Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

Teacher Guide by Ashley Trudeau

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Elementary School Category!

Tops and Bottoms Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Tops and Bottoms Include:

Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens, is a trickster tale that will capture the attention of young readers. Clever Hare solves his family’s problems by tricking Bear. Bear and Hare get involved in a gardening business where Hare’s tricks and hard work allow him to reap all the vegetable profits, while Lazy Bear sleeps through every planting season and doesn’t make any profits. Students will learn the value of hard work and doing things for yourself!

Tops and Bottoms Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Tops and Bottoms Character Map

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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 Hare:

Physical Appearance:

  • adult hare

Character Traits:

  • clever
  • poor
  • hard worker
  • tricky
  • gets himself into trouble


  • "Although Hare was clever, he sometimes got into trouble. He had once owned land, too, but now he had nothing. He had lost a risky bet with a tortoise and had sold all of his to Bear to pay off the debt. Hare and his family were in very bad shape."

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

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in Tops and Bottoms and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a character from the "Animals" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in the Textables for Physical Appearance, Character Traits, and Evidence.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

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

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Tops and Bottoms Vocabulary Lesson Plan

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Another great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from the Tops and Bottoms book.

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.

Here are some ways to help your students find the meaning of the vocabulary words they choose:

  1. Use context clues; sometimes you can figure out the meaning of a word by reading the sentences that come before and after the unknown word.
  2. The author may tell the definition of the word right in the same sentence, or in the following sentence.
  3. Picture clues may help define an unknown word.
  4. Look at the unknown word, and look for parts you may know. Sometimes a new ending or beginning has been added or changed.
  5. Use a dictionary or glossary.

Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story and an example of a visual vocabulary board.


(n.) An abundance of valuable possessions or money

Example: ”His father had been a hard worker and a smart business bear, and he had given all of his wealth to his son."


(n.) An angry or bad-tempered expression

Example: ”Bear looked at his pile and scowled."


(v./n.) The process or period of gathering in crops

Example: ”When it was time for the harvest, Hare called out, ‘Wake up, Bear! You get the tops and I get the bottoms.’"

Other vocabulary words that could be used include:

Debt, profit, business partners, cheated, clever, lazy, and crops

(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 Tops and Bottoms 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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Tops and Bottoms Summary

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Students decide on what they think are the important parts in the text are 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 Tops and Bottoms Summary


Hare needs to find a way to feed his family. He decides to trick the lazy bear. He offers to grow all the crops and all Bear has to do is decide if he wants the top half of the crop or the bottom.


Hare tricks Bear many times. Bear chooses the top half for his profit, so Hare grows root vegetables. Bear is left with the tops of all the root vegetables, a useless harvest.


Bear is fed up with getting tricked so he decides that he will grow his own plants so he can keep all the parts. Hare earned enough money to buy his land back and open a vegetable stand.

(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 Tops and Bottoms.

  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.)

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Comparing and Contrasting in Tops and Bottoms

A fun way to get your students to connect with and understand the two main characters is to have them compare and contrast their qualities. Janet Stevens does a good job at describing many differences and some similarities between the characters, Hare and Bear.

Students can use the text to find character traits and physical traits of Bear and Hare. Students can work individually or in pairs to research and compile a list of evidence. Once students have traits for each character, they can compare/contrast. Students will describe the traits they compiled about Hare on one side and the traits they discovered of Bear on the other. The traits that they both share will go in the middle. Using the T-Chart layout, students can create a version of a Venn Diagram!

Bear: wealthy

Harer: poor

Bear: lazy

Harer: hard working

Bear: animals

Harer: live in the same area

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Tops and Bottoms Text Connections

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Text Connections
Text to Text Connection that reminds you of something in another book or story
Text to Self Connection that reminds you of something in your life.
Text to World Connection that reminds you of something happening in the world.

Making connections is a very important skill to acquire and perfect. Tops and Bottoms is a great story for students to connect to on many different levels. In this activity, students will be making text to text, text to self, and text to world connections. Students should choose which connection they want to make first and work to write a narrative for that. Once all three connections have been made, students can work on their illustrations.


Text: In the story, Bear does not want to do any work and lets Hare do all the work planting the crops. He is upset when he finds out he has a harvest full of the useless parts of vegetables.

Text: The Little Red Hen is a fable where the Hen asks her friends if they will help her plant and harvest wheat. Each time she asks they all reply, "not I", so the Hen does it herself. Hen's hard work turns into a delicious loaf of baked bread. Her friends all want some, but Hen refuses because they did not help her in any way.


