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Verna Aardema

John Burningham

Eric Hill

Simon James

Patricia Polacco

Faith Ringgold

I love teaching author units. One of my favorite authors is John Burningham. I will begin this study with book Hey, Get Off Our Train!  John's books have a hidden message and this one is  about endangered animals. My graphic organizer will stress story elements and characters. It will look like:
I will xerox a copy of each character and we will label the characters first with their name. I will leave lots of space for additional writing later.
 Message: At the end of this book study, I will ask the children what Mr. Burningham was trying to tell us in this book and we will construct a sentence that reflects the message. It will read something like: Many animals are becoming endangered because of what people are doing to their environments.
 After this initial lesson, I will bring out our animal resource books and have the children "study" each animal. We will use the bit that John referred to about each animal and come up with a  sentence for each animal about why this animal is becoming endangered. I will have each child draw one of the animal characters and using dictation, I will write their words. I will give them a specific question. One may be, "What did this animal say to the boy that persuaded the boy to let him on the train?" I will write their words on a speech bubble and let the child glue it on his picture.
 Later, I will ask to brainstorm other endangered animals. We will do the same with these animals. Draw a picture and this time we will have to make up the words the animal said as if the boy needed to be persuaded to let them on.
 Phonemic awareness ideas:
Stretch out an animal name and have the children say the name.
 Count the syllables. Categorize according to amount of syllables.
 Read a sentence on the graphic  organizer about the animal and cover one word up and ask what word is missing.
 Count the sounds in each animal name.
 Many math lessons can be integrated.
 Order the animals according to size.
 Count the animals.
 Adding 1 to a set.
 The next story is one about listening and following directions, The Shopping Basket. A mother gives her child a list of errands and sends him off to run them. I do  not do these things in one sitting. This book consumes the entire day. Each retell, begins a new lesson.
 Pre-reading (pre-mark the first text page, the page where Steven is at the market, and the page where the elephant is confronting him) Show the children the picture on the first page. Discuss it and solicit things that could be happening. Write these things on post-it's and stick them to the facing page (the copyright page). Show the page where Steven is at the market and is paying for his things. Do the same thing with the children--illicit what is happening. Write on post-its and stick somewhere on this page. Do the same thing on the page where the elephant is confronting the boy. Look and compare the food triangle on both pages and brainstorm what could have happened to the pieces of food. Again, stick their responses  somewhere on the page. DO NOT show any other pictures until the story is read!
 Introduce vocabulary. Write on index cards the following words: crisps, gap, litter, pavement, thump, kennel, clumsy, butt, railings. Discuss and ask how they think each word is used in the story. (Burningham is English, so this is a good time to show multiple meanings of certain words.)
 I discuss name calling. I personally  do not like the word stupid, so I change the word stupid in this story to ignorant. I have not had a child yet that has caught this change, because the pictures are full of surprises and they are busy looking at the  pictures instead of following my reading. I tell them that Mr. Burningham is trying to show you how he handled bullies when he was a child.
 Read the story . Discuss predictions that were made prior to reading.
 Now, you can either xerox these items from the book, draw them or have the students draw one of these items each: Steven, mom, baby, grocer, bear,  monkey, kangaroo, goat, pig, elephant, 6 eggs, 5 bananas, 4 apples, 3 oranges, 2 doughnuts, and package of crisps. (If you have the students do the drawings, give them a pre-sized piece of paper and tell them to use the whole piece to draw their picture.
 Make a graphic organizer with the title and author at the top. Put the triangle of food in the center of the organizer. Tell the children that they are going to retell the story. As they retell the story glue the pictures around the triangle of food. So, mine would start in the upper right hand corner with mom and baby and Steven. Label them. Going in a clockwise manner around the  triangle of foods, I then glue the grocer, then the bear, the monkey, the kangaroo, the goat, the pig, and end with the elephant closing the circle near the mom, labeling each animal as they are put on the organizer. (I use the same color marker to label each character. Later I use a different color to do each of the other labeling activities.)
 Have children again retell the story and this time as they retell,  circle the food the animal took from Steven and draw a line from that food to the animal.
 Characteristics: Near each character/animal, write one or 2 characteristics learned from the story. So, near the kangaroo, you could write clumsy, jumps. Near the pig you could write fat and squashes things. Near the mom you could write busy. And so on with each character. When the story is re-told again, encourage the students to use the characteristics in the re-tell.
