Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

Study Guide

                   Curriculum Ideas

                   SOCIAL STUDIES
Identify the continent of Africa. Anansi stories are usually from West Africa. Which countries are in West Africa? Find some interesting facts about these countries - games, traditions, dress, music, etc. Many of the Anansi stories are from the Ashanti People. Use a globe to locate Africa and Ghana. Look up information on the Ashanti people. How are these people like us; how are they different?

Take one of the West Africa countries and compare it in size to the USA. What are the foods, animals, natural resources that are the same and different.

In the story there is a magic talking rock. What other superstitions, customs, sayings, proverbs can you find from West African countries.

What is a folktale? Identify other folktales from West Africa. How do they teach morals and spirituality?

What type of homes are in this story?
bullet Make a map of the route that Anansi took in the story. Add mountains, rivers, and forests.
bullet Try to retell this story, as if it happened in a totally different environment (South Pole, Desert, Forest, Mountains). Discover how the animals, food, houses, and terrain changes.

                  MOVEMENT EXERCISES

Walk like the animals.

  • Have the students hold hands and step outwards to form a wide circle. Drop hands.
  • Choose a student  to take one step into the circle and give him/her the name of an African animal. Walk in place like that animal (maybe make the animal sound). Do this, in place, to the count of four.
  •  Choose another student to do the same. Then, repeat the first animal. Add more and more student/animals. You may want to add some African drum music and repeat the exercise.

Pantomime with sound effects-

  • Anansi waking up - hungry...moans.
  • Anansi going to the cabinet - creak open.
  • Finding the rock, falling over and getting up.
  • Walking back to rock with another animal...running ahead.
  • Animals falling down, getting up, going back and finding food missing...sigh.
  • Anansi taking the food to his hut - running...panting.


Make up a circle dance for the animals using some African music.


Word Problems: This story is perfect for some easy word problems - adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing:

  • One bunch of bananas has 32 pieces of fruit. The second has 28 and the third 41. How many bananas did Anansi have?
  • Lion had 16 baskets of yams on his porch. When he returned there were only 7. How many baskets did Anansi take?
  • If one of those baskets of yams weighs 17 pounds, how many pounds did Anansi take with him?
  • When four animals found their food at Anansi's hut, they decided to divide the food amongst them. There were 64 bananas, 72 yams, 36 cherries and 24 melons. How many fruits did each animal take?

Map Making: Make a map of Anansi's journey around the jungle. Label the settings. Make a key for each mile on the map. Find out how many miles Anansi traveled.


There are two main books where one can find this story:


  • Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock Book by Eric Kimmel available on
  • A Book of Sorcerers and Spells by Ruth Manning-Sanders - a version called "The Mossy Rock" (out of print, but available at many libraries)
    Other Versions:

On-line version - Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock. This is a good version, but, unfortunately, chose to have "Tiger" in the story. Tiger, as we think of him, is not in Africa. Perhaps, change this animal to "lion."
Puppet Play: ANANSI AND THE MOSS-COVERED ROCK - Marilyn Kinsella's puppet play (free to use - please credit source)

More Activities On-line

  • :ZOOM . activities . playhouse . Anansi | PBS Kids
    More classroom activities with author, Eric Kimmel
    How to make a spider craft
  • More Info on Anansi and his Stories:
    Jamaica Anansi Stories Index Many stories but not fully developed into tellable tales.
    Spider Stories including Anansi - links and synopsis
    More info on Anansi
  • Anansi Stories Very informative site about Anansi
  • Anansi Does The Impossible!: An Ashanti Tale (Aladdin Picture Books) by Verna Aardema
  • Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti (An Owlet Book) by Gerald McDermott
  • Ananse's Feast: An Ashanti Tale by Tololwa M. Mollel
  • Ananse and the Lizard: A West African Tale by Pat Cummings
  • Anansi and the Talking Melon by Eric Kimmel
  • Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric Kimmel

        Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock

Collected thoughts at a workshop presented at the National Storytelling Network's 2007 Conference in St. Louis, MO.

Contributors: Jean Ellison, Karen Young, Jane Crouse, Barb Meiser, Mildred Rias, Deb Weltman, Katie Adams, Brenda Harris, Neva Gael Brandon, and supplemented by Marilyn Kinsella

*Another idea, besides a study guide for the teachers, is to make a "Fun Page" for the students. Develop a word find. Make a list of spider jokes and puns. Make a crossword with Anansi titles and relevant words.

Synopsis of the story: Anansi is lazy. He doesn't want to work for food. One day he finds a magic moss-covered rock. When certain words are said, the animal falls into a dead faint. Anansi uses this magic to trick animals out of their food (lion, monkey, etc). Little Bush Deer sees what is happening and tricks Anansi into saying the words. When he faints, she tells the animals where to find the food. When he awakes and finds his food gone, he realizes that he must work for his food.

Note: This story is especially good for K-3 but can be told to older classes as well with a little alteration. The lessons and activities cover a wide range of learning levels. Pick and choose those that best fit your classroom.



Jungle/rain forest, Yams, Lion, Monkey, Bush Deer, Hut, Trickster, Moss, Folktale,  Africa, Anansi, Spider add more if applicable.


 Research trickster animals - Compare Anansi to Coyote or Zomo the Rabbit or Br'er Rabbit. Make a Venn Diagram and compare their attributes.

