The Sisters Grimm Series had been recommended to me by a friend. I decided to read the first book before Maya. A few chapters in, I realized this would be a fun series to use as a Book Club for her and my BFF’s daughter. The teacher ideas floweth, and when I presented it to Maya she was pumped and added in a lot of her own ideas too. I tried to play it cool.
Disclaimer: Please know this club/project lasted for months…we were slow and steady and worked on it when Maya was motivated to do so. There were several times when 2 weeks would go by and we hadn’t touched it. And, by about book 5 of 7, we pretty much just stuck to reading, discussing over our waffles, and Skype.
We started with one of my favorite tools….The Clear Binder! This thing could save lives. She happily designed the cover when I gave her a scrap of fancy fabric, something that is rare around my house. I asked that the title be “Fairy Tale Accounts”…which she would run into later as she read, and then asked her to design the dividers you’ll see below. A first born child with a shiny new folder and dividers is a kid on Christmas morning.
I often experiment on my children (don’t we all?), and I tried out several concepts/responses to literature in my hat of tricks…starting with my personal favorite…a “reading response” journal….a letter writing format between her and I discussing the story. I used this with my 4th grade class and looked forward to writing them back each week….even 24 of them…each week. I found it to be the most valuable way to individualize their writing lessons and watch them grow!
Here’s one of her first entries. I suggest not getting out a red pen and slashing away. Pick 1-2 things to point out for next time, and 3-4 compliments of a job well done. And, for some entries, just bite your tongue and write back;) Too much critique is stifling for all of us. I used this entry to teach her about using a comma in the opening, to which she did in following entries. I also talked to her about margins. She got rave reviews for following up a thought with “because” and a good reason why. I love her question at the end.
Writing back is valuable on many levels. You are modeling good writing (hopefully), maybe using new vocabulary, connecting the story to your home life, laughing or wondering together, and sharing about your life. You could do letter writing without a story involved.
You could stop with a Reading Response Notebook/Journal. But I had another idea that started with using a sticky note as a bookmark in this book. Kids love finding notes from their parents, siblings, teachers, grands, etc. I took this theory and melted it with my obsession with sticky notes. What if as they read, they found little notes in the book based on our categories?
I kept it pretty light on the Comprehension Questions, because the real comprehension “test” came through natural conversation (since I had read the books too), her journal, and book talking, projects, etc. I used this section as a way to practice rewriting the question into your answer.
EX: Do you ever pretend to be brave? Her first answer was “no, well, sometimes”. I showed her how to use the question in her answer to make it more complete, and also to be more specific. ”Sometimes I pretend to be brave when I go swimming.” We kept this all light and I didn’t make her rewrite it or anything. Just something we talked about while we were snuggling.
I think her favorite was coming across my comments notes. (I marked each note according to its category. As she read, she stuck them to the front of her notebook to tend to later)
This is a very fun part of Book Clubbing at home, and an area that isn’t always feasible to do at school. It’s an area kids can really individualize and their curiosity and creativity can really shine. The notes below are some of the obvious research ideas I came up with, but Maya often brought up others.
Something I loved about this Book Club Series choice was that we were able to jump on Fairy Tales with the younger 2 as well. We kept a special box of fairy tales in our living room. They all three would play fairy tales, reenact stories, make up their own, and a lot of the research we did the other 2 could be involved in too. Example: I read the The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (as told by the wolf), which is a huge hit with kids. Each time we read a fairy tale, we’d talk about what the story would be like from a different character’s point of view.
Our final category I swear Maya came up with, although maybe I’m making that up to feel like she had a say in it;) My BFF, Angie, and I wanted to use as many forms of technology as we could, and, really we had to since they live states away. For one task, they had to draw a scene from the story and send it with an email to each other (I typed, she told me what to write)
We sent a phone video summary. We sent pictures via texting of a drawing or research or fairy tale book they had read. They talked on the phone. All 4 of our favorite way to talk was via Skype. It started with 3 kids in one state and 2 in the other making silly faces, laughing, and all talking at the same time for awhile. Then we’d shoo away the little siblings and get down to business. Ang and I let them chat, and added in a question from time to time. Then we kicked them off so she and I could get caught up on important things like what we were cooking for dinner.
The Sisters Grimm website has a wonderful Reading Guide with plenty of ideas. One of the girls’ tasks was to use the story regurgitator, which was a huge hit for all my kids. She recently received the new Sisters Grimm guide for Christmas and devoured it.
Book 9, The final in the series, comes out May 9th, 2012. I’ve also heard rumors of a movie.