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Monday, May 6, 2013

Just So Stories

For the past few weeks, my students have been exploring Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Published in 1902, these stories tell how the camel got its hump, how the armadillo got its scales, how the elephant got its trunk, and more.

Since Kipling's work is now in the public domain, I was able to take three of his stories and adapt them for two different reading levels. This way my students can all read the same story, regardless of reading level. "How the Camel Got Its Hump," "The Beginning of the Armadillo," and "The Elephant's Child" (my personal favorite) were adapted for readers in the 4-5 and 6-8 reading ranges.

For the first week we used the adaptations to polish a few of our Common Core State Standards. First we read "How the Camel Got Its Hump." Since it's the shortest story, I used it to model RL.4.1 (answering questions), RL.4.2 (both summarizing and finding a theme), and RL.4.3 (describing characters). You can see an example below:


After modeling with "How the Camel Got His Hump," we moved on to guided and independent practice with the other two stories. It was some serious fun!

In the second week, we looked more carefully at Kipling's writing style. We analyzed his use of "said." (This author never used a synonym for said. He used said and nothing more!) And, of course, we had to spend some time brainstorming and listing oodles of synonyms. My favorites were the animal sound synonyms: barked, squeaked, quacked, etc. We also analyzed how he repeated key phrases (and even sentences) and his word choice, such as "scalesome, flailsome tail." We talked about the author's voice and how he established his characters' personalities by they way they spoke. 

Today the students will begin planning their own Just So stories. I'll keep you updated on their progress!