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Literacy, Math, Social Studies, Sciences, Preschool

Using Children's Literature As a Springboard for Writing Assignments

House Held Up By Trees
by Ted Kooser  Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Read this book to your class as a springboard for a writing assignment.  It is one of those books that grabs their attention on page 1.   The story starts out with a brand new house sitting on a 'perfect' lawn. Not a single tree!  So what's perfect about that??   especially to someone who happens to love trees.  Your listeners right away listen in closely to examine this author's message and find it curious why someone would want a yard without one single sprout or tree.  

 And, in search for a place for play and adventure, the children in the story find wild trees of all kinds in the neighboring lots.  At this point, your listeners will give a sigh of relief and applaud the wisdom of children.
Yet, the father in the story continues his battle to keep blowing seeds and sprouting trees out of his perfect lawn.  The children grow up and move away and their father continues to keep his lawn so very, very perfect.  Until one day, the father moves away too. And that is when the empty house began its decline or ascent (depending how you look upon it)....the trees began their approach.

This book is wistful and exhilarating! It evokes the inexorable passage of time and gives us the inspiring power of nature.  An uplifting story for all ages!

After reading this book, my third graders had many comments and questions... and they were absolutely delighted with their writing assignment for the day.  They were to make a list of materials they needed to build a treehouse.  Next, they would also design and draw their treehouse so a builder or architect might build their treehouse using their drawing.    Finally, they were to write directions to build their treehouse, implementing order of events, transition words such as first, next, then, finally etc.  

Children were working within 2 minutes after transitioning from listening area to desks and tables.  Materials were :  pencils, paper, both lined and drawing, and their writing folders in which to reference high frequency words and checklists.  These third graders were able to sustain for 35 minutes engaged in writing and asked could they have more time to work on this the following day!  

Excellent books and authors can help tremendously in teaching writing.  Published authors can be writing models for ways to start a piece of writing, new vocabulary, organization, springboard for new ideas, and voice.  This book was jammed packed with science vocabulary about trees, plants, life cycles and more.  This book engaged the children in attentive listening and motivated them to delve deeper in their thinking when discussing why a perfect lawn would have trees or would not have trees.  

Writing Samples from this book:

third grader's writing response to House Held Up By Trees by Ted Koozer
This is a 1st draft of materials needed for 'my treehouse' and a drawing of the treehouse--
next step is to write an 'order of events' piece about building the treehouse
drawing, writing piece 'order of events'  and materials list  *this is 1st draft; 3rd grader*

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