The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

mark-twain-coverThis is the story of Mark Twain’s life in picture book form, with accompanying anecdotes from Susy who is writing this memoir so we can meet the “real” Mark Twain.  Susy, Mark Twain’s favourite daughter, did keep a memoir of observations of her dad for a short period of time, and excerpts from it are included as little fold out pages.  She talks about their home, his writing process and the role her mom plays, his leisure activities, and much more.

Barbara Kerley, Scholastic, ©2010, ISBN 978-0-545-12508-6

Spelling Mistakes

Mark Twain says his daughter’s spelling was frequently desperate.” Give students her spellings and ask them to spell them correctly—time them if you want to add some pressure. They need to add 5 seconds to their time for every word they still misspell.

Her incorrect words are: discribed incorectly, mustache, exept, extrordinary, sute, doute, Misouri, in good trimm, varius, chreatures (for creatures), expergate, donky, prosession.

This is a good time to mention that the first English dictionary was written in 9 years by one man, Samuel Johnson, and published in 1755. By contrast, the first French dictionary was written by an entire French Academy and published in 1694. It took 69 years to write. The first American dictionary was Noah Webster’s in 1806. After this spelling began to “solidify” into “correct” and “incorrect” spelling. Susy was writing in 1885.

A Book “In the Style Of”

This book has a particular style. For the most part it is a kind of story of Susy’s foray into biography. However, glued into place in the book are miniature foldout excerpts from Susy’s actual words. This is an excellent model to imitate.

In Social Studies it could take the form of a report on an explorer (for example) with inserted pages from his “diary” commenting on the events described on that page. In Science, it could be a report on a whale’s life cycle, with examples interspersed from the whale’s diary. In art, a research report on a particular artist could be written, with short imaginary diary inserts on occasion. Be sure that students realize the diary entries need only be 2-3 sentences long.

For 11 creative writing ideas, click The Extraordinary Mark Twain to download.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between The TowersPhilipe Petit was always challenged to walk the tightrope in as many difficult places as possible. As the twin towers were going up in New York in 2001 he determined that he would have to walk before it was finished and occupied. He organized friends, snuck in the ropes and rigging he would need with friends, suspended the rope and then he walked out into the wind. He walked, danced, ran, knelt, and even lay down on the rope. When arrested he was sentenced to perform for students in Central Park. The book ends poignantly with the shadows of the towers after the attack on September 11, 2001.

Mordicai Gerstein, MacMillan, ©2003, 978-0-7613-1791-3

There are several related websites that can add to the study of this book.

Man on Wire (a cineme verite version of the walk):

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (a storyteller reads the book):

The Nick Wallenda walk across Niagara:

Tightrope Walking

Stretch around 8 very long ropes across the gym floor and ask student to walk them, keeping their balance. How many seconds can they stay on the rope? Ask them to time each other with their arms at their sides, and with their arms out. Then give them a balancing pole to hold while they walk…they should see that it is a great deal easier to stay balanced. (You need lots of ropes because you want mass participation…not a lot of students watching other students.)

For the science of tightrope walking there is a nice video that explains the balance, the centre of gravity, the inner ear, and so on.

For 11 creative writing ideas, click The Man Who Walked Between the Towers to download.