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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Dog vs. Cat

Dog vs. CatMr. Button buys a dog; Mrs. Button buys a cat. The two have conflicting habits and fight constantly until their owners bring home – a baby. The problem is solved when the cat and dog reconcile and build a home for themselves in the backyard.

Chris Gall, Little Brown, ©2014, 978-0-316-23801-4

If Your Friends Acted Like Your Dog and Cat

There is a terrific YouTube video using two human actors who are acting like the disdainful cat or the needy dog. Lots of fun. Talk about what characteristics of these animals the video is making fun of—and incidentally also making fun of us for loving them anyway.

Drawing the Dog or the Cat

Using quick cartoon drawings of a cat and a dog—maybe only the head—students illustrate a dog vs. cat story of their own. Students can see that just by squinting the eyes, and making the “smile” mouth fold down (and perhaps making the ears a little more pointed), the cat, for example, can look angry.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click Dog vs. Cat 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.

From the Good Mountain

FromtheGoodMountainHow Gutenberg Changed the World. Illustrated like a medieval manuscript, the book shows how all the parts of the process came together to create the first printing press.

James Rumford, Roaring Book Press, ©2012, ISBN 978-59643-542-1

Writing From the Parts

The structure of this book is to describe something without saying what it is, and then to ask a question.

  • What was it?

Then it describes how to make the thing, and asks another question:

  • What was this thing made of rags and bones?

Then it answers it, and says it was ready.

  • It was paper, and it was ready.

Slowly, the story builds as the next thing needed is leather, then gold, then ink, then printing types, then the printing presses, then the person (Johannes Gutenberg) until finally the book is made.

It’s a gorgeous, rhythmical pattern that students could imitate with something easier, such as making fudge. To make fudge you need:

  • sugar
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • icing sugar
  • a stove
  • a glass tray
  • a knife
  • a refrigerator

The recipe online for Cora’s fudge is the easiest one I know, because it doesn’t require any temperature gauge. Students don’t make the fudge—you do so that you can give out a sample.

“In the year 2012, in the city of New Westminster, there appeared a mysterious thing. It was made of sugar cane, cows milk, brown sugar, icing sugar, a stove, a fridge, a glass tray, and a knife. What was it?”…and so on.

It would be fun…and they could see that any time they needed to explain something where many other things had to come together first in order for the item to be successful…this pattern would be very impressive.

The recipe for Cora’s fudge is at here. (One tip: when it is partially chilled, make cut lines in the fudge, so that it comes out more easily in the end. If you forget, this will still work.)

Paper chase Vocabulary Game

Here’s a chance to develop the vocabulary of paper. Find samples of all of these kinds of paper and create 8 different packages with labels. Allow students to feel and look at, and study the names of the papers. Then remove these study material.

Next given them an envelope with sample papers and separate labels and ask them to match the word to the sample. Add a timing factor to make it more fun.

  1. bond paper
  2. cellophane
  3. parchment paper
  4. cardboard
  5. blotting paper
  6. carbon paper
  7. cardstock
  8. butcher paper
  9. newsprint
  10. crêpe paper
  11. glassine paper
  12. origami paper
  13. wax paper
  14. tissue paper
  15. wrapping paper
  16. manila tag
  17. toilet paper

 

For 10 creative writing ideas, click From the Good Mountain to download.

The Qultimaker’s Gift

QuiltmakersGiftThis book is not new, but has been recently re-issued, so I am including it because it is great for writing ideas. The Quiltmaker makes quilts only for the poor. When the king covets one she refuses, but will make one square for each gift he gives away. After several threats, he gives in, and finds that giving to others is where he find happiness.

Jeff Brumbeau, Scholastic, ©2001, ISBN 0-439-30910-7

The Pattern Story

The quilting patterns shown on the 32 pages of the book have been chosen to echo the part of story told on each page. Give each student a page and a copy of the patterns in the book (on the inside covers.) First they find their pattern, and its name. Then they develop an explanation of why that pattern has been chosen for that page. Create a quick PowerPoint showing each of pages and a close-up of each of the patterns in order. Finally, you read the story (or students read the story), page by page. As each page is read, show the pattern. At the end of that page, a student explains the pattern and why he/she feels it was chosen for the page. There are 23 patterns in total, so some of the students will need to “double up” if you have a larger class. (The key to the match of the pattern to the page is included in the PDF you can download for this book.)

Vocabulary of Shimmer

In describing the king’s storehouse of gifts, the author says they “shimmer”. Ask students to brainstorm words that mean to reflect or give off light. Some words they may come up with are: shimmer, glitter, sparkle, glow, flash, shine, twinkle, scintillate, radiate, dazzle, glint, glisten, beam, emit, gleam, glare, etc. Give students a pair of words and ask them to tell you the difference—ie. shimmer vs glare or twinkle vs. gleam. Then ask them to arrange the words from least amount of light to most amount of light. In general, playing with the words solidifies the vocabulary.

For 10 creative writing ideas, click The Quilt Maker’s Gift to download.

Titanicat

Titanicat CoverJim is a cabin boy on the Titanic assigned to watch over a cat and her kittens. He sees the cat taking her kittens off the ship before it sails. As the “All ashore” is called there is one last kitten, so Jim takes it off and misses the ship. Based on a true story.

