Mary Poppins Unit Board


The Atlantic Canada arts education curricula are shaped by a vision of enabling and encouraging students to engage in the creative, expressive, and responsive processes of the arts throughout their lives.


To develop scientific literacy, students require diverse learning experiences that provide opportunities to explore, analyse, evaluate, synthesize, appreciate, and understand the interrelationships among science, technology, society, and the environment. Scientific inquiry involves posing questions and developing explanations for phenomena. While there is general agreement there is no such thing as the scientific method, students require certain skills to participate in the activities of science. The purpose of this unit plan is to create awareness in students of how literacy can be connected not only to science, but to music, and art as well.

Grade Level: Grade Four

Unit Board Description

The unit board is to be placed in the classroom in order to excite the class about the time they will be spending analyzing, synthesizing, and reflecting on the novel Mary Poppins. From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. This classic series tells the story of the world’s most beloved nanny, who brings enchantment and excitement with her everywhere she goes. Featuring the charming original cover art by Mary Shepard, these new editions are sure to delight readers of all ages.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life (Goodreads 2012).

Students can look ahead to see what sort of activities they will be engaged in during the study of the book. It will also act as a way for the teacher to stay organized throughout the unit; being constantly aware of what activities he or she will need to prepare for next.


Having the board up in class will also work as a teaching tool in itself. In seeing the images and information displayed on the board each day, the students will automatically become more aware of themes and various aspects of the book. The board should be accessible to the students and the teacher at all times throughout the unit; allowing for everyone to constantly benefit from its presence (Leonhardt, 2010, p. 25).




  • use a variety of sources to stimulate ideas on art work, e.g., poems, songs, the environment
  • demonstrate self-confidence and eagerness toward their art production, expression and discussion
  • use tools, materials and equipment safely and appropriately
  • Demonstrate originality and imagination in expressing thoughts,
  • experiences, and feelings as they engage in creating and making
  • Demonstrate critical awareness of and value for the role of the arts in creating and reflecting culture
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how individual and societal values affect our response to visual art
  • Analyse the works of artists to determine how they have used the elements and principles of design to
  • Solve specific visual design problems



  • Appreciate the role and contribution of science and technology in their understanding of the world
  • Describe instances in which scientific ideas and discoveries have led to new inventions and  applications describe instances in which scientific ideas and discoveries have led to new inventions and applications
  • Make observations and collect information relevant to a given question or problem communicate questions, ideas, and intentions, and listen to others while conducting investigations



  • Contribute to and respond constructively in conversation, small-group, and whole-group discussion, recognizing their roles and responsibilities as speakers and listeners
  • Describe and discuss their own processes and strategies in reading and viewing
  • Describe, share, and discuss their personal reactions to a range of texts across genres, topics, and subjects
  • Use specific features, structures, and patterns of various text forms to create written and media texts



  • Explore their own musical work in light of what they intended
  • Experiment with the elements of music to create musical works that explore topics and issues of personal interest
  • Demonstrate an awareness of rhythmic/melodic concepts, form, and texture, through language, movement, and performance
  • Combine reading and singing/playing skills in their music making
  • Participate in small and large ensemble music-making, presenting music that reflects diverse thoughts, and feelings
  • Explore and describe the relationship between music and literature

–       Atlantic Canada Grade Four Curriculum



  • Students to learn how to work as effective group members
  • Students to learn to start making connection between literature and music
  • Students to be creative through artistic expression
  • Students to understand the importance of being effective citizens in their community
  • Students to learn leadership traits such as encouragement, problem solving, and challenging the process
  • Teach students to analyze current social issues at a local level



  • Kite – making supplies
  • Chalk
  • Copy of the novel for everyone in the class
  • Chart paper for song lyrics
  • Markers
  • Permission slips for day trip to another part of the community
  • Pictures of Old Time England



At the end of the unit, students will be given the opportunity to assess their own learning. A period of time will provided for a class discussion to reflect on the unit as well as time to independently journal about what they learned throughout the process. 


Children’s literature and elementary general music are natural partners (Miller, 2008, p. 18). The success of this unit will be based greatly on this relationship. Students will learn about literature through the music activity and vice versa. The children’s lessons should provide material for the mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them with knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure (Macaulay, 27).


