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.

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Help Me, Mr. Mutt!

help-me-mr-muttMr. Mutt is the Ann Landers of dogs. Six dogs write in with their problems, and receive answers from Mr. Mutt, along with critiques from The Queen (a cat with a point of view. Answers are accompanied by cute graphs, useful for teaching graphing to students. It also closes with two newspaper articles as the cats attack Mr. Mutt.

Janet Stevens, Harcourt Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-15-204628-6

We’re Off Exploring

It might be fun in a Social Studies unit for students to write an “Agony Aunt” column for crew members that are with an explorer:

  • Henry Hudson’s crew
  • Columbus’ crew
  • Cartier’s crew
  • Cabot’s crew, etc.

Students would need to research and incorporate the kinds of typical problems an explorer might encounter, as well an including details for the specific trip of that explorer (where are they, what is happening, the date?). The advice, on the other hand, need not be practical if you wanted to include a humourous element in the writing.

The Queen’s Advice

The Queen comments on Mutt’s advice each time, especially when she feels insulted by his remarks. On the back cover she advertises herself in the newspaper, “Do you have Dog Problems? Write to The Queen, the expert for cats, 9 Palace Place, The Catskills, NY.

Ask students to brainstorm the kinds of issues a cat might have—try to ensure each group has a cat owner in it. They may come up with: being overweight, eating foods you don’t like, going for a walk, not liking to get wet, licking yourself, dressing up, scratching furniture, walking around at night, going to the vet, interrupted sleeping in the daytime, walking over the owner’s newspaper, refusing to do tricks, hairballs, etc.

At this point they divide up the list, choosing one to write on as a “Letter to the Queen” of about 50-75 words. Students then pair up, exchange letters, and write The Queen’s Advice…remembering to stay in character as a snooty supercilious cat. The answers can be from 75-100 words. Collect. Read out some letters to the Queen. Ask the class, “What advice do you think should be given?” Then read out the actual advice given.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click Help Me, Mr. Mutt! to download.

You’re Finally Here

You'reFinallyHereOur Bunny speaks to us about our tardiness in having taken so long to come to visit him in the book.  He even wants us to sign a contract about staying there.  But, he gets so involved in a phone call that he ignores us, and, in the end, we leave.

Melanie Watt, Kids Can Press, ©2011, 9978-1-55453-590-3

Using the Character

The character is drawn in many simple poses in the book. Scan or trace them onto a single sheet of paper and then make copies for students creating their own version of the rabbit story.

The pattern of this book is easy to imitate. In the center of the book the rabbit is complaining:

  • . . .”how long I’ve been waiting in here?” Long enough to . . . (4 times)
  • . . .”how unfair it is to keep me waiting?” As unfair as . . . (4 things)
  • . . .”how rude is it to make me wait?” As rude as . . . (4 things)

This could be a springboard for any character complaining about something.  Imagine it is a rabbit who is unhappy with his school lunch.

How many weeks have I had the same lunch?

  • since Christmas
  • since my birthday
  • since I accidentally said I liked bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, etc.

How much don’t I like lettuce?

  • as little as I like liver
  • as little as fried jelly beans, etc.

How long does it take me to eat it?

  • until all the other kids are already finished the first inning of baseball
  • until my teeth wear out from chewing, etc.

Personal Writing (Extreme Writing)

Some possible personal writing topics are:

  • times I have to wait and what I am thinking
  • times that are really boring
  • times that I was treated unfairly

For 9 creative writing ideas, click You’re Finally Here to download.

The Lion’s Share

The Lion's ShareThe ant is invited to the lion’s dinner party and is shocked at the manners of the other guests as they greedily “share” the cake. When she herself is accused of being greedy, the ant turns the tables on the other guests.

McCelligott’s Math

On his website, McCelligott has an interesting step-by-step explanation of geometric progression, which is what this book represents. It culminates in explaining why we get I-POD in 2,4,8,16, or 32 GB and not other numbers. For your older students.

Math – Geometric Progression

Geometric ProgressionGive students a list of the animals and ask them to create a chart of the values in each division of the cake. Walk them through the first three, then explore the math pattern for solving the rest of progression and the equivalencies.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click The Lion’s Share to download.

The Spider and the Fly

TheSpiderandtheFlyBased on the original poem of the story of the fly who is flattered into stepping into the spider’s web, this picture book is beautifully illustrated in black and white. The spooky Victorian house is the perfect setting for the tale.

