William Steig Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about author William Steig with this informative lesson plan. They will study a text lesson, take a related quiz that follows up, and participate in hands-on activities to solidify concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • Describe the early career of author William Steig
  • Explain what were often protagonists in Steig's books
  • Name some of the other works by Steig other than Shrek


1.5 - 2.0 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • CDB!
  • Great Depression
  • Greeting cards
  • Illustrator
  • Protagonist
  • Shrek
  • Shrek 2

Curriculum Standards


Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).


  • Inform your students they will be learning about author William Steig.
  • Ask them if anyone has heard of him, or has ever read any of his works.
  • Display a copy of the book Shrek.
  • Review the key vocabulary terms.
  • Pass out copies of the text lesson Williams Steig: Books & Biography.
  • Read the introduction and the first section 'Shrek.'
    • Did Shrek first appear in books or movies?
    • When did Shrek first appear?
  • Next, read the section 'Meet William Steig.'
    • When was William Steig born? Where?
    • What were his parents' occupations?
    • When did he first become an illustrator?
    • What three institutions did he attend after high school?
  • Now read the section 'Drawing in the Depression.'
    • What major period in history started just before Steig began selling his art?
    • What was his first piece? How much did he earn?
    • Who published the piece? Was he offered full-time employment?
    • What type of art did he publish on his own?
    • How much art did he create for the magazine that employed him?
  • Next, read the section 'Books on the Scene.'
    • What was Steig's first book? When was it published?
    • What were some of his other books?
    • What awards did he win?
    • What is a protagonist?
    • What did Steig like to portray as protagonists?
  • Now read the section 'Accomplishments.'
    • What was his contribution to greeting cards?
    • In what museums can you view Steig's work?
  • Next, read the section 'Later Years.'
    • At what age did William Steig create Shrek?
    • How old was he when he passed away?
    • What was his final book?
  • Lastly, read the section 'Lesson Summary', review the entire lesson, and ask your students if they have any relevant questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to display their grasp of the material.


Part One

  • Inform your students they will be participating in a helpful 'Information Gap' type of exercise involving the life of William Steig.
  • Divide your students into pairs. Tell them:

1) One person in each pair will be Student A, and the other person in each pair will be Student B.

2) The questions involve information from the text lesson, but you may have to consult the Internet to complete your research.

3) Student A's, you will research the following eight items:

The year Steig was born (1907)

The year Steig started drawing cartoons for The New Yorker (1930)

The year his first book was published (1968)

The year he won the Caldecott Medal (1970)

In this book, a mouse and a whale become friends (Amos & Boris)

In this book, a mouse is stranded and must find a way home (Abel's Island)

In this book, a mouse dentist may help a fox (Doctor De Soto)

This collection spoofs Valentine's Day (Sick of Each Other)

  • Also tell them:

4) Student B's, you will research these other eight items:

The year Shrek was published (1990)

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