Activity I: Rhyming

  • Play the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite for the students
  • Allow the students to sing the original song
  • Introduce rhyming activity: The film and book Mary Poppins can be used to model rhythmic reading, to encourage sound improvisations, and to promote student use of various dynamic levels through the Let’s Go Fly a Kite activity (Miller, 21).
  • After singing the song once through, the class will be broken into groups
  • Within each group, the children will come up with a new song based on replacing the word “kite” with another simple word that can easily be used in another rhyming scheme
  • Have the groups present their songs to the remainder of the class and comment on how they came up with the process their group went through to do the project


Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Mr. Banks:
With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

When you send it flyin’ up there
All at once you’re lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over ‘ouses and trees
With your first ‘olding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let’s go fly a kite!

Activity II: Screeving

“Today I’m a screever, and as you can see, a screever’s an artist of ‘ighest degree”

–       Bert in Mary Poppins, in the song Chim-chimeny.

In Mary Poppins, one of Bert’s many odd jobs is that of a screever; a sidewalk chalk artist. Screever was an English term for pavement artist, chalk artist, street painter, also known as a sidewalk artist in the US, or madonarri in Italy. Screevers were busking artists who created original or reproduction artworks, typically for public donations.

Students will be asked to make their own chalk art with materials provided. Bert’s art was inspired by the landscapes of English countryside; ask them to create your own landscapes, either based on real or imaginary worlds.

“Mary,” he said, “I got an idea! A real idea. Why don’t we go there — right now — this very day? Both together, into the picture. Eh, Mary? And still holding her hands he drew her right out of the street, away from the iron railings and the lamp-posts, into the very middle of the picture. Pff! There they were, right inside it!'(Travers, 1981, P.21)

Provide students with chalk to be taken outside. Spend an afternoon creating imaginary worlds on pavement outside of the school. If the children want to work in pairs, allow them to do so, working together will teach them collaboration, and problem solving techniques. Before taking the children outside read the chapter “A Day Out” in which Mary Poppins and the children go on an adventure within one of Bert’s chalk drawings.

Activity III: Historical Context

Mary Poppins was written in 1934 by P. L. Travers.

The story of Mary Poppins is set in 1910, which is near the end of the Edwardian era.

Hold a short discussion on the historical context of the novel. Display pictures of Old Time London. Ask the students to make comparisons of the community that the Banks children grew up in and the one they live in. Talk about the various jobs of the characters; shopkeepers and chimney sweeps, ask your students why there are no longer chimney sweeps.

Activity IV: Aerodynamics

Prior to the kite – making activity, introduce your students to the science of aerodynamics, described below. Upon finishing their kites, ask the students to explain to one another how aerodynamics work using their kite.

Your kite will be creating an obstacle to the normal air flow which will cause the air to change direction and speed. When the air flows across the objects surface it moves faster over the kite, while the flow across the lower surface of the kite moves more slowly. Air pressure could be altered due to the changing air speed and results in the kite being pushed higher producing lift and flight.

The second stage of kite flying aerodynamics is when the airflow is not just split along the upper and lower kite surfaces but when the split air vaults over the kite and doesn’t meet up again right away. When this happens a lower air pressure is created directly behind the kites flight pattern. The kite can be sucked into the area of low pressure and give your kite drag.

Lift and drag are important to remember in the performance of your kite. For your kite to fly stationary in the sky the lift and drag must be equal and opposite to the force pulling it down.

You will find that the position of the center of pressure is best controlled with the positioning of your flying line. For example, in light winds you will achieve the best lift by lowering your towing line to the base of the kite. This may produce a slight wobble or bring about large circles in flight. If your bridle towing line is to high it may cause your kite to tip side to side and could tip over. Experiment with your line placement to get the most out of your kite flying experience.

–       Purcell-Gates, 2007

Activity V: Kite – Making Activity

2 sheets decorative material
One 3/16-inch-diameter, 36-inch-long dowel
Kitchen twine
Small flat brush
All-purpose clear-drying glue
Crepe paper

Download and print kite templates. Trace templates onto decorative paper, and cut out.
Cut dowel into one 19-inch piece and one 16-inch piece.
Cross dowels; lash together by wrapping and tying twine around the point where they intersect.
Place dowels on back side of 1 piece of paper (use the 19-inch dowel for the vertical, and the 16-inch one for the horizontal). Brush glue on smaller pieces of paper, and adhere them over the dowels to larger piece of paper at each of the 4 corners. Let dry.
Cut another piece of twine to desired length for hanging kite. Poke a small hole through paper where dowels intersect; thread twine through for hanging.
To create tail, cut a long length of twine, and cut crepe paper into 4-by-1 1/2-inch strips. Twist crepe strips at center, and tie in knots along tail about 8 inches apart. Tie tail to bottom tip of dowel.
Brush glue along back edges of paper; adhere second piece of paper, patterned side up. Let dry.

