The Matchbox Diary

15798648Grandfather has a room full of treasures, each with a story attached. She asks for the story of the cigar box filed with matchbooks, each with a tiny symbol of a story from grandfather’s life.

Paul Fleischman, Candlewick, ©2013, ISBN 978-0-7636-4601-1

Mining a Picture

In one of the matchboxes is a picture of grandfather’s father. The author writes 151 words about that photo – and this is in a picture book where words are at a premium. Ask students to bring a picture to class. You could then show how you can “mine a picture” to write.

  1. When was this photo taken? Why do you think it was taken?
  2. Who is the person in the picture? Why is the person in that pose?
  3. Who took the picture? Talk about the picture taker.
  4. What is being worn in the picture? Talk about the clothes.
  5. What other things are in the picture?
  6. What is the mood of the picture?
  7. What smells, sights, sounds, do you associate with the picture?

 

Now students have enough to easily write about 200 words about the photo.

Making Small Boxes

This story uses as a “prop” a matchbox. The House Baba Built, by Ed Young, mentions that the children would gather silkworms and put them in little origami boxes that they built, and feed them mulberry leaves. There are many YouTube videos of simple instructions for making your own origami boxes. This is the easiest one that I found.

To make the “inside” of the box – just take about .5 cm off two sides of the square to make a smaller square.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click The Matchbox Diary to download.

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Jerry Seinfeld Halloween

Jerry Seinfeld Halloween, coverThis is a picture book version of Jerry Seinfeld’s wonderful routine on what Halloween was like to him as a child.

Jerry Seinfeld, Little Brown, ©2002, ISBN 0-316-70625-6

The Candy Forced Choice

Create four signs – Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree, Agree, Disagree. Tape on the four walls of the class. Ask a series of candy related questions and have students pre-decide before going and standing under the sign for their opinion. Students under that sign should first discuss their opinion with a partner. Then you conduct a class discussion.

Ask the students in the AGREE or DISAGREE categories first – students tend to gravitate there thinking they may avoid talking – and since this is oral language, we want everyone “in” the game.

Possible questions:

  1. Candy is better than peanuts.
  2. O’Henry is better than Smarties.
  3. Children should not be given any candy under the age of 4.
  4. Parents whose children have cavities are abusive and should be fined.
  5. If there is no real chocolate in the bar, any words that sound “chocolatey” should not be allowed.
  6. Deciding what to eat is a decision for parents.

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.51.24 AMThe Candy Vote

Around Halloween is a good time to conduct a survey. Obtain 5 different miniature candies – maybe asking students for suggestions first. Create a large chart with 5 columns, pasting a candy on each one. Explain to students the various factors that can affect a survey. (See the attached pages for an explanation of potential biases, and a possible survey). If conducting the survey, ask students to work in pairs to survey 10 students from other classes. If you have a class of 30 this would mean 150 student surveys. Here is an opportunity to ensure they understand how to calculate a percent from raw numbers. To make it easier, for younger students, ensure that only 100 surveys are conducted…results are then automatically in percentages.

For 7 creative writing ideas, click Seinfeld’s Halloween 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 Very Smart Pea and the Princess To Be

princessandpeaThe pea under the mattress writes a memoir of his attempt to help the prince find a “real princess.” Eventually the gardener’s girl who raised the pea lies on the twenty mattresses and he whispers, “You are very uncomfortable,” in her ear all night. She repeats this to the queen in the morning and marries the prince. The pea lives on in the royal museum.

Mini Grey, Alfred A. Knopf ©2003 ISBN 0-375-82626-2 (trade) and 0-375-92626-7 (library)

Fairy Tale Recipe Book

The pea is brought to the palace for a special recipe of Pea and Raspberry Jelly.  Why not use this as an opportunity to create a Fairy Tale cookbook?

First collect about six recipes from different cookbooks with different formats. Make copies for each group of 4 students and ask them to identify the critical elements of a recipe. They should come up with: title, ingredients list with the measurements needed, the temperature of the oven, step by step instructions, length of cooking at what temperature, preparing the pan (grease, lined, etc.), how many it serves, and so on.

Students can then brainstorm appropriate recipes for different fairy tales: Gingerbread Boy’s Gingerbread – Run Away Good, Goldilocks “Just Right” Porridge, Snow White’s Candied Applies, Cinderella’s “Fits Right” Pumpkin Pie, and so on.

You could create a class book of recipes where each page has: a picture of the cover of a sample fairy tale book, a 10 line summary of the story, and the recipe with its new Fairy Tale title. Suggestions for occasions to serve it would be great. Putting the finished bound book in the library can be great.

My Artefact

The pea becomes an “artefact” in the royal museum. The word comes from the Latin meaning “arte” (by hand) and “fact” (an object). An artefact is any human-made object which illustrates something about a culture. It is studied by archeologists and often displayed in museums. In fantasy games, an artefact is an object from a long lost culture that has magic powers. Your class constructs a “museum” of of artefacts from their year—posters of favourite songs, favourite commercials, favourite activities, school events, favourite foods, etc. Alternatively, a class museum can be constructed as each student brings an artefact that has associations for him/her and displays it with a poster explaining its “archeological meaning” from their life.

For 5 writing ideas, click Princess and the Pea to download.