Detective LaRue

The follow-up book to Dear Mrs. LaRue, using the same pattern, finds Ike accused of abducting the neighbour’s cats. Mrs. LaRue is on vacation, and the story proceeds through his letters from jail, and on the road, as he tracks down the culprits. As with the other book, his letters in black and white show the difficulties he is claiming to have; the coloured pictures show the reality of his experience.

Mark Teague, Scholastic, ©2004, ISBN 0- 439-45868-4

The Letter Story

This book can provide an excellent model for telling a story that advances through a series of letters. Ask students to first outline a story they wish to write, then to add rich details in the form of a series of letters home, or to a friend, or someone who has moved a way, telling a bit of the story in each letter.

The Point of View Story

Each page of the book contrasts black and white with colour. The black and white portion of the picture represents how Ike is seeing the situation. In the first letter he is seeing himself as sitting in a bare cell, singing with a rat, with a metal tin, presumably having held food on the floor, looking pathetic. In the colour picture, he is sitting at the officer’s desk, with dog bones and a doughnut, drinking a coffee the officer has presumably poured, while typing his letter on the officer’s typewriter.

This is an excellent model for two perspectives on any historic Social Studies event being studied. For example, on one side of the page of a report on Columbus, students could write the historic story of Columbus. On the other side, the same story from the point of view of the miserable sailor who is suffering from sea sickness, shortage of food, scummy water, scurvy, crowded conditions, etc.

Did you know, for example, that the three ships of Columbus were actually the Nina, the Pinta, and the Navidad. Apparently, on Christmas the crew was drunkenly celebrating and a sailor ran the Santa Maria aground. They built a new ship from scavenging the old one, and anything else they could find and christened it The Navidad (for the name of Christmas in Spanish.) It would make a great letter.

YouTube Reading Rockets

An interview with Mark Teague about his early writing experiences is available at YouTube Reading Rockets where he describes dictating stories to his mom. It’s very short…and might make a really good prompt to students writing a journal entry about their earliest writing experiences.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Detective LaRue 2pdf to download.

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Marco Polo

The story of Marco Polo and his trip from Venice to Beijing starting in 1271 and his return 24 years later. The illustrations are in an eastern 13th century style, with gilding and gorgeous elaborate borders all using Chinese inks. Be selective in your choices of what you read – it is a long picture book.

Demi, Marshall Cavendish Chidren, ©2008, 978-0-7614-5433-5

Here is a three-minute summary of Marco Polo’s travels …without the amazing things that he saw and reported. It could be a quick introduction before you start your selected readings.

The Life Lessons of Marco Polo

Try giving the students a set of potential life lessons we could learn from Marco Polo before you read excerpts from the book. Ask them to listen and select four potential lessons. Tell them they can also draw lessons of their own from your readings. For each of them, they are to write one paragraph explaining how Marco Polo exemplifies that lesson. Discuss their opinions in small groups and as the class.

  1. Go outside your comfort zone.
  2. Always record your travels.
  3. Taste many different types of food.
  4. Stick to your guns.
  5. Be prepared to take risks.
  6. Build a network of connections and friends.
  7. Work hard for your money.
  8. Learn other languages.
  9. Be charming.

Why You Wouldn’t Want to Take A Trip with Marco Polo

An opposite point of view could be taken of Marco Polo’s travels…and that is, all of the privations and dangers he encountered. Ask students to listen as you read, and make a list of things that were difficult on his journey…then to write a letter, or an essay, or a rant about “Why I Wouldn’t Want to Take a Trip with Marco Polo.”

Zentangles

While Demi’s used patterns and designs common in the Middle East in the 1200’s, those are difficult for students to imitate. On the other hand, elaboration of design within an outline can be easily achieved using zentangles. There are many websites and YouTube videos dedicated to zentangle, a popular contemporary “doodle” students can use to create a frame or illustration for a piece of their own writing. Start with a simple outline drawing, and then pattern the inside. This particular YouTube not only demonstrates fitting designs into an outline, it also provides many different patterns students can imitate. Have a set of patterns available on a single sheet of paper for each student as well.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Marco Polo to download.

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.

Nine Words Max

NineWordsMaxMax is very verbal, and his two brothers are not. Tired of his constant chatter, they obtain a wizard whose spell limits Max to 9 words. This works well for the brothers, until Queen Spark, of the land of Flint, who must be treated in a very specific way that only Max knows, visits them. Without his knowledge, war may erupt.

Dan Bar-el, Tundra Books, 2014, 978-1-77049-562-3

The Nine-Word Sentence Story

First ask students to create a story, or take one they have already written. Then ask them to re-write it so that each sentence has exactly 9 words, and no more. Here is a sample.

Max was playing with his truck in the yard. He sat happily in the dirt getting totally filthy. His hands, arms, legs, clothes, and face were grimy. Occasionally he poured water into a shallow corner depression. Clutching his truck, he drove downhill through the “flood.”