Text: In the story, Hare is a hard worker. He is determined to find a way to get food to feed his family. Bear is not a hard worker and loves to sleep.

Self: I am a very hard worker and I always help my dad with yard work. My sister is lazy and always wants to sleep.


Text: When Hare is explaining his idea (trick) to Bear, he tells bear that they could become business partners.

World: In the news, I learned about brothers who were business partners in real estate. They just released a new book that they wrote together.

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

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows connections you have made with Tops and Bottoms. Include a connection for text to text, text to world, and text to self.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify parts of Tops and Bottoms that you connect with.
  3. Parts from the Tops and Bottoms go on the left side. The connections you make go on the right side.
  4. Create an image for each connection using scenes, characters, items, and text boxes.
  5. Write a description of how the text relates to another text, the world, and you.

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

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A Quick Synopsis of Tops and Bottoms (Contains Plot Spoilers)

Bear is lazy. His father, being a smart business bear, gave Bear all his money and land, but all Bear wanted to do was sleep, all the time!

Hare lived down the road from Bear. He and his family were in very bad shape. Hare had lost a bet to a tortoise and had to sell his land to Bear to pay off his debt. They had no money and the children were starving, so Hare and his wife came up with a plan.

Hare went to see Bear, who was, of course, asleep. Hare said he and his family would plant, harvest, and do all the work on the farm, if they could use Bear’s field. Then when the crops were ready they would split it 50/50. With the condition that Bear would get the top half of everything, Bear agreed.

Bear went back to sleep and Hare and his family went to work. Harvest arrived, Hare woke up Bear and then he dug up the radishes, carrots, and beets. He pulled off all the tops and tossed them in a pile for Bear and the bottoms for himself. Bear knew he had been tricked; Hare had a wonderful pile of vegetables, while he had a pile of useless tops. He ordered Hare to plant again, this time he would get the bottoms and Hare would get the tops.

While Hare’s family worked planting the second round of crops, Bear slept. When it was time for the harvest, Hare woke up Bear. Hare piled up lettuce, broccoli, and celery for his pile and tossed the bottoms into Bear’s pile. Bear looked at his pile and was furious because he had been tricked again. He ordered Hare to plant the crops again but this time he would get the tops AND the bottoms.

Bear was asleep again while the Hare family planted, watered, and weeded the third round of crops. Harvest arrived and they brought in what they had planted, cornstalks. Hare pulled off the roots at the bottom and the tassels at the top, putting them in a pile for Bear. Then he collected the ears of corn in the middle and put them in his pile. Bear was really awake now and told Hare that he would plant his own crops from now on, so he could keep the tops, bottoms, and middles.

Bear never slept through another planting season, and Hare was able to buy his land back from Bear and open a vegetable stand. Bear and Hare learned to live happily as neighbors, but they never became business partners again.

Essential Questions for Tops and Bottoms

  1. Is there a time when being lazy is all right? Explain.
  2. Is it ok to trick someone?
  3. Why is it important to do things for yourself, rather than depending on others to do them for you?

Other activities could include:

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•   (English) Tops and Bottoms   •   (Español) Tops y Partes Inferiores   •   (Français) Hauts et Bas   •   (Deutsch) Oberteile und Unterteile   •   (Italiana) Coperchio e il Fondo   •   (Nederlands) Tops en Bottoms   •   (Português) Tops e Partes Inferiores   •   (עברית) צמרות ובתחתית   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) قمم وقيعان   •   (हिन्दी) सबसे ऊपर और नीचे   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Вершины и Низ   •   (Dansk) Toppe og Bunde   •   (Svenska) Toppar och Bottnar   •   (Suomi) Kannet ja Pohjat   •   (Norsk) Topper og Bunner   •   (Türkçe) Üstler ve Altlar   •   (Polski) Góry i Dna   •   (Româna) Capace și Funduri   •   (Ceština) Vrcholy a dna   •   (Slovenský) Topy a Nohavice   •   (Magyar) Felső és Alsó Rész   •   (Hrvatski) Vrhovi i dna   •   (български) Върховете и Гънките   •   (Lietuvos) Viršūnių ir Dugnų   •   (Slovenščina) Vrhovi in ​​dna   •   (Latvijas) Topi un Dibeni   •   (eesti) Topid ja Põhjaga