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.

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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.

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.