How the Leopard Got His Claws

This picture book is a modern pourquoi story set in Nigeria. As long as the animals cooperated and were kind, life in the forest was good. But, when the dog, flooded out of his cave, attacks the leopard and takes over as king without the rest of the animals objecting. Leopard visits Thunder and a blacksmith. After he receives his claws, teeth, and roar, life would never be the same in the jungle.

John Iroaganachi, Candlewick. ©2011, 978-0-7636-4805-3

Pouquoi Stories

Pourquoi is French for “why.” These are fanciful stories or how things came to be the way they are. Find some sample pourquoi stories so that the class can see how they are structured.

The characteristics of a pourquoi story are:

  • explain a phenomenon of nature
  • short
  • talking animals
  • the animal, or object changes
  • it is magical
  • it arises out of the oral tradition of a particular culture

Some worth questions when reading pourquoi stories are:

  • What is the moral? Morals? Of this book? Other pourquoi stories?
  • What does a pourquoi story tell you about the values of the culture it comes from?
  • What “stereotypes” have been attached to the animals as typical?
  • What do you think are several reasons humans create stories about “where things come from?

Some examples stories are:

  • How the Animals Got Their Colours (Michael Rosen, Multicultural)
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears (Verna Aardema, Africa)
  • The Story of the Milky Way (Joseph Bruchac, Cherokee)
  • The Story of Lightning and Thunder (Nigerian)
  • Why Little Possom’s Tail is Bare (Cheyenne Cisco, N. American)
  • Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)

Write Your Own Pourquoi Story

Here are some steps you can suggest to students:

  1. Select what natural phenomena you will explain and write the title: “How Sunlight Came to the North.
  2. Select the original setting, before the change. “Long long ago the north was dark 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Humans used torches and candles to find their way in the dark.” When, where, describe.
  3. Think about how you will answer the question in the title. This is a magical story, so magic is fine.
  4. Select a few animal characters, each of which should have a personality and way of talking. Don’t give them names, they are donkey, monkey, polar bear, etc.
  5. Write your story. Use dialogue to bring it to life, and maybe have another problem or two along the way.
  6. End with “This is why ” …

Nigerian Picture Books

There are many picture books set in Nigeria. Accumulating a collection, could allow for an interesting mini-unit on an African country.

          

               

For 10 creative writing ideas, click How the Leopard Got His Claws to download.

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The Highest Number in the World

1770495754Gabe is a hockey player whose lucky number is 22, the same number as her hero, Hayley Wickenheiser. But her new jersey is #9. She is crushed. Gabe’s grandmother explains that the #9 was the retired number of Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, bobby Hull, etc. and that #99 was Gretsky’s number. Gabe is reconciled, and dreams of her own retired #9.

Roy MacGegor, Tundra books, ©2014. 978-1-77049-573

A School Sports Survey

It’s worthwhile setting up an Inquiry about what sports are being played by students in your class, and potentially the whole school. Picture your students out there interviewing fellow students, learning the math of it, thinking about the questions they want answered so that they collect the best information to answer their questions.

Here’s a really simple question they might want an answer to: What are the most common sports played outside of school? Compare males to females and primary students (K-4), intermediate students (5-7), or middle school students (5-9) if that is how you are organized. Students learning percentage calculation can do the math as well for their results. Report results in a school announcement, in a school newsletter, and on your class blog so that they receive the maximum publicity for their results. The School Board may also be interested in knowing the kinds of organized athletic activities students participate in outside of school hours.

Students should first survey their own class, to become familiar with the form, as well as how to tally and use the results. In a single class, if it is a split grade, you can have four categories – male and female for each of the grades. Then, assign them in teams to fan out at recess and lunch and collect results. Teach them polite survey methods: “Will you please help our class with a survey? It will only take a few seconds.” Ask students to read it to students who look like they may have trouble (ESL students, or primary students). Students carry a book to balance the survey on, and a pen to write with. At the end, “Thank you. We’re going to announce the results over the PA.

A Discussion About Hockey

There are many discussion questions that can arise from this book:

  1. Why are hockey organizations reluctant to have mixed male and female teams?
  2. What is our opinion of violence in hockey? Especially now that we are finding that even one concussion can cause permanent brain damage.
  3. How will global warming effect hockey?
  4. When the kids say, “Hayley, Number 9” is that bullying? When does teasing cross over into bullying?
  5. Why are fewer Canadian parents signing their kids up for hockey?

