Sticking to Imagination  

Imagination lesson inspired by Antoinette Portis’s children’s book It’s Not A Stick



















Engaging children in interactive read alouds facilitates literacy comprehension. Imaginative pretend play develops a child’s ability to think symbolically. Symbolic thinking skills are foundational to learning math and literacy concepts. 



It’s Not A Stick by Atoniette Poris


Outdoor space where trees/sticks are  plentiful 


Read the short children’s book It’s Not a Stick 

  1. Emphasize the repetitive line “It’s not a stick” and invite children to join in 

  2. Invite children to act out the imaginative actions on each page (ex. “Can you gallop like a horse?” “Pretend you are lifting something very heavy. What face would you make?” )

  3. Ask children about other times they have play make believe.  

Go outside and look for Not sticks

  1. Before going as a group outside, ask children what safety rules they think they need (“Should you touch someone else with the stick?” “How can you be aware your body and the bodies of others when you are holding a stick?”) 

  2. Depending on the group size you may want to set a boundary for the size of the stick to collect (i.e. As high as your waist or from your fingertip to elbow). This would also be an opportunity to embed body-related vocabulary. 

  3. As children find sticks prompt them to explore different pretend uses. Use size-related vocabulary (large, medium, small) to relate them to the pretend use (“You found a small stick, now you are using it as a spoon to stir soup. “ )

  4. Prompt children to notice the different stick types from each tree. Point out when the children spontaneously add bark or a leaf add to the symbolic play. Use this as an opportunity to teach nature-related vocabulary. 

  5. Allow plenty of time for children to explore a variety of sticks and symbolic uses 

As a group, children can take turns to present their “not sticks” 

  1. Invite children to in-turn present their stick to the group using the sentence stem from the text, “It’s Not A Stick, it’s a…” 


Questions to Ask

  • What other things do/can we use in our classroom that we can imagine as other things? What do we imagine they are?

  • What are your favorite types of imaginative games?

Mindfulness Prompts 

  • Before going as a group to look for sticks, prompt children to close their eyes and imagine themselves in a page or two from the book. Example, “Close your eyes and imagine you are on a fishing boat in the middle of the sea. The sun is shining bright, the waves are rocking. Your fishing pole has been in the sea for hours. You have been waiting and waiting when ALL of a Sudden you feel a great big tug!! You pull and you pull but the fish is heavy. You reel in your line , 1 turn, 2 turns, 3 turns, and finally you pull your fish onto your boat. “ 

  • Be sure to thank the trees for providing the sticks for your play


Considering a Developmental Spectrum

  • Children with autism, language delays, and other developmental delays can benefit from 

    • Access to the book as a model when they are engaging with their stick (“Look the pig is using his stick to fish. Can you use your stick to fish?”)

    • Prompting to engage with peers who are modeling symbolic thinking skills (i.e. “Look Anthony is rowing his boat. If you help him, the boat can go faster.”) 

Image by Annie Spratt