In part one of this article, I looked at how predictable trade books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? can be the basis of outstanding learning activities. In this part, I’ll share some of my own experiences of creating pattern book variations with different groups of students.
Using predictable pattern books can be beneficial to implementing and enriching required curriculum. Activities based on quality children’s literature combine practice in skills for reading and language arts with opportunities to make connections across all subject areas. The conversations generated during these activities encourage social interaction and cooperation. Careful planning can insure that necessary standards and goals are achieved without sacrificing enthusiasm for learning.
How do I generate interest in writing our own story?
The best place to start is to share lots of examples of different predictable text patterns as well as variations and adaptations of familiar tales. Take The Little Red Hen for example. The traditional version with pictures by Paul Galdone and the book illustrated by Jerry Pinkney have very similar text but the illustrations give a much different feel to the same story. An adaptation called Little Green Witch has the main character growing a pumpkin without the help of her friends who are all Halloween creatures. In “Not Now!” Said the Cow a black crow grows some popcorn without any help from other animals on the farm.
Another example of variations on a pattern would be The Gingerbread Boy. Paul Galdone gives us a traditional version while The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth has a similar text with an additional verse to the repeated refrain. There are books about gingerbread girls and gingerbread babies, gingerbread cowboys, even gingerbread men in the library. The same story shows up in different cultures with Runaway Rice Cake or The Musubi Man. The concept of runaway food continues in other picture books like Journey Cake, Ho or The Funny Little Woman.
Over in the Meadow is a classic counting rhyme; the straightforward version I prefer was illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats. There are many adaptations including Over in the Jungle, Over in the Garden, Over in the Ocean, Over on the Farm, and Deep in the Swamp.
Two other well-known pieces that are frequently adapted appropriate to different seasons, holidays, or cultures are Clement C. Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas” and the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.
Sharing and discussing a number of different stories with various adaptations will build enthusiasm and encourage individuals or groups of students to try adapting a favorite story of their own.
How can I help insure success?
For the best chance of success it is important for their first experience with this type of project to be based on a simple text pattern. Brown Bear, Brown Bear is a simple, storytime favorite that can serve as an excellent writing prompt, but it’s not the only good predictable pattern book that could be used in this way.
I Went Walking is a very simple text:
“I went walking. What did you see?
I saw a yellow dog following me.”
I Went Walking, by Sue Williams
One of my favorite adaptations was created by a group of disadvantaged, less able kindergartners. We were talking about the sound of the letter W at the beginning of words. We read the book I Went Walking several times. We went for a walk and looked for things starting with the letter W. We decided to write about our walk but would include only things that started with the letter W. We brainstormed a list of all of the things we could think of that started with the letter W. (I had posted around the room a number of pictures of animals and familiar objects that started with the letter W.)
Each student chose one of the Ww words and drew their own picture to represent that word. At the top of the page on which they drew their picture it said, “What did you see?” At the bottom of that page they had to write a complete sentence using their name and the name of the item in their picture. For example, “Judy saw a wolf.” I asked that they include at least one describing word to make their sentence more interesting so it might be changed to “Judy saw a mean wolf.” The adjective also had to be reflected in the picture so Judy’s wolf might have had many sharp, menacing-looking teeth, possibly dripping blood.
Each child’s page was laminated and they were all assembled in a class book. The group enjoyed this activity so much they we made three sets of pages, all using different Ww words. The completed class book entitled “We Went Walking with Ww” was placed in the classroom library and became a favorite for self-selected reading time.
What are some other pattern books that are good to start with?
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown is another outstanding predictable pattern. The text relates a lot of different attributes of each of several familiar things. “The most important thing about snow is that it is white.” Then the text lists other attributes of snow but the page concludes with a repeat of the most important thing.
After the first nine weeks of school we would write about “The Most Important Thing about Kindergarten”. We would list all the things we liked about kindergarten and then take a vote to decide which was the most important.
I would have each child draw a picture and complete the sentence “The most important thing about Kindergarten is (blank). I usually asked the group to decide who was the best artist who would then be asked to draw the picture of the most important thing. In addition to the reading and writing skills being practiced this activity gave me insight into group interests and needs as they were adjusting to the kindergarten experience.
Are there simple patterns that provide more of a challenge?
A Dark Dark Tale by Ruth Brown is a retelling of the spooky folktale “In a Dark Dark Wood”. It is a chain story that moves from the dark, dark wood to the dark, dark house to a dark, dark room to a startling or surprise ending.
Different groups have adapted this tale in different ways. One developed a story at the “Cold North Pole” where the year’s most wanted toy was found in a box in Santa’s toy factory. Another class collaborated on a story at the “Hot Sunny Beach” where a child at the beach got bit on the toe by a crab in a hole in the sand. I have also done books about a “Sunny Summer Woods” and a “Hot Steamy Jungle”. In each case a lot of preparatory work had to be done to develop the concepts and vocabulary lists appropriate to each setting. When each illustrated story was completed we worked on reading with expression in order to set the proper mood for the story.
Young children enjoy the subtraction chant about the five mischievous monkeys jumping on the bed.
“One falls off and bumps his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Five Little Monkey Jumping on the Bed, by Eileen Christelow
We read about Five Little Penguin Sliding on the Ice, Five Little Bats Flying in the Night, and Five Little Sharks Swimming in the Sea before we tried our hand at developing our own story for a farm unit or rainforest theme. We would brainstorm a list of animals and then choose one to use as the basis for our story. We would also have to come up with at least 5 movement, attributes, or adjectives that could be used in counting down the verses.
What comes next?
If you’ve done well, the experience of exploring variations of pattern books will become a favorite activity. And as you go through the year and share other predictable books, students will actually say, “Can we write a book like that?”
Next time you are thinking about adding some spice to the substance of your curriculum try working with a predictable book.