Empowering Writers

February 2016 Lesson of the Month

Some of the greatest memories for most of us are the times spent with our grandparents. I love to think back on the pleasant, and sometimes goofy, experiences I had visiting my grandparent’s house. I would sit on the back of the couch, with my grandfather seated in front of me. I tied his hair up in dozens of rubber bands all over his head. He was a sight to be seen! Yet, he loved for me to “mess” with his hair as much as I loved “fixing” it. I can imagine that if I could write a story similar to How to Babysit Grandpa by Jean Reagan, I could fill the pages with wonderful times spent with my grandparents. This month’s lessons will tap into the great times had with our loved ones, whether grandparents or other relatives. Jump into this fun “How to” lesson and get ready for a few crazy babysitting ideas.

Author, Jean Reagan, has written several charming “How to” books. Use one or more of these books as a springboard for a slightly zany, yet unique “How to” writing lesson. In this month’s lessons, several foundational Expository skills are layered into a lively “How to” theme.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Share one of Jean Reagan’s “How to” books with students. A few great titles from this author are: How to Babysit Grandpa, How to Babysit Grandma, How to Surprise Dad, or How to Catch Santa, (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012-2015)
  • After reading one of these amusing editions, discuss with students how they would babysit their own grandparents (or even parents.) Give students a chance to throw around a few ideas and then begin charting these into a Pick, List and Choose chart. Below is a list of possible Main Ideas to use when guiding this Pick, List and Choose lesson.

Main Idea #1: Food/snacks
Main Idea #2: Activities
Main Idea #3: How to Surprise
Main Idea #4: Naptime
Main Idea #5: Saying Goodbye

*Remember, the Main Ideas generated before the lesson are suggestions for the teacher only. The purpose is to help guide the Pick, List and Choose Lesson.

  • Once the list is complete, categorize the ideas into groups and select Main Ideas that fit together. These may or may not coincide with the suggested Main Ideas above.
  • Next (maybe even on another day), have the students write a Main Idea sentence using the Main Idea blurbs generated in the Pick List and Choose. To stress the use of Sentence Starters and varied Main Idea Sentences, write some boring Main Idea sentences on the board. For example, write:

The first thing I would do with my grandpa/grandma is I would feed him/her some snacks.

The next thing I would do is some special activities with him/her.

The third thing I would do is figure out ways to surprise my grandpa/grandma.

Point out the redundant vocabulary in these samples and provide students with relevant Main Idea sentence starters to replace the repetitive word choice.

Sentence Starters

It is always enjoyable to __________.

When babysitting my grandpa/grandma, we have fun __________.

Have you ever thought about __________ with your grandparent?

Most grandparents love to __________ with you.

Can you imagine feeding your grandpa/grandma __________.

Surprise your grandpa/grandma with __________.

Add another layer/lesson:

  • Using the list generated in the Pick, List and Choose, practice adding detail to Expository paragraphs. Display the Detail-Generating Questions and discuss What does it look like? and Why is it important? MODEL one or more of the details from the list such as:

Taking a walk with grandpa/grandma:

Taking your grandpa outside for a walk along the sidewalk can provide exercise for him and allow him to breathe fresh air.

Feeding grandpa/grandma a pretzel snack:

I always feed by grandma a pretzel snack when I am babysitting her so that she doesn’t get too hungry before my grandpa gets home. She only eats straight thin pretzel sticks because her teeth are old like her.

  • Give students the opportunity to choose one of the details and complete a sentence about the idea, using the DGQs What does it look like? and Why is it important? This can be done in groups or individually.