Sunday, February 14, 2010

Four More Days 'Till Mo Comes to Town!

Ok, I know I am a Mo Willems fanatic, but he is a favorite for kids of all ages...and I get to meet him on Thursday night (along with a bunch of 3-5 year old Austinites in pjs)!!!

I want to spend the next few days giving you some ideas on how to use his books. I will give a general overview of things you can teach using all his books, but then some specific things in some of the books that you can look for.

Let me begin by saying that in each of his books, you will find HUMOR. Your child will be laughing from the beginning to end.

Some other themes:
Friends (Gerald and Piggie Series, Leonardo, Edwina, Knuffle Bunny)
Being Yourself (Gerald and Piggie, Edwina, Leonardo, Big Frog, Naked Mole Rat)
Childhood (Knuffle Bunny, KB Too)

You can talk about character traits and personalities in each one. I like to show throughout the Gerald and Piggie series that they do things and react to situations consistent with their personalities...
Some ideas : Gerald - cautious, worrisome, helpful, gloomy, humorous, careful, silly
Piggie - carefree, happy, encouraging, adventuresome, young, funny, loud
Edwina - unselfish, good listener, caring, forgiving
Leonardo - resourceful, discouraged, different, unique, sensitive
Trixie - young, frustrated, proud, worried, excited, loud
Pointing these traits out may not seem like a big deal, but introducing kids to these types of traits and vocabulary will help them immensely. As your child grows in their understanding of books, they will realize (and be taught) that characters act/react consistent with who they are (their traits and their personality) and that many times, character change is at the crux of many plots of books. So knowing their character is important.

Another thing his books have is a blurb to get their minds ready. I have talked about the importance of that earlier.

He uses speech bubbles in many of his books -- I think it does a number of things for readers.
  • They point to/identify who is speaking -- kids will understand there is talking going on
  • they are color coded in some books to match characters' colors - another way to identify speaker
  • the bubble isolates a sentence or two, making the fluency manageable
  • the bubbles contain the words and make them less intimidating to readers

I LOVE to use his books for what I call a "punctuation study." He uses all sorts of punctuation, and you can easily have kids find them and talk about why they are used and what they mean.

  • Periods - stop your voice, take a breath, speaker is done with that sentence.
  • Commas - pause voice, create drama, character is listing
  • ... Ellipses - to create drama, pause for surprise effect, leave you hanging - voice draws out and slightly up
  • Question Marks - someone asked a question or is wondering something - voice goes up
  • Exclamation Marks - Voice gets louder - yelling, shouting
  • COMBINED MARKS - for example, Where is Piggie??!! - loud, exclaiming, and a question

You can point out the different size and style of fonts - how each change should influence how you say something - for example "VERY FANCY" in Gerald and Piggie is done to show fanciness and is read with a little more emphasis. He uses bold, italics -- all these can be taught, and should be talked about.

In each of his books, you can do some great comprehension work:

Kids can PREDICT - and learn to give reasons why they think that might happen. They can VERIFY - they can see whether their prediction occurred and give evidence if they were correct or not. They can SYNTHESIZE - pull the facts together and explain as a whole what happened an reasons why. They can ANALYZE - take pieces from the book in isolation and explain why they happened and things about the character. They can APPLY - see how the book relates to them, see how they can learn from this in their lives.

I will give suggestions on how to do this with each book in the upcoming days.

As I have said previously, these books are great for fluency. They can learn to use expression and smooth reading with these books.

I am interested too, in the new series CAT IS CAT that is coming out. It seems that, from the titles, these books might be great for that pattern/decoding work I talked about in a previous blog. I think Piggie and Gerald are great for it too - You can pull out patterns of words (ing) or blends (th) and have them hunt for them in the books and then create a list together of new words with those patterns. You know I am going to be buying them Thursday night, so I will let you know about them.

The books also repeat words throughout the book so kids get more than one exposure to words at a sitting. It helps for those struggling/new readers to have a familiarity with those words and to see them a few times.

And the illustrations...let me give that some attention. He is, at best, an amazing artist. His pictures capture emotions and characters soooo well. They are a readers number one support, and make them fall in love with the characters, and subsequently, the books.

Ok, and you can teach sarcasm too - one of my faves...

Pick up one of his books and run through this list of "things to teach" and see if I am will be floored at what incredibly powerful and important teachings come out of these shorter, well written books.


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