 At the end of the day, ask the children if they really think that Steven met all of those animals in his neighborhood. Ask what they think really probably happened to the food.
Again retell the story.
 This time write the number sentence under each animal that shows what food item was taken from the basket. So, under the monkey you would write 5-1=4.
 You can make a graph and  discuss how many eggs and oranges there are, how many more bananas than doughnuts there are and such like that.
 Give each child (or buddies) 21 counters. Have them make a triangle like the one in the book. Have them take one away from each row and rearrange their triangle so that there are no gaps. Keep doing this until there is only one item left.
 Have the children write their own math word problems that would reflect information from the story.
Review the food pyramid and categorize each of the foods in Steven's food triangle according to the pyramid.
 Discuss each animal and their proper eating habits.
 Social Studies:
Make a map of Steven's neighborhood. Give each child a set of 3 oral directions. Have them follow the directions. Example: Take this book to the book shelf, pick up that piece of trash from the floor and put it in the litter basket, and take Sue a pencil. Have the other children check to see if they are following directions and give a round of applause if they are properly followed.
 John Burningham makes fun of improper punishment in the funny story titled,
John Patrick Norman McHennessy--The Boy Who Was Always Late. This tale is a funny story of childish wisdom and grown-up foolishness. Tell the children that you have read 2 books by John Burningham already. Ask them to think about what has been similar about both books. (They both have animals, they both have a little boy about our age as the main character, they are both funny, they both play on the thought patterns of children.) Ask them to predict about this story by using these criteria:
 1. Look at the title
 2. Look at the pictures (not all, just a few)
 3. Think about what you already know.
 Before reading the story for the first time, take some post it notes and cut to the size to cover up the following words: satchel (on the crocodile page), trousers (on the lion page), bridge (on the tidal wave page), gorilla (on the gorilla page). As you read this book and you come to one of these covered up words, solicit responses from the group as to what the word would be. Like for satchel, it could be book bag, back pack, brief case..... Do not reveal the proper word yet, keep reading and tell them that the proper word will be heard in a bit and for them to listen for it. Tell them that when they hear it, to raise their hand and tell everyone what they think the word is. Do this with each of the 4 covered words. Explain that J. Burningham is English and some of his words sound a bit strange to us because they are old English terms.
 Make a Cause and Effect graphic organizer. At the top put the title and author. Under this divide the paper into 2 sections. Label the left section He was late because..... and the right section So he had to ........ Remember all the reasons he was late and list them on the left. Then recall his  punishment and list those next to the reason on the right side. At the bottom, leave room for a short summary sentence such as, John was always late to school. Before writing, count the words in the sentence. Count  the syllables in 2-3 of the words. Count the sounds in 2-3 of the words. Write this sentence in front of the children talking all the while about writing conventions. Take the sentence and cut it into words. Mix  them up and rearrange in proper order. Make an obvious mistake, like John was always school. late to See if the children catch your mistake. Talk about the period always being at the end and the capital almost always being at the beginning. If you have a computer in the classroom, quickly type up this sentence using 2 spaces between the words and font size 24 or larger. Copy & paste it enough times for each child to have copy of the sentence. Go over reading it, pick out certain words. Have the children carefully rip the sentence into words. Again identify the words. Put the sentence back into order. When you see that they have  it in order again, mix them up again and put a strip of glue on their paper and have them replace the words in order again. Then have them draw a picture showing a time when they were late to school.
Time problems would be good with this story. If school starts at 8:00 and John was 10 minutes late, what time did he get to school?
 Social Studies:
What would be a better way to punish a child for being late?
 What is on your road to school? Draw a map.
 Not my favorite story by John Burningham, but Where's Julius? I can relate to. Like my oldest son, Julius uses his imagination to escape family meals. When I introduce this story I tell my class that Julius reminds me a lot of my oldest son. Coby has a world map pinned to his wall in his room and he enjoys pointing to places and telling me what he did there yesterday!!! He used to say, "Mom, yesterday, I went to _____ and I _____." He is 22 years old now, and often still says that. But, to me, it is sort of funny because one of his favorite places to go to was Tibet, and Tibet is mentioned in this story!! I'd yell up the stairwell at Coby to come down for dinner and he'd not answer. So I'd send my husband up there to get him and my husband would return saying that he is visiting Tibet. But unlike Julius, Coby would eventually come down to eat.
