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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

After what seemed like a long hiatus from Literacy Launchpad classes (my son was sick, and the week after that I was short on a babysitter). I finally was able to wrap up our Author Study (Mo Willems) last week. Yay! I'm glad we finally got to have our next lesson in the series, but I'm sad that this wonderful unit is over.

We've been in stitches reading Knuffle Bunny and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I love stories that make us laugh. Is there anything better than a group of preschoolers giggling over a funny story?

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (that's a lot of typing, let's refer to it as NMRGD for the rest of this post) is about Wilbur, a naked mole rat, that likes to wear clothes. The rest of the naked mole rat community is appalled by this, and tries to convince Wilbur that he shouldn't wear clothes. Wilbur asks a great question: "Why not?" The other naked mole rats go visit Grand-pah, "the oldest, greatest, and most naked mole rat ever." They explain the issue to him, and then Grand-pah decides to make a proclamation. He declares that it's O.K. to wear clothes. The story ends with some of the naked mole rats deciding that they want to wear clothes too. Wilbur opens a clothing store... and they all live happily ever after (I added that last part, but it does end happily).

I really liked the way this story started, but the second half of the story left much to be desired for me. I feel like Willems had a clever idea, but the story didn't keep up it's momentum the whole way through. My students picked up on this as well. They were very engaged for the first half of the story, and then when we hit the middle of the story, the wiggling and distracted gazes began. This was not the case for our other two Willems stories.

I didn't completely dislike the story. It has its charm. Perhaps I just had too high of hopes for it. Has anyone else read NMRGD? What did you think about it? Am I way off base here?

I anticipated giggling and such during the story, and I got it. Come on, any story with "naked" in the title is sure to get preschoolers giggling.

I also had some students asking what a proclamation is. I love that their brains are engaged and they don't mind asking questions.

The discussions following the story (with each group) became about why we wear clothes. It was interesting. They relished in the silliness of the naked mole rats, but got real serious about why we shouldn't be naked.

I thought it appropriate to end our author study by letting the children get a chance to be authors and illustrators. So we did a popcorn story. I started the story off (after letting the students choose what the story would be about), and then each student got to add something to the story. This activity was a struggle for the youngest group of students, but they did O.K. with a little help from me. The older students really took off with the story. They're so creative, and we ended up with some silly tales. What I really liked was that each group wanted their story to be about one (or several) of Willems' characters that we had read about during this unit.

After creating our stories, we used watercolor paints (like Willems did in NMRGD) to create illustrations to go along with our stories. The students were chatty, chatty, chatty as they painted their pictures. They were talking about our story, and about their illustrations.

Great lesson!


Patti said...

Amy, I love author studies. And I like a lot of Mo Willems work. I haven't read Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, but when I was doing Lunch Bunch last week with the 3/4 year olds I couldn't get anyone to let me read it to them. They said it wasn't funny.

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

Yeah, it's not a bad story, but anybody who's familiar with Mo
Willems' work has pretty high expectations, and those expectations
weren't met for me with this story. It wasn't on par with his others.
Again, not bad. Just not the best Mo story.
Amy Watson
Motivating and Empowering Children to Soar Into Reading