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.

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Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes

LousyRottenStinkinGrapesIn this twist on Aesop, the fox progressively involves a series of animals in an elaborate plan to help him get the grapes. He refuses to listen to their advice, and when his plan fails, he leaves saying the grapes are probably not ripe. After he leaves, the other animals get the grapes.

Margie Palatini, Simon and Schuster, ©2009, ISBN 978-0-689-80246-1

The Power of Repetition

This book presents an opportunity for students to understand the power of a repeated line; in this case, “After all, I’m the fox. Sly. Clever. Smart.” Also repeated are: “Voila! Grapes!” and “If you say so.”

As a listening skill, ask each 1/3 of the class to listen for their particular phrase and note the total number of times it occurs, as well as when each of them happens.

Ask them to write a story, or re-write an existing one, to add humorous repeated phrases.

A Rube Goldberg Plan

gizmodo-the-top-10-rube-goldberg-machines-featured-on-film-rube-goldbergOur fox makes somewhat of a “Rube Goldberg” plan, each part of which is more elaborate than next, and requiring ever more complicated diagrams. The original model of a plan that is too elaborate is named after Rube Goldberg. The illustration is of a machine to brush your teeth. Ask students to create a “Rube Goldberg” plan to do something simple like wash a car, or sharpen a pencil.

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who was most famous for creating cartoons to solve simple problems in an elaborate way. The board game, Mouse Trap, is based on a Rube Goldberg machine. Today, there are Rube Goldberg contests for inventors to create overly elaborate solutions to problems. You can view some of these machines on YouTube, my particular favourite is OK Go’s music video for “This Too Shall Pass” because there is music cleverly included.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click Lousy Rotten Stinkin’ Grapes to download.

Goldie and the Three Hares

GoldieandtheThreeHaresThe Hare family is having dinner when Goldilocks, fleeing from the three bears, falls down the hole. Having hurt her foot, she remains as a guest, but is a terrible one. How can the Hare family get rid of her?

Margie Palatini, Harper Collins, ©2011, 978-0-06-125314-0

Houseguest Manners

Goldilocks is a living example of absolutely terrible houseguest manners. They are so bad, that students should be able to construct a “good house guest manners list” that consists of mainly doing the opposite of what she does. Challenge them in small groups to come up with a list of 10 Great House Guest rules. (They shouldn’t forget bringing a gift for the host/hostess and sending a thank you note.)

The Trailer

The trailer for this book is really a trailer, that is, it summarizes her departure from the three bears and then proceeds to describe how she is the “houseguest who won’t leave.” It’s clever and fun.

Personal Writing (Extreme Writing)

Some topics for personal writing might be:

  • Stories about sleepovers and other times I was a houseguest. (At Grandmother’s? Or a sleepover?)
  • Stories about injuries I have suffered in my life.
  • House rules: If you were going to write them down, what are the house rules for your house?
    • No shoes on the furniture.
    • Brush your teeth before sleep.
    • Make your bed?
    • Say grace?
    • Do the dishes? etc.

For 9 creative writing ideas, click Goldie and the Three Hares to download.

The Perfect Sword

perfectswordMasa and his apprentice Michio make a “perfect sword” and then seek the person worthy of it. Each candidate is rejected as they hear from the warrior, the swordsman, the noble, and so on. They need someone kind, who doesn’t automatically reach for a sword to solve problems, who wants to help others, and who is noble. Like a fairy tale, but this one takes FOUR tries, they eventually find the right candidate. Satisfied, they turn to making the next “perfect sword.”

Scott Goto, Charlesbridge, ©2010, ISBN 978-1-57091-697-7

The Story of the Perfect…

It would be fun to write a story about something like the “perfect sandwich”. What would it have in it? Who would be worthy of it? Which characters would like it and why do you turn them down? Who gets it? There are lots of opportunities to tell a story of something perfect.

Listening for the Answer

This is a really good book to teach listening skills. Give students a chart with four columns:

  1. The candidates for the sword on the left.
  2. The qualities the apprentice thinks might make them worthy. (column 1)
  3. The reason they are turned down, or accepted in the case of the last one. (column 2)
  4. What the apprentice thinks might be the lesson to be learned. (column 3)

For 7 creative writing ideas, click The Perfect Sword to download.