 I like to make a map graphic organizer for this story. At the top I write the title and author. Using a world map overhead, I would trace the map onto my graphic organizer. I'd mark England, which is where  Burningham is from thus I'd think that Julius lived there too and USA. You have to use your imagination as to where some places are. Use a globe and determine where the other side of the world would be from England. I'd think the pyramids would be in Egypt, the hippos in Africa, the wolves in Russia, the mountains near Tibet, the rapids in South America, and the polar bears in Antarctica.
 As you re-read this story mark  on the map where Julius is. I tried to see if there was a connection as to the foods/location/animal, but I couldn't seem to find one. If you see a food connection to the place or animal, let me know. But I  understand this story very well because of the experience I had with my own child.
 I will also ask the children why they think that Julius came to the table for the stew. They usually have some good reasons.  (Mainly because he wanted the tapioca pudding!!) We brainstorm meals that we'd like have that we would be sure not to miss.
 Mr. Gumpy is a delightful man that loves to go for rides with his friends. There are  2 books about such rides, Mr. Gumpy's Outing and Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car, both written by John Burningham. I have done these two books in the same day and I have done them apart. I like to do them on the same day if I want them to compare and contrast the two stories. I like to separate them if I want them to make references and connections.
 Mr. Gumpy's Outing is about a boat ride where lots of friends join him and not  without Mr. Gumpy's warnings, the boat tumps. Show the page where the children are on the bank and Mr.Gumpy is in his boat. Ask the children what they may be saying. Write their words on post-it notes and stick it above their heads. Turn to the page where they were all in the boat (right before it tumps). Do the same thing with the post-it notes and what they think the character are saying. Go to the page where they are all  sitting down for tea. Mark speech of the characters now. DO NOT show any other pages.
 On index cards, write these words: squabble, chase, tease, muck, bleat, flap, trample, kick, hop, tip all in green letters  and goat, calf, chicken, sheep, pig, dog, cat, rabbit, children all in blue letters. Try to match the action words with the animal that would probably make that action. Discuss nouns and verbs. There is one more noun than verb. Ask what COULD tip (that's the extra verb).
 Read the story through the page before the tip. Give each child a piece of paper and have them draw what they think will happen next because of all the commotion in the boat right now. Discuss their drawings and re-read the story from the beginning. Discuss the post-its that were placed earlier.
 There is a nice math problem solving activity that goes with this story. Mr. Gumpy needs to get across the river without tumping his boat. He has determined that he can take no more that 4 heads and no more than 10 legs across the river. But he can never leave the rabbit and the dog on the same side. Line up pictures of all the animals count the legs and heads of each and determine how he can get all the animals across the river.
 Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car is about an outing too. There will be places in this story that will remind the children of their own experiences and of other stories. As they tell you these things, write them on post-it notes and stick them to the pages that remind them of these things. Read the first page and look at the children and ask, "Oh my, what happened on his last ride?" Let the children respond. "What do you think will happen on this ride?" "What  funny things have ever happened on car rides in your life?" After reading the page where Mr. Gumpy notices the rain clouds, ask what could happen (remind them, if necessary, what kind of road they are on).
 Make a graphic organizer and title it Connections. Make 3 sections below the title. Label the sections: self, text, world. Go back through the book and remove the post-its one at a time. Read them and determine  where to stick the post-it on the graphic organizer. Tell them that you make connections while reading often and that is what good readers do.
 Avocado Baby by John Burningham is a delicious book. Before I brought out the book, I covered up the word avocado in all the places, including the title. In some places it is referred to as an avocado pear and I covered up that too. As we read the book, I showed them how to question and figure out things from hints given. When the story was read we competed a graphic organizer which dealt with beginning sounds and questioning.
 The graphic organizer was made ahead of time. At the top I had the title (with just a blank for the word Avocado) and author. Below that I put the characters. I xeroxed all the characters from the book, cut out the heads, glued them onto the graphic organizer and wrote all but the beginning sound for each character. Then I wrote a question (because I was modeling questioning) and left off the question mark so I could stress that later. What did the baby eat that made him so strong?
