon is being held, and because he is being chased by the wild animals of the Island. Elmer cannot get across the river without the help of the crocodiles, but all they want to do is eat Elmer. He comes up with a plan. He gives a lollipop to a crocodile and then ties another onto his tail. He soon creates a chain of crocodiles, all tied up, eating lollipops. Elmer runs across the backs of the crocodiles to get to the dragon. While he is cutting off the rope tied around the dragons neck, the other animals attempt to cross the crocodiles backs, but the chain of crocodiles moves toward the middle of the river and all the animals chasing Elmer are stuck. Elmer frees the dragon and they fly off, away from Wild Island, forever.

Essential Questions For My Father's Dragon

  1. Why do we hand stories down to the next generation?
  2. How are points of view different between people?

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•   (English) My Father's Dragon   •   (Español) El Dragón de mi Padre   •   (Français) Le Dragon de mon Père   •   (Deutsch) Meines Vaters Drachen   •   (Italiana) Drago di mio Padre   •   (Nederlands) Dragon My Father's   •   (Português) Dragão do meu pai   •   (עברית) הדרקון של אבא שלי   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) التنين أبي   •   (हिन्दी) मेरे पिता का ड्रैगन   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Отца Моего Дракона   •   (Dansk) Min Fars Drage   •   (Svenska) Min Fars Drake   •   (Suomi) Isäni Dragon   •   (Norsk) Min Fars Drage   •   (Türkçe) Babamın Ejderhası   •   (Polski) Smok Mojego Ojca   •   (Româna) Dragon Tatăl meu   •   (Ceština) Dragon Mého Otce   •   (Slovenský) Drak Môjho Otca   •   (Magyar) Atyám Sárkány   •   (Hrvatski) Zmaj Mojega Oca   •   (български) Драконът на Отца Ми   •   (Lietuvos) Mano Tėvas Dragon   •   (Slovenščina) Moj oče je Zmaj   •   (Latvijas) Mana Tēva Dragon   •   (eesti) Minu Isa Dragon