Sunday, July 26, 2015

"If You Give a Mouse A Cookie" by Laura Joffe Numeroff illustrated by Felicia Bond

Felicia Bond is one of my favorite children's illustrators, and Laura Joffe Numeroff was nothing short than delightful when she wrote this now classic children's book. The story follows a boy as he invites a mouse to eat a cookie, which leads to a glass of milk, which leads to... well, the whole book. The mouse eventually just wants another cookie and the so-called "circle story" to repeat (if you read it again; and heaven knows you will read it again since the target demographic is preschool up to second grade).

Me and the book... I like to imagine those are cookies over
my head.


I have used this book with four year olds, Kinders, first, and second grade--in all cases