After reading four Anansi stories, compare them by filling in a chart. This can be done on your computer board as a class project or you can make copies of the chart for the entire class for individual or group work. For this chart you can also use books by Eric Kimmel and Gerald McDermott.

                       Story Structure Chart

Make a chart with 5 boxes across and 6 boxes down. In the boxes at the top - # 2,3,4, insert the following Anansi Stories (there are other Anansi stories that you may wish to use)

1. Empty square

2. Anansi and the Moss-covered Rock

3. Anansi Tries to Steal all the Wisdom in the World

4. How Stories Came to Earth

5. Anansi and Alligator

Insert the following #2-6 in the boxes along the left side of the chart

1. Empty square

2. Story Elements

3. Characters

4. Problem

5. Solution



                    Comprehension questions:

Concrete answers: What kind of environment did Anansi and the animals live in? Name the animals in the story. Where did Anansi go after he left his hut? What did he find? Who did he trick first, second, third? Who tricked Anansi?

Multiple Answers: Why did Anansi use the magic of the rock? When did Anansi become greedy in the story? Was Anansi sorry for what he did to his friends when he tricked them? When did he realize that what he had hurt others? Can you think of another way that Little Deer could have taught Anansi that what he did was wrong? Is is okay to take food from others if you are hungry? What other choices could Anansi have made to get food in this story? Do you feel sorry for the other animals? Why?


Use the 4-part Question Answer Relationship

Right There Questions: Literal questions whose answers can be found in the text. Often the words used in the question are the same words found in the text.
Think and Search Questions: Answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together to make meaning.
Author and You: These questions are based on information provided in the text but the student is required to relate it to their own experience. Although the answer does not lie directly in the text, the student must have read it in order to answer the question.
On My Own: These questions do not require the student to have read the passage but he/she must use their background or prior knowledge to answer the question.

If you are a storyteller, ask a teacher or media specialist to help you develop questions that go along with Accelerated Reading. Check out


                Curriculum Ideas

                             LANGUAGE ARTS

  • After studying about Anansi and reading several of his stories, have the class write their own Anansi Story.
  • Create a list of descriptive words for the animals that live where Anansi lives.
    bullet Create a storyboard or a Classroom Book - This an extended activity. You must have the cooperation of the principal to use of the Xerox machine. Write on the chalkboard every scene in the story. Assign one scene to each child. They must draw a picture of the scene with a thin-tip, black marker and write a sentence or two about it at the bottom of the page. Xerox each picture times the number of children in the class. Each child will have a complete story. Give them time to color in the pages. While they are waiting for the Xerox copies they can work on the title page for their books.                   
  • After the students have worked with the story, try to tell the story from Little Deer's "eyes". You may want to start with "Once upon a time, there was Little Deer. She lived in the Jungle. One day she noticed that Anansi found a magic rock...." See how the story changes.
  • This story is perfect for a readers' theatre: Narrator, Chorus, Anansi, Animals, Little Deer, and a rock and you are set to go!
    bullet Create a word search or crossword puzzle with words from the story.



  • Make a paper mache rock with green felt or fleece.
    bullet Make stick puppets of each animal for the class to use.
  • Draw scenes from the story. Mount them on colored construction paper and join them together for a quilt. The middle square could be Anansi on his web or of the moss-covered rock.
  • Make masks or face paint (using non-toxic poster paints) of the animals, the rock, the food.
  • Make dioramas of the various scenes - Anansi's hut, the rock in the jungle, monkey's tree house, etc.
  • Mix media a collage of part of the story.
  • Make a Story Vine of the story. Use dye cuts and give each child a portion of the story to decorate the vine. Place the vine around the room.
  • Use animal paper plates found at the supermarket to make paddle puppets. Add yarn, google eyes, etc.
    bullet Make sweet potato prints Potato Prints (you can use sweet potatoes or yams)

                         You will need:
    Poster paint or tempera
    Paper, cardboard, or wood
    sharp knife
    1. Cut potatoes in half or thirds.
    2. Draw desired design onto potato with the pencil.
    3. Young children can carve their whole design with
    the pencil but if more detail is preferred,
    an adult needs to cut around the pencil outline.
    4. Place paint in tray or paper plate in a thin layer.
    5. Press potato design into paint and firmly press
    onto paper for impression.



There are differences between yams and sweet potatoes.               In America, the two words are used to mean the same.
bullet Try to find real yams and compare them to sweet                 potatoes. (size, color, texture, taste, weight, smell, etc)                     Discuss what a root vegetable is. Find other root vegetables.             What other parts of plants do we eat?

information on yams

info on sweet potatoes

Grow a Sweet Potato Plant (I don't know if this will work for yams, but if they are available have a yam plant and a sweet potato plant and compare the growth).

Use toothpicks to suspend the sweet potato over a clear glass of water with the tip down, having enough water in the glass to cover the bottom of the sweet potato. Keep it in a warm, sunny spot. Soon vines with morning-glory-shaped leaves will appear and climb anywhere you train them. Keep the water level constant (covering just the bottom of the tuber). Change the water occasionally and DO NOT plant in soil. When the individual slips put out four to five leaves, you can snap the new plants off the mother potato.

After the plant sprouts leaves add some food coloring to the water. As the leaves change color discuss how the micro roots transport water and nutrients to the leaves.