Mary Howitt, Simon and Schuster, ©2002, ISBN978-0-689-85289-3

A Non-Aesop Fable

This is a fable not written by Aesop. What are the characteristics of a fable that demonstrate that this is one:

  • animal characters—behaving in their stereotypes
  • a moral to the story
  • succinct
  • animals are anthropomorphized
  • frequently doesn’t have a “happy ending”

The Moral of the Story

Fables always have a moral. The rhyming moral of this story is:

And now, dear little children, who may this story read, To idle, silly, flattering words I pray you neer give heed; Unto an evil counselor, close heart and ear and eye, And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.”

Be sure students know what that means. Do they agree that it is the moral of the story? What modern “schemer’s webs” might there be to tangle you up?

  • internet fraud
  • internet predator
  • free “start up” drugs

For 7 creative writing ideas, click The Spider and the Fly to download.

Mr Maxwell’s Mouse

maxwellmouseAt the Paw and Claw restaurant it is lunch and Mr. Maxwell wants to celebrate his promotion with something special. He orders the headwaiter, Clyde to bring him a live mouse instead. When Clyde asks “Would you like us to kill it for you?” Mr. Maxwell replies, “That won’t be necessary.”

But his decision results in a mouse with excellent manners slowly undermining his desire to kill it. The mouse speaks for one thing, has excellent manners, suggests salt and pepper, requests that grace be said, suggests and appropriate wine, and so on.

How the mouse gets out of it is very reminiscent of other “escape” stories including the fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Frank and Devin Asch, Kids Can Press, 2004, ISBN 978-1-55337486-2

Food Advice From Your Parents

Mr. Maxwell’s mother had always said, “Don’t fraternize with your food.” Use this as a starting point to a discussion of advice, rules, and sayings about food that the students have from their parents. Ask them to brainstorm at least six sayings and be prepared to present the logic behind the sayings.

  • Don’t play with your food
  • Don’t chew with your mouth open
  • Eat everything on your plate
  • Just try it
  • Don’t bit off more than you can chew
  • As easy as apple pie
  • It’s a piece of cake
  • It’s like taking candy from a baby
  • It’s good for you
  • A dish fit for a king
  • As alike as two peas in a pod
  • A watched pot never boils
  • Man does not live by bread alone
  • Take that with a pinch of salt
  • You are what you eat

A story where one character persistently offers “food” sayings and advice to the other character might be fun if students are enjoying this activity. (Perhaps a frog that is trying rather unsuccessfully to catch flies while his little friend is continually offering advice.)

The Note of Apology

At the end of the book the mouse sends a note of apology to Mr. Maxwell. Analyze it with the students to identify its characteristics, before they practice an imaginary apology themselves. It might be fun for them to write a story that is actually an extended apology for a whole series of mishaps.

Characteristics students might identify could include:

  • It must be sincerely felt and must include the words “I am sorry” or “I apologize.”
  • The apology cannot be followed by the word “but…”
  • It should be short (but not if it is actually a disguise for a story).
  • It should identify the thing(s) that happened and what you are apologizing for.
  • It should offer to make up for it in some way, if possible.
  • It should end with the hope for the future
  • It needs to include a salutation, and an ending. Dear…and Sincerely…

With the criteria the students identify, how good is the mouse’s apology?

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse to download.

The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Mark TwainHuckleberry Finn tells, in his own voice, of the life of his author Mark Twain, a.k.a Samuel Clemens.
Robert Burleigh and Barry Blitt, Atheneum Books, ©2011, 978-0-689-83041-9

A Story with Modern Expression

Huck Finn was written in the language of a back country boy in the 1800’s USA. Ask students to write any story in which they use common 21st century expressions to show how people “really talk”. First brainstorm the possible expressions students could consider: OMG, BFF, having a rush, goofing off, being gross, or lame, or awesome, or sweet, or cool. Something could rock, or suck. Things happen 24/7. There are zits. Things rock or rule.

Then ask students to write a very brief story in that “voice” as in the opening of Huck Finn. Something less that 200 words is fine. The objective is try out the “voice” of the 21st century.

Bad Luck Superstitions

Huck Finn said that Mark Twain’s luck turned bad like after “killing a spider”. Ask students to brainstorm bad luck superstitions they have heard of. They should be able to come up with:

  • Step on a crack, break your mother’s back
  • Break a mirror – 7 years bad luck
  • Walk under a ladder
  • Cross the path of a black cat
  • A shiver means a goose walked over your grave
  • Open an umbrella inside brings bad luck
  • If you spill salt, toss it over your left shoulder or you’ll have bad luck

Students might enjoy writing a story about a character who frequently but inadvertently breaks bad luck superstitions and what happens to him or her, if anything.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click The Adventures of Mark Twain to download.