I’m constantly looking for books to use with my class for retelling. There’s The Mitten, of course, (and The Mitten and The Mitten) which I pull out in January. About the same time, I’ll bring out The Turnip for a little variety.
It’s a little more difficult for October, but several years ago I discovered Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman with illustrations by S.D. Schindler. Does that last name sound familiar? It should–he illustrated The Little Old Woman Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.
This is an even simpler version of The Turnip and perfect for Halloween. The protagonist, a witch, has planted a pumpkin seed for a pumpkin pie, but the pumpkin has grown too large for her to pick. Luckily, a ghost, a vampire, and a mummy appear to try their hand at pumpkin pulling unsuccessfully. It takes a small bat to propose teamwork to dislodge the pumpkin and they all celebrate by eating the pumpkin pie that the witch makes.
After they eat their fill, her new friends take their leave, and the witch rushes out to plant a new pumpkin seed–leaving the children to figure out why.
We act out stories in our retellings, so I pick a child to be the pumpkin, others to be the witch and her friends, and designate a “house” where the pumpkin will roll. We all chant the repetitive text as I narrate.
It’s a lot of fun. And everyone gets a chance to play a part, which means we’re retelling it four or five times–enough that any student should be able to tell it to me on their own.
This year I’m extending the activity. We’re currently working on patterns in math, so I’m creating strips of witches’ hats, ghosts, vampires, mummies, and bats that the children can cut apart and glue onto rows of squares to make their own patterns.
I’m hoping they enjoy it, and that this book becomes one of their favorites. In the last year or so, I’ve begun adding a copy of the books I use for retelling to the class library after I’ve read them. I find they go home regularly, and I’m certain my kids are practicing their retelling skills.
Enjoy your Halloween, whether or not you serve pumpkin pie to your ghostly visitors that night!