woman in costume

Creating Costume Vests – Lesson Plan

Students create paper vests that suit the characters of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Otter. They use science skills to investigate the real-life animals and literary skills to analyze the fictional characters.

  • Length: 6 30-minute lessons
  • Grades: K-5

Students learn physical traits of rats, toads, moles, and otters.
Students identify character traits from watching a drama.
Students create costumes that identify unique physical and character traits of literary figures.

Resource Used:
Wind in the Willows: Toad and His Horse
Found On: Performance Excerpts

Vocabulary and Materials

animal behavior, costumes, habitat, texture

overhead projector, projector or TV connected to a computer with Internet access; four poster boards; each cut into three vest pieces; hole punch or stapler; various textured materials, such as feathers, yarn, fur, and plastic; glue

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Instructional Strategies and Activities

Day 1

  1. Using a chalkboard or overhead projector, create a chart with four sections—one each for rat, mole, toad, and otter. Use pictures and words to identify physical descriptions and behavior. Have a nonfiction book available for reference. Preview the web resources listed below for additional research.
  2. As a group, complete a short physical description and behavior profile of each animal. Conduct a simple K-W-L activity about the four animals. The K is what your students know about the animal. The W activity is what you want to learn. The L is what you learn.
  3. Describe the texture of the skin or hair of the selected animals. Discuss how their coverings are important for survival.
  4. Save the information learned to inform decisions about making costumes.

Day 2

  1. Pause at the first scene from Wind in the Willows: Toad and His Horse. With your television muted, discuss the different animals and how costumes were created to express their physical qualities.
  2. Talk about what else you might think about the characters just from looking at the costumes.
  3. Now watch the video (with the sound). Discuss the characters and how the costumes reflect the characters. If time allows, watch the video again to reflect on how animal traits are relayed in the costumes.

Days 3-6

  1. Using poster boards or paper bags, create three-part vests that can be stapled or tied together (a back and two front pieces). Use varied textured materials to make paper vest costumes that express the characters of Mole, Toad, Rat, and Otter. You could use classroom art materials or have students collect items from nature like leaves and seeds. Focus on a different animal each day until all four vests are complete.
  2. As students design and create the vest as a group, ask questions about how their choices express the characters:
    • What do we know about this character in the play?
    • What kinds of decoration do we have that would suit this character?
    • What do we know about this animal from science?
    • What kinds of costuming and decoration do we have that could show this information?
  3. After all the pieces of the vests are together, set up a role-play in which each of the characters meets and is questioned by the class. Students take turns wearing the vests and pretending to be each character. The teacher or class would ask questions:
    • What kind of skin do (toads/moles/rats/otters) have?
    • How do (toads/moles/rats/otters) spend the day?
    • What kinds of things does (Toad/Mole/Rat/Otter) from Wind in the Willows like?
    • What does your vest tell us about (toads/moles/rats/otters)?

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Writing To Communicate

  • Describe how a costume designer could use science information about toads to create a costume for Toad of Wind in the Willows. How would you describe the character Toad? How could you express this description in a costume for Toad?

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Applications Across the Curriculum


  • Study wildlife populations and habitats by discussing which animals students have seen in the wild. In the play, the four animals are friends and go out during the day. Would the animals really spend time together? Why are rats and toads more commonly seen in nature than moles and otters?
  • Research animal population numbers for your area at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.


  • Make vests while discussing their mathematical properties and dimensions.

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event: As a class, design and create costume vests for Wind in the Willows characters and use them in a drama skit where the four characters are introduced to each other.


  • Make vest costumes for Toad, Mole, Otter, and Rat.
  • Glue and tape items to the paper vest pieces.
  • Use what you know about the animal and the play to make the vests.
  • In a class discussion, list the physical traits of each of the animals, explain the character from the play, and describe how the vests represent the characters.

Performance Scoring Guide

4 3 2 1 0 Student understands science and literary information. Student applies the information to create vests. Student describes physical traits of animals correctly. Student explains the character from the play accurately. Student participates in class discussion by responding to questions and listening. Student describes physical traits of animals correctly. Student explains the character from the play accurately. Student participates in class discussion by responding to questions and listening. Student participates in class discussion by responding to questions and listening. Student participates in class discussion by listening. Student does not participate.

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K-12English Language Arts and LiteracyMathematicsScienceThe Arts