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Friday, April 9, 2010

Otto Grows Down

Today my sixth graders shared their original "What If" stories, based upon Otto Grows Down, written by Michael Sussman and illustrated by Scott Magoon.

These stories were, without a doubt, some of the best we've heard all year. I think some of the credit is due to the organizer I provided for students, but most of it is due to the source book itself. In introducing Otto Grows Down, I told students, "We're using this as a mentor text." We then discussed what that term meant, and this discussion led to students listening to the read-aloud with a very different, very focused goal in mind.

In short, our lesson proceeded in this manner:
  1. We read and discussed the book. We also took some time to compare and contrast it with other time travel books and movies we know. We also discussed what the creators chose to include or leave out, and their possible reasons for that.
  2. We projected the What If... writing form on our interactive whiteboard, and parsed out the story in simpler terms. This "deconstructing" helped students understand the story structure more clearly, in preparation for creating their own.
  3. Students looked over a brief list of What If... prompts, and then chose either one from that list or one of their own.
  4. Students completed the prewriting sheet, and then shared with two partners. Partners helped clarify plot points, and also offered other ideas for inclusion.
  5. Drafting began, and students again paired up and shared and critiqued after about fifteen minutes.
  6. Following another writing session, volunteers read aloud to the class and heard some comments from their peers.
What's great about writing like this is that students who are extremely creative can really take off! Those who struggle not only have periodic check-ins with peers (and with me, whenever needed), but they can also consult the picture book itself. Many students, in fact, reread the book as they were working in order to get a feel for the voice, sentence length, paragraphing, and so on.

So again, I recommend you grab this title for yourself! Joni from South Dakota, however, won't need to: she's our Otto Grows Down giveaway winner! Congrats to Joni! Hope the hand-out helps your students to create some phenomenal stories!

Have other What If... favorites? We'd love to hear about them! Leave a comment below, or email me directly.

UPDATE: Author Michael Sussman checked in to say thanks for the mention. Be sure to check out his Otto Grows Down site; one particularly cool page is Thoughts on Time, which contains a nice poem on time, written by the author.


Michael Sussman said...

I'm honored that you chose my story!

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for checking in! Hope to see another title real soon. You have a lot of new fans!

Cassy said...

I am so looking forward to reading this book with my 4th graders and doing this lesson. Thanks!