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Monday Morning Ready04.15.2016
Jumpstart Your Week!

Adored children's books can feel timeless. When their authors live long lives, there's some kind of poetic justice. One example is Maurice Sendak who is the author of Where the Wild Things Are. He recently died at age 84. Or think of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who died at age 90. But some authors outlast nearly all of their counterparts. ... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Which Beverly Cleary character do you like the most? Why?

Grade 5-6

Why do you think readers still find Beverly Cleary's books to be interesting?

Grade 7-8

What makes Beverly Cleary's books timeless?

Grade 9-10

How do you think Beverly Cleary's books would be different if they were written today? How do you think they would be the same?

LESSON PLAN
Invent a Character

PROCESS:

  1. Inform students that Beverly Cleary was once asked which time period her books were set in. Her response: "Childhood." Discuss reasons why it would be difficult to write a book with no specific time frame in mind. Also discuss how this mindset has allowed her books to remain interesting and relevant to readers several generations after they were written.
  2. As a class, review a few of Beverly Cleary's books. If you wish, visit The World of Beverly Cleary site. Have students identify and describe some of Cleary's key characters. Encourage them to relate some of their favorite adventures. Challenge students to identify timeless qualities of each one.
  3. Instruct students to create a new character for one of Beverly Cleary's books. Tell them to write a description of the character and his or her key traits. Remind them that the character should be as timeless as those that appear in Cleary's books.
  4. Have students write about an adventure where the new character interacts with one or more of Cleary's characters. Challenge them to make the tale as timeless as possible.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to read their stories aloud to the class. As they do, instruct classmates to be on the lookout for time-specific details. Have students rewrite their adventures in a more timeless fashion.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:    

Grades 3-4:
As a class, invent and describe a new character. Then have students nominate their favorite scenes from any of Beverly Cleary's books. Have the class vote to select one scene from the nominees. Challenge the class to rewrite that scene so it includes the new character.

Grades 5-6:
Invite students to nominate their favorite scenes from any of Beverly Cleary's books. Have the class vote to select one scene from the nominees. Then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to invent and describe a new character. Challenge groups to rewrite the scene that the class chose so it includes their new character. As groups read their scenes aloud, compare the results.

Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners invent and describe a new character. Then have them write a scene where their character interacts with those from Cleary's books. After partners read their adventures aloud, encourage classmates to evaluate both the timeless qualities of the story and how well the plot matches the tone of Cleary's books.

Grades 9-10:
Instruct students to invent a new character based upon themselves as an 8- or 9-year-old child. Then have them write a scene in which their younger selves interact with the characters from Cleary's books. Have students share their adventures in small groups. Instruct classmates to evaluate both the timeless qualities of the story and how well the plot matches the tone of Cleary's books.

SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Kids and Young Adults Don’t Read Books for Fun—They’ve Got Smart-phones
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how the influx of new technology has impacted the reading habits of tweens and teens over the past 30 years.

Six Children’s Books that Use Psychological Techniques to Help Kids
Read this Smithsonian article to learn about children’s books that are using everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to deep breathing to help children deal with a variety of issues.

Little Golden Books
Explore this exhibit to learn how Little Golden Books made children’s literature more widely available and transformed children’s reading habits.

The Most Famous Shoes in the World
Watch this video to learn how Dorothy’s ruby red slippers—featured in the movie based on author L. Frank Baum’s beloved classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”—became a timeless icon of American popular culture.

Q and A: Judy Blume
Read this Smithsonian article to hear another treasured children’s book author speak about her career and what it means to write a “banned book.”
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