Hello and Goodbye

Max’s kingdom signals goodbye to Queen Spark by wiggling their fingers. Ask students to brainstorm the hello/goodbye signals with which they are familiar. They may come up with:

  • handshake
  • hugging and kissing one cheek
  • a light bump on the shoulder
  • waving: hello or goodbye
  • rock on: small finger and thumb out, others in, and rock slightly
  • peace symbol: make a v with the palm out
  • fist bump

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Nine Words Max to download.

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude

OnceUponACoolMotorcycleDudeA pair of students have an assignment to create and tell a fairy tale to the class and are in serious dispute as to the direction the plot will take. The girl wants it traditional; the boy wants it cool.

Kevin O’Malley, Walker and Co, 2005, ISBN 10: 0-8027-8947-1

The Cliff Hanger Game

Divide the class into teams of 4 or 6.   Each team starts with a “cliff-hanger”―Once upon a time there was a boy named John who was very happy until the day he stepped off…―The next student takes over and keeps the plot going for a few sentences ending in another “cliff hanger”.

Encourage students to jot a few notes about good plot turns so that they can take the best parts and individually write a story.

Once Upon A…

Another book with the same premise of a boy and a girl wanting different turns in the plot is Once Upon a Golden Apple.

Read both of them to the students and ask students to create their own scenario for a “conflicting collaboration” on a story. They could be making up an excuse for why they came home late from school, explaining how it was that the teacher happened to give them a detention, throwing a birthday party, washing a car, or even creating a different fairy tale, etc.

For 5 creative writing ideas, click Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude to download.

The Boy Who Drew Birds

boywhodrewbirdsJames Audubon was French, and was sent to America to learn business, and also to avoid French military service in Napoleon’s army. While there, he became passionate about the observation and detailed paintings of birds. This is his story with particular emphasis on his “test” of migration.

Jacqueline Davies, Houghton Mifflin, ©2004, ISBN 0-618-24343-7

Audubon Art

First, students need to watch a YouTube on drawing birds. The one I liked best, is a little “cartoon-like” but it is fast, and clear and could be adapted to more “realistic drawings.

Next, provide a set of Audubon style drawings for students to “observe”. Ask them to draw just one of the birds. They should sketch in pencil, and then go over it when adding details, using ink. Finally they would erase the original pencil, and finish with coloured crayons or felts.

Tell them not to worry because when the original inspiration is taken away, their drawing will look really good. (A lot of students think that “real drawing” needs to be done from your head. No. All great artists had models, observed from nature; or now they start with a photo.)

If students draw on a piece of paper around 3 X 5 inches, it can be turned into a very nice card for Mother or Father’s Day.

Famous Naturalists Vimeo

Click The Great Naturalists to watch a video for the University of Idaho about some of the most famous naturalists.

Famous Naturalists – Rapid Research

List of Famous NaturalistsNaturalists study nature the way it is rather than the way theories say it is. As a result, going back to Aristotle, there has been steady progress in science because of the work of naturalists. The attached pages describe 17 naturalists and their contributions to the study of the real world. This can be a great Rapid Research project to build general knowledge about history (useful as well in building vocabulary), speaking and writing skills, and, of course, research skills.

Working in pairs, students must find 20 facts about their naturalists and present a list of 20 complete sentences describing what they have found. There are then several options:

  • Students each write their own essay describing what they have found out, which is marked, then mounted on cardstock and illustrated from the Internet for a very effective classroom display of student work.
  • Finished essays can be submitted with a literal question and an answer from the book. Once the finished essay is mounted, the question is added and the answer form part of a key on your desk. The cardstock items are numbered in 72 point numbers, and then students circulate to find 5 answers from the pages. They may go in pairs, but only one pair may be at a station at a time in this Scavenger Hunt.
  • The illustrations for the naturalists can be quickly placed by you into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation and students, again in pairs, have each 1 minute (2 minutes in total) to present their information. This is the one most likely to increase general knowledge in students.

For 7 creative writing ideas, click The Boy Who Drew Birds to download.

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.

The Discovery of Longitude

Longitude coverLatitude and Longitude are just imaginary lines on the surface of the earth, but are critical to navigation. Latitude (north and south) was known, but it wasn’t until John Harrison (a clockmaker) tackled it in the 1700’s in order to win a prize, that the problem was solved.

Joan Marie Galat, Pelican ©2012, 978-1-4556-1637-4

Great Shipwrecks

In the 21st century, with GPS and vast improvements in diving equipment, many wrecks are now being found, and even being raised from the sea.

