I Know An Old Lady . . .

Do you have the original book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Caldecott Honor Book) by Simms Taback or I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Nadine Bernard? How about I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Allison Jackson? All of those books are available from Amazon. http://www.Amazon.com Just put the book titles in the search engine on Amazon.

Did you know there are two more by Lucille Colandro? Her titles are There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! and There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow. The last two are hard to find, but they are available in the Spring 2003, Grades K-6, Special Offer - Humor, Rhyme, Song, Poetry and All Your Favorite Tickle-Your-Funny-Bone Stories! You can have both paperback books for $3.95. If you go online to order, you will need the offer code: Y4J700.

In There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!, Lucille has stayed pretty close to the original format, each thing being swallowed has a reason, but she doesn't add, "Perhaps she'll die." My students loved hearing all the things that were swallowed, and the reasons they went down.

The artwork by Jared Lee is fantastic, of course. You might know his work from the series of books about the Black Lagoon, or other Mike Thaler books. He provides a lot of picture clues to help early readers read and comprehend the stories.

In There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, there's a terrific surprise at the end! At first, the list of things being swallowed doesn't seem to make sense. As you go from page to page, you discover that the poem still rhymes. A little past half-way in the book, students who are familiar with snow will begin to figure out what is happening. Those who grew up in the desert, like I did, will have to wait until the last page of the book to figure it out!

This is your chance to get all the books together and have them ready for a great writing experience late next fall. Two of the books deal with fall holidays, so sometime in early November would be a great time to plan your writing. My students didn't even mind that I shared them out-of-season.

After your students listen to all 4 books, they will have a good grasp of the format for the poem/song/story. You can follow that format to create your own class book, or with older students, small group or individual books. My students are working on There Was a Bold Lady Who Swallowed a Scorpion!

My first step was to give each first grade child a page with a frame on it. Older students probably wouldn't need the frame, or could use a longer frame with several steps on it. In either case, be sure you have modeled the analysis of the story structure.

At the end of the writing session, I collected all my first graders' papers. The next day, we looked at everything the students had written. Now we are deciding what comes after the scorpion, and what would make sense after that, and next, until the end. In this process, we saw that some people had the same ideas. We are only using each idea once.

With first graders, I'm sure our book will not be the quality of the published ones, but I am demonstrating for them how the books we read can also teach us ways to write. We have to analyze the writing of these books in order to create our own version. We have to think about what the author has done. Do we want to copy everything? Do we want to make some decisions that are different from the published authors? We particularly analyzed what was different about the Cold Lady.

As we go through the process of creating our class book, we are going through the writing process, again emphasizing how important each step is. I use different colored markers each day to show the changes I make and the editing I do. This helps emphasize the fact that a piece of writing doesn't always take place in one sitting. As several authors have told us, writing can be a lot of work!

These books provide an excellent opportunity to teach comprehension strategies. They also provide an authentic setting in which authors teach writing for you. The process of writing another version of a published book is a brain stretcher! Of course, as always, the best part of reading these books to your children is the fun you will all have!

I look forward to finishing our Bold Lady book. For one thing, I want to find out why she swallowed a scorpion! For another, I'm learning so much about writing, and the teaching of writing, from the authors, my students, and the creating-a-book experience.

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