– Every Day Living

If time permits, allow the children to take their kites out on a blustery day, children need their fresh air.

Activity VI: Feed the Birds

“Tuppence a bag” said the bird woman. “Feed the birds,” she replied smiling. “Goodbye” said Jane. “Tuppence a bag!” said the bird woman and waved her hand. They left her then, walking on either side of Mary Poppins. “What happens when everybody goes away – like us?” said Michael to Jane. He knew quite well what happened, but it was the proper thing to ask Jane because the story was really hers (Travers, 1981, P. 110).

Your students can make a difference in the world – if they’re given a chance. In the movie, Michael causes a scene at the bank when he decides he’d rather give his tuppence to the lady who feeds the birds rather than deposit it in the bank for himself. Give your students an opportunity to make a difference in their community with projects that extend beyond the classroom.
A discussion will follow the activity on the subject of poverty and other social issues in the community. Students will make comparisons between issues they see in their local community and issues raised in the novel. The concept of effective citizenship is a broad one. First, it includes developing extensive knowledge of community issues and perceptive insights for understanding those issues from multiple perspectives.

An effective citizen has knowledge of local, national and international forces, both physical and social, can analyze community issues from a variety of perspectives, and can generate new ideas about the world in which they live.
Such questions to be used in the discussion could include: What signs of poverty do we see in our community? What signs of poverty were there in Mary Poppins ?


My hope is that you will learn just as much as your students throughout this unit.

In reflecting on this unit study, there are certain lessons that you will take away from the experience. One, those relationships with your students will teach them more than any textbooks, courses, or materials you provide them with. Throughout the unit, ensure that you provide your students with ample opportunity to create and think independently, while ensuring that they are aware that you appreciate and acknowledge every thought they express, the art they create, and the songs they sing.

Take opportunities that are presented throughout the unit that allow you to get to know them better. Ask them what experiences they have had flying kites in the past, why they drew what they drew in their imaginative world, and why they chose a certain word for their rhyming scheme.

“It is necessary that children should have room and time to play without a watchful eye judging their every move” (Macaulay, 1984, P. 52). Do not hover over your children; trust that they will do their work whether or not you are supervising. If a student is engaged with his or her learning, they will do their work no matter what, because they want to.

Teachers and schools are too often pressed with curriculum and examination requirements, the aim being to mesh children into our society, like so many cogs in a wheel. They must here take heed; appreciate the nuances of the individual child and seek to serve the child; not the system (Macaulay, 1984). Throughout the unit, let the children come to their own conclusions. Let their questions bubble up with interest. During the discussion about the bird lady, let them direct the discussion on community poverty. Give them ample time to rewrite their songs, creativity takes time and should not be given an expiry date. ‘


Duke, N. K., Purcell-Gates, V., Hall, L. A. & Tower, C. (2007). Authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writing,    The Reading Teacher. 60 (4):344-355.

Good Reads (2008). Mary Poppins. Children’s Literature. Retrieved November 11, 2012. Available at:       

New Brunswick Education. (2010). Grade Five New Brunswick Curriculum. Accessed November 4, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2012.                 Available at:,,SSL+ELA.aspx

New Brunswick Department of Education (1998) Atlantic Canada: English Language Arts Curriculum Elementary K-3. Fredericton, NB.                 Retrieved October 20, 2012. Available at

Leonhardt, Angela (2010).Making Your Music Wall Work. General Music Today 24(1) 23-27

Miller, Beth Ann (2010). A Harmonious Duet : Music and Children’s LiteratureGeneral Music Today 21(2) 18-24

Purcella Gates, Victoria (2010). Mary Poppins. Authentic literacy activities for developing comprehension and writing. Retrieved                 November 10, 2012. Available at:          t-live&scope=site

Stewart, Martha (2010). Make your own kite. Every Day Living. Retrieved October 20, 2012. Available at:

                Whiten, P. & Whiten, D. J (2009). Empowering children as critics and composers of multimodal texts. Talking points. 23(2): 4 – 12.

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