Friday, May 4, 2012

My Allsburg Crush


Let’s not mince words. I have a slight obsession with Chris Van Allsburg. Well, his children’s books that is.

If you’re a teacher, I’m sure you already have a seat on board the Chris Van Allsburg obsession bandwagon. But if for some reason you are not sure who I am referring to, I’m sure you at least know these books:


Now you understand.

Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s books are simply phenomenal. They break out of the traditional picture book mold by possessing an unexpected, uniquely strange element of mystery, perspective, or suspense. His books masterfully teeter on the line of reality and fantasy, making the reader, young or old, unsure of what will happen next. Often the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions at the end with no definitive answers provided. And his illustrations? They’re just as intriguing as his stories.

Now to my Favorite: The Stranger


This story begins with a farmer accidentally hitting a man with his truck. The man is fortunately unharmed, but is confused, with no memory or understanding of who he is. The farmer takes the man into his home to recuperate; at which point a series of odd behaviors and events ensue. This man, as well as the anxious readers, must piece together the clues to determine his identity by book's end. 

Since this book pushes its readers to act as detectives, I love to use The Stranger to teach the reading strategy of making inferences.

Here is a condensed version of what I do:

Anticipatory Set:
o   To get students thinking about collecting and applying clues to make conclusions, I’ll have students decode riddles. 
            * This Inference Riddle Website is perfect for a whole group activity*

Direct Instruction/Guided Practice:
o   “It Says, I Know, Inference” Graphic Organizer


o   During the read aloud of The Stranger, I frequently pause to discuss and record along with the class the clues we read, what we know about that information, and what our inferences are. Throughout the completion of the organizer, I gradually scaffold the activity so that students are recording the last two clues independently.
o   When the story is complete, students study the information and write their conclusion as to who they think The Stranger is and why. Students then share and discuss their conclusions.

Print my Inferencing Activity Sheet to use in your own classroom!

For more lesson plan ideas for Chris Van Allsburg books, click here!

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