Friday, November 4, 2011

Go, Picture Book, It's Your Special Month!

I'm raising the roof and singing to the wonderful Picture Book today! It's Picture Book Month! On Wednesday, Kellee announced that I've challenged her to step up her picture book game this month! You saw some of my favorite books that I've dared her to read this month! Her mini-reviews will be up on Thursdays for the rest of the month. I can't wait to hear what she thinks of some of my favorite books. Be sure to play along or chime in when she reviews a picture book you have read.
Kellee also shared some lesson ideas to go along with her favorite picture book, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (Which, coincidentally, happens to be probably my all time favorite picture book.) I thought I would share some lesson ideas for another one of my favorite picture books: Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison. This book was one of the very first I ever reviewed here at Teach Mentor Texts. You can visit my review of Velma Gratch for more ideas! 
I'm sorry, but I just love this girl! Look at that face!
Let me just quickly say that I love this book! I love Velma. I think it would be hard sometimes to be the youngest of three sisters. I also happen to love butterflies. They are so delicate but yet seem to magical at the same time. 

A big theme throughout this book is Velma struggling to establish herself as a unique person separate from her two older sisters. She desperately wants to be seen as herself instead of is the youngest Gratch sister. I think at some point in our lives we all want to be noticed and to feel special whether we come from a small or large family. It's exciting to read about Velma and her experience with the way cool butterfly. 

I especially love this book as a mentor text because the writing is fantastic. It's exactly my kind of descriptive show-don't-tell writing. There are some great $100 words mixed in with a sweet story. I just want to read this book over and over and fall into the story again and again.

My three favorite activities:

1. Isolate one sentence from the text to use as a mentor text. Look at how the author uses alliteration or makes what I call compound adjectives - when you take two or more word and hyphenate them to come up with an adjective. As a reader, the writing is so fluid. Have students look for similar sentences - I notice them all the time at Starbucks! - or have them write their own. Have them describe something with their five sense and try to really show the reader what they experience instead of simply telling.

2. I love challenging students to see things from a different perspective. Can you imagine what the butterfly in the story was thinking? What did he like so much about Velma? What did he or she notice about her that others were overlooking? This is a great time for them to use their descriptive writing. Sometimes we'll write a story and other times a poem. 

3. Read a variety of non-fiction and fiction books about caterpillars and butterflies like Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Students can do a Reader's Theater version of  The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I love talking to kids about using good expression when reading this book as Reader's Theater. Also, online you can watch a speedy version of a caterpillar enclosing himself into a cocoon and then coming out as a monarch butterfly. It's amazing. 

One summer when we were visiting my brother, I took my nephews to their local library and they had a display of monarch butterflies waiting to come out of their cocoons. I had never seen a monarch cocoon in person before or in a book for that matter. They are extremely beautiful. (I'm not sure what it entails to hatch your own caterpillars or butterflies or if it's good for the butterflies so I'm not much help in that sense.) My family went home after seeing the monarch cocoons and we watched video and read all about monarchs. It was the most exciting learning I've ever done and we were all enthralled with how amazing these little butterflies are.

If you can visit a butterfly garden and experience what it might have been like for Velma when she goes on her field trip to the conservatory. I've always wanted to do this! If you don't have a butterfly garden near you, there might be an insect display at a museum or zoo in the area. 



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