Archive for October, 2010

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!


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In case you’ve been hiding in a pumpkin patch the past few months weeks, Halloween is almost here.

I’m dragging out my Halloween books when I get back to my class on Tuesday. (Yes, we just had our end of the first quarter break. Where did my week go?)

A couple of years ago. Scholastic put out Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by S.D. Schindler–the illustrator of another Halloween-themed book I love dearly, Big Pumpkin. The cover illustration in conjunction with the notion of a skeleton with hiccups were so charming, I had to have it.

Charming it is. With the added bonus of being amusing to both adults and children. The children will love the antics that ensue as Skeleton tries and tries to rid himself of the hiccups. Adults will enjoy the sly jokes the S.D. Schindler has added to the text. What’s not to love about a skeleton with a bottle of bone polish by his elbow?

Plus it provides a jumping off place for kids to imagine Skeleton with other nagging problems they suffer from time to time–a case of sneezes or a scraped kneecap. Do bandaids even stick to bones?

The kids also enjoy chiming in on the hiccup refrain, and the visual of the hiccups jumping across the page is fun to point out to little ones. Sure, it’s easiest to have straight running lines of print, but movement can add a lot to enjoyment.

This is a great book to add to your collection and your children will clamor for multiple rereads.

I’m looking forward to reading it to my class this week. I wish I could say the same about the life-size 3D skeletons we always make right now, which are labor-intensive and involve me painting palms and feet bottoms white for the handprints and footprints on black paper.

But the children adore them, so all my pain is worth it during Ss week.

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October’s gotten really sneaky these past few years, and whenever I’m too immersed in my classroom to notice, it suddenly pops up.

Good thing I have a week off to cope with the idea, because October heralds the holiday season and all the crafts that season entails from now to December.

But October is also one of my favorite months, since fall in southern California makes itself known in an occasional crispy morn. And Halloween means I get to pull out some old favorites in my read-aloud collection.

One of the best I’ve run across in recent years is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd. While not quite Halloween-specific, it does have a scary pumpkin head and deals with the theme of fear.

The illustrations in this book are vibrant-colored and eye-catching–guaranteed to keep my wiggly kindergartners’ attention. But the bravado of the little old lady (“not afraid of anything!”) as various articles of clothing and a pumpkin head meet her on the path through the woods is a great discussion point.

The other superb bit about this tale is the repetition and actions of each item the old lady encounters. Acting out the CLOMP CLOMP!, WIGGLE WIGGLE!, SHAKE SHAKE!, etc. is part of the delight, and more than one class has demanded an immediate reread of the tale.

Extended activities for my classroom include a reenactment–with each child encountering the old lady holding a paper piece of clothing and doing the required action. From the safety of the playhouse, the little old lady whispers to the pumpkin head child, and puts together all items on a frame–to which I’ve affixed Velcro dots. We end up playing this one multiple times, because everyone wants to be the little old lady.

Now that we’re going full day, I’m beginning my writing program. And one of the first things we’ll draw and caption will be a scarecrow on the day I read this story. We’ll also retell the story using sentence strips.

And since one of our standards this trimester is retelling a story, I’ve got some images of the old lady, shoes, pants, etc. that they can use when they retell the story to me. It’s a perfect tale for the standard–easy to remember and interesting enough that they enjoy the retelling.

If you don’t have this one in your library yet, make sure to get a copy. It’s a wonderful reading experience for all!

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