 After we completed the graphic organizer (filling in the beginning sounds as we reviewed the story elements), we brainstormed foods that the  baby could have eaten. I said well let's look for hints in the text and in the pictures. They found the page where we first left out that word. I read and reread that page and really fished for hints as to what it  could be. We came up with the fact that it was in the fruit bowl and that you could mash it. I added these 2 things to the graphic organizer under the question and labeled them as hints. We looked in that fruit bowl and deleted all the things it could not be. We then determined what it was. I drew an avocado on the graphic organizer and we counted the syllables, sounded it out, counted the sounds, made sound/letter  correspondences, then we wrote the letters. We constructed a sentence to answer my question. The baby ate avocado. We did the same to that sentence. We first counted the words. I drew lines to indicate each word. I use red lines for high frequency words and green words for words we can sound out. We wrote each word identifying whether it was a word wall word (red lines), one we could sound out (green lines) or one we needed  help with. I pointed out writing conventions as we went. We read it many times. I then gave them each a piece of paper they copied the sentence and illustrated the sentence by drawing their favorite "strong thing" the baby did.
 Later in the morning, we mashed avocados and spread it on crackers. I gave each child ½ an avocado and a 1/4 wedge of lemon. (We talked about fractions.) They used their fork to mash  it then sprinkled lemon juice on it. They all loved it.
 While at the library today one of my students found a John Burningham book. They were so very excited. I had not read it so we decided to read it at  the end of the day. (Don't EVER read a book that you have not read before.) I thought Granpa would be a nice story and one we could understand easily. Well, it was good because the kids saw my comprehension strategies at work. This story has disjointed asides, unrelated conversations, and insights that are common to both the very young and the very old. Because of my experience with my own grandparents it did have a special meaning. But the modeling of the comprehension was enough to make reading this book a success!
 The first scene in the greenhouse is different, but you can figure it out. The strange thing is the next page. I had to go back and reread the previous page to see if I had missed anything. I hadn't. So I continued. I told them that I did not understand but I'd go on and see if it made sense if I'd keep reading. We got  to the Noah page and I said, "Well, I have to go back again to see if the different print means anything." We determined that the Granpa was saying the regular print and the little girl was saying the italics. We went back and reread with this understanding. The page after the Noah page gave us something to talk about. We talked about what the little girl may have said to her grandpa and some things we have said to our grandparents that may not have been nice. On the page where granpa said he used to come down the hill like little arrows, I said that I didn't understand that. THEY told me to look at the picture!! (See there is carryover!)
 The very last page was the clincher for me. It brought tears to my eyes. There are no words on this page. The little girl was just sitting in a chair looking at the chair that grandpa should be sitting in. I said, "I wonder where grandpa is?" My students were very quiet. I think we all thought the same thing. The bus monitor came and they still sat. We had shared with each other about our own  grandparents and Burningham created in us an enduring picture of that special relationship--a relationship we need to take care of.
 Unit Conclusion:
I had a visitor in my room yesterdays from the district. She was curious about my literature lessons. My plan for yesterday was to get all my John Burningham graphic organizers out and see if the use of them could aid in the retell of his stories and to do a  character comparison of the main character in each story. They remembered so many things. I was impressed. The visitor saw my little kindergarteners retell the stories with gusto and detail (with the use of the  graphic organizers). I let a child lead each re-tell. I had the fronts of each book xeroxed and a xerox of each of it's main characters. I made a chart that had the book front copies down the left side and 3 columns  were made to the right. The first column was labeled main character, the 2nd column was labeled summary, and the 3rd column was labeled comparison. In the character column we glued the proper figure there and wrote  a simple description. The summary column was hard to get out of them, because they wanted to retell. We will work on summaries a bit next week. And the comparison column, we wrote any observations we made related to any of John Burningham's other books (like animals, little boy, detailed drawings, that circle sunshine...) This was really good for setting the framework for making text to text connections. I told them that these  connections were what good readers did.
 Page submitted by Libby at

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