Marty Crisp, Scholastic, ©2008, ISBN 978-0-545-2880-2

Superstitions

Our cabin boy is saved from the Titanic because of the superstition that a cat leaving a ship is a sign of disaster. Show students the pictures on the Titanicat Superstitions PDF and have them describe what the luck is that the image is conveying (good or bad).

Cat Breeds

The ship’s cat is a tortoiseshell cat. This might be a good time to introduce students to the names and vocabulary of cat breeds, some of which are:

  • Ragdoll
  • Maine or coon cat
  • Bengal
  • Siamese
  • Manx
  • Persian
  • Abyssinian
  • Angora
  • Russian blue

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Titanicat to download.

Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat

61VXWEWPH0LThe Queen is coming to Littleton and Miss Hunnicutt wants to wear her hat with a chicken on top. After she stands up for her right to wear what she wants, we discover that the Queen loves her hat with the turkey on top.

Jeff Brumbeau, Orchard Books/ Scholastic, ©2003, ISBN 0-439-31895-5

The Art of Hats

Many famous pieces of art involve women wearing hats. Attached are a couple of pages of samples of such pieces of art, with their name, and the artist.

hatsinartAsk students to choose one to research (in pairs). The team needs to produce 12 facts about the artist, and 6 facts about the painting (where it is located, size, and, the model, the hat, etc.)

Depending on the time you have students may:

  • Report on an 8.5 X 11 poster with the picture and their information
  • Report orally (2 minutes. 1 minute each) as you show the images on a screen.
  • Create a scavenger hunt to expose them to at least 5 of the poster reports.

Follow the Pattern

Students can incorporate their own pattern into a story that they create. Each time Miss Hunnicutt is asked to take off her hat she replies:

  1. I will not.
  2. I have a right to wear what I like.
  3. I won’t wear a (flounder) and I won’t wear (an orangutan).
  4. But I will wear (a chicken) and I will wear it on my head.

 

Student patterns can be either about wearing something, or can be about something they commonly do, such as ride a bicycle.

  1. I will not.
  2. I have a right to ride a bicycle.
  3. I won’t ride in the ditch, and I won’t ride in the store.
  4. But I will ride in the bike lane, and I’ll do it in the morning.

 

For 10 creative writing ideas, click Miss Hunnicut’s Hat 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.

Blockhead – The Life of Fibonacci

BlockheadFibonacci was part of the revolutionary change from Roman numerals to Arabic numerals in the 12th century. His most important contribution to math is the Fibonacci sequence, which this book explains.

Joseph D’Agnesi, Henry Holt, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8050-6305-9

Fibonacci Numbers

If you add any two consecutive numbers in the pattern you get the next number:

  • 1 pair plus 1 pair = 2 pairs
  • 1 pair plus 2 pairs = 3 pairs
  • 2 pairs plus 3 pairs = 5 pairs
  • 3 pairs plus 5 pairs = 8 pairs

The first numbers are 1,2,3,5,8,13,21,55,89,144,233,377.

Pages 26 and 27 explain the Fibonacci numbers…demonstrate to 8 and ask them to continue until they get to 233.

blockheadphotoAstonishingly, nature uses these numbers all the time…in flower petals, seeds inside, starfish, 3 leaf clovers, 8 sections in a lemon, etc. Even humans have 1 head, 2 eyes, 5 fingers, etc.

Roman Numerals

The book mentions that, in Egypt, Fibonacci encountered Arabic Numerals and thought how much simpler they were than his Roman numerals – making it a good time to introduce them. (Actually, the numbers are from India, but the west encountered them in the Arab countries and so called them Arabic numerals.) Lots of sites have activity sheets, but a good site for an explanation is Adrian Bruce’s Maths Stuff. Roman numerals, it reminds us, may be found on watches, old buildings, page numbers in a preface, as subsections in a list on Microsoft Word, titles of kings and queens, periods of Egyptian history, and at the end of Hollywood movies, comics, and games to show the year it was made.

For 8 creative writing ideas, click Blockhead to download.

Wonder Horse

Wonder HorseSubtitled The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse, this is the story of how Bill Key, former slave, found and trained his horse Jim Key. Unlike other trainers of the time, he used only kindness to teach Jim to recognize the alphabet and colours. They travelled America doing shows, where Bill took the opportunity to teach animal owners the importance of humane treatment. Bill and his horse had a huge influence on the movement leading to the RSPCA.

Emily Arnold McCully, Henry Holt, ©2010, ISBN 978-0-8050-8793-2

Famous Animals – A Rapid Research Topic

Jim Key is the story of both an amazing horse and an amazing owner. Give students a list of famous animals and ask them to prepare a quick research report of about 4 paragraphs (with an illustration if possible from the internet) to make an 11 X 17 poster set of displays for the class.

Working in pairs, students could then make an oral presentation (or a PowerPoint presentation about their particular horses)..length 2 minutes to a maximum length of 5 minutes.

I have created a Pinterest page with 30 amazing animals (horses, dogs, cats) that students can use to start their research (or illustrate it). You can either visit my Pinterest page on my website to view the board (it’s the last one on the page) or visit my Pinterest boards directly (also, don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest!).

Vocabulary

The words students might find difficult are: colic, profile, console, antics, equine, and liniment. This might be a good time to explore vocabulary about horses as a theme. (See page 3 of the attachment.)

For 5 creative writing ideas, click Wonder Horse to download.