Below are some of the reasons parents give for the decline in the percentage of Canadian youth enrolling in hockey. See what your students think.

Some Reasons Given for the Decline in Hockey Enrollment

  • New immigrants from warm countries have little experience of it.
  • Warmer winters make it harder to create home-made rink by simply flooding a field.
  • The equipment is very expensive.
  • Parents do not approve of body checking as it likely to cause brain damage.
  • Parents do not want to pay for expensive dental work to repair broken teeth.
  • Parents do not like the attitude of “hockey parents.”
  • The professional games are too expensive.
  • Rink times for less elite players are often at ridiculous times of the day.
  • The skill of teams have been diluted by opening up so many franchises.
  • Players are being encouraged to actually injure other players.

Hockey Songs

Two hockey songs could be played while using this book:

  • The Hockey Song by Jughead
  • The Hockey Song by Stompin’ Tom Connors

There are a few others, but these are kid friendly.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click The Highest Number in the World to download.

School For Bandits

School_For_Bandits_PB_CoverRalph Raccoon is too polite and too nice. His parents have to send him to Bandit School to learn to be a proper bad raccoon. How does Ralph use his “niceness” to succeed?

Hannah Shaw, Alfred A. Knopf, ©2011, 978-0-375-96768-9

Synonym Study

There are many synonyms for people who take things that don’t belong to them. Students might find: pirate, thief, robber, buccaneer, brigand, cheat, crook, con artist, rustler, looter, pilfereer, shoplifter, gangster, highwayman, raider, racketeer, etc. This could also be a good brainstorming activity to build vocabulary.

Once they have a list, ask them to define each one in such a way that people could read the list of definitions and know what each word was being referred to.

School-For-Bandits-bad-listThe Being Bad Alphabet

Ralph Raccoon hasn’t been bad enough so he has to brainstorm 26 words (one for each letter of the alphabet) that are ways of being bad. A could be for aggravating, B for bragging, C for cursing, and so on. X and Z are notoriously hard—encourage students to use two words if necessary to get them in. Examples: eXtra Noisy or Zealously irritating.

This can be an individual activity or a brainstorming activity to build vocabulary.

For 6 creative writing ideas, click School For Bandits to download.

Miss Alaineus

miss-alaineusSage is home sick, but she is trying to continue with her vocabulary homework. It goes awry when she mistakes miscellaneous for Miss Alaineus. Her mother is holding a box with spaghetti hair on it when she mentions she needs “miscellaneous things” from which Sage concludes she is the woman on the box. When she defines it that way, the whole class laughs. Sage is devastated until she ends as Miss Alaineus, Queen of All Miscellaneous Things at the Vocabulary Parade. This book is full of charming puns and built in word definitions.

Debra Frasier, Harcourt, ©2000, ISBN 0-15-202163-9

Clever Langauge

This book is a terrific writing model for students. Sage, our storyteller, enjoys defining words and regularly halts her sentences to define a word.  The word is in bold, and the definition is in italics.

“I thought she was an ancestor, an ancient relative long dead, who had left us…”

“ Impossible,” I told her.  Impossiblenot capable of happening.”

“I was devastatedwasted ravagedRuineddestroyedFinishedbrought to an end.”

For the most part, Sage creates her own definitions.  Students could write their own clever stories using this strategy—to write in the first person and to stop the story to define a word.  This is also an opportunity to encourage the development and use of an extensive vocabulary.

The A-Z Vocabulary Challenge

In the borders of the book are sentences relating to the plot, but emphasizing the letters of the alphabet in order:

  • B “What did I tell you?  This berserk bacteria has bulldozed me badly. Help!”
  • D “I am defective and delirious, and so I will dwindle away.” (The author has a cold at the time.)

After students have written a simple story, ask them to change and add to it until it has 24 sentences.  Then ask them to place 3 A words (using fresh verbs, adjectives, etc.) into the first sentence; 3 B words in the second…skipping X and Z (hence 24 sentences).

For 9 writing ideas, click Miss Alaineus to download.