I just read about the death of Maurice Sendak, and felt that all-too-familiar twinge of sadness as I let go of yet another piece of my childhood. For many — including myself, my husband, and now my children — an oft-selected story for bedtime is Where the Wild Things Are. The book is a classic tribute to the wondrousness of a child’s imagination and the power of beautiful illustrations. Besides making the bedtime ritual in my household transition with ease, Sendak gave me a number of fun classroom moments as well.
Enjoy reviewing all of his titles, but here are three of my personal choices of Sendak books for use in the classroom. All three are Accelerated Reader (AR) books worth .5 points, and their AR book level is included below:
Chicken Soup with Rice (AR 3.2)
You can read aloud this book about the months of the year to develop phonemic awareness. As your students’ skills improve, you can use this story as a cloze reading to exercise rhyming and word family skills. Finally, you can use Chicken Soup with Rice at calendar time to focus on the months of the year.
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale (AR 2.2)
Everyone say it with me: “And Pierre said, ‘I don’t care.’” Who doesn’t enjoy this story of that little pill, Pierre? It’s tough to face, but every teacher does it: we work with apathetic or discouraged students who don’t want to work, and often get that irksome response, “I don’t care,” as if it’s a mantra. At the risk of spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t read it, Pierre didn’t care, and his attitude led to a pretty serious consequence involving a lion. Even your most struggling readers will get through this story because of Sendak’s use of repetition. You can use Pierre to foster classroom discussion on cause and effect and motivation. Pair it with the Scholastic video, and you’ve got yourself a great language arts lesson with personal relevance.
In the Night Kitchen (AR 2.5)
If we’ve learned anything from the films of Oliver Stone, it’s that audiences respond to hazy, dreamlike sequences that confound the mind; hence, my use of In the Night Kitchen in the classroom. Talk about a totally weird story. I don’t generally read it with the students, but they always want to read it on their own once they’ve seen the pictures. I simply use the pictures as writing prompts, and get hilarious answers that keep the students entertained.
So, what’s your favorite Maurice Sendak story? Or your classroom’s favorite story?