Students could conduct a Rapid Research topic where groups look into 17 famous shipwrecks:

  • The Mary Rose, 1545
  • The Spanish Armada, 1588
  • The Vasa (Swedish), 1628
  • The Merchant Royal, 1641
  • The Scilly Naval Disaster, 1707
  • The Black Swan, 1804
  • The Tek Sing, 1822 (China)
  • The HMS Birkenhead, 1845
  • The Titanic, 1912
  • The Kiche Maru Typhoon, 1912 (Japan)
  • The Great Lakes Storm, 1913
  • The Lusitania, 1915
  • The Halifax Explosion, 1917
  • The Bismarck, 1941
  • The Wilhelm Gustloff, 1945
  • The Edmund Fitzgerald, 1975
  • The Exxon Valdez, 1994

discoverwrecks

Using the Internet, in a limited period of time, students find out:

1. What was this wreck, where was it located, why was it important? When did it happen?

2. What was the impact of this wreck on future navigation if any?

They create a PowerPoint, an essay, a speech, etc. as a group – pooling their research and writing in a “voice” that is aimed at their own grade level.

Careful Listening

Students can be asked to listen very carefully and make note of the PROBLEMS that some of the early solutions to navigation had. Note-taking is one of the critical skills for achievement according to Marzano.

For 7 creative writing ideas, click The Discovery of Longitude to download.

Night Flight

NightFlightNight Flight has few words.  It concentrates on just 14 hours and 56 minutes of time, starting in the evening from Harbour Grace in Newfoundland on May 20th, 1932, and ending in Ireland.  The author recreates the experience in vivid descriptive language of what she had to do to stay awake, storms, failure of equipment, flying through the night.  The author also describes what is seen from the plane as she left, during the night, flying over tundra, approaching land in Ireland. Imagine the Irish farmer coming toward this strange vehicle that had landed in his field, and the woman waving and saying, “I’ve come from America.”  Amazing.

Robert Burleigh, Simon and Schuster, ©2011, 978-1-4169-6733-0

Talking With Amelia Earhart

The back of the book has many quotes from Amelia Earhart that are worth discussing with students, or using as prompts for journal writing:

  • Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
  • I prefer good mechanical work to rabbits’ feet.
  • I could not see.  I carried on.
  • Everyone has their own Atlantic to fly.  Whatever you want very much to do, against  the opposition of tradition, neighbourhood opinion, and so-called common sense—that is an Atlantic.
  • One of my favourite phobias is that girls, especially those whose tastes aren’t routine, often don’t get a fair break.
  • The most effective way to do it, is to do it.

 Journal Writing

Having students draw from their own experience is a good way to get a journal response to a piece of

writing.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Amelia had to stay awake a long time.  Describe a time when you were up very late.  Did you have to do anything special to stay awake?
  • Amelia was caught in a lightning storm.  Describe an experience you had with a storm?
  • Amelia had to be well prepared, but still incredibly brave.  Describe a time when you prepared very well for something and then did it.

For 8 creative writing ideas, click Night Flight to download.

Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter

rumpelstiltskinThis fractured fairy tale begins after “Meredith” marries Rumpelstiltskin instead of the king and they have a daughter, Hope. Occasionally Rumpelstiltskin spins some gold and Hope takes it to the village. On hearing of it, the king captures her and demands she spin gold. She says she is not sure, but believes her grandfather did it with wheat. So it is planted across the kingdom. The peasants are happy, but the king still wants gold. Next, they try gold wool—again, the peasants are happy, but the king wants gold. Eventually, Hope becomes Prime Minister and, whenever the king becomes anxious, she takes him on a goodwill tour of his now happy kingdom.

Diane Stanley, ©1997, Harper Collins, ISBN 0-688-14327 – X

Parodies of Art

On the wall in the king’s castle are several clever parodies of some famous paintings. Since awareness of famous art and artists is part of the art curriculum, a study of the 8 pictures that are easily identified could be fun. Give each group of students a photocopy of one of the parodies from the book. Then give them a photocopy of the original piece of art, its name, and artist.

Ask students to prepare a one page “poster” on their picture. The poster would include both illustrations along with several paragraphs on the artist’s life, and a paragraph on the piece of art. Why was it created, when, for whom, where it is now, what is it a picture of, etc.?

Explain that an art reference “joke” like this is a literary reference—it is hard to get the joke without background knowledge. You can even talk about how there are a lot of “in jokes” that young people would not get in a movie like Shrek, but that adolescents and adults have background knowledge to catch the reference.

The pictures in the book are:

  • Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci
  • Birth if Venus, Botticelli
  • Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals
  • Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh
  • Seated Woman with a Wrist Watch, Pablo Picasso
  • George Washington, John Trumbell
  • Whistler’s Mother, James McNeil Whistler
  • Frederico de Montefeltro, Piero della Francesca

Compare the Tales

Working in pairs, ask students to generate the longest possible list of the characteristics the three stories they have in common—the original Rumpelstiltskin’s fairy tale, the version where Meredith marries Rumpelstiltskin instead of the ing, and the story of her daughter Hope. They should find at least the following qualities:

  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • Meredith
  • The King
  • The request to spin gold
  • The threat of death
  • The promise of marriage
  • Three tries
  • The palace

Students can also be asked to write their comparison when they have completed their list.

For 6 creative writing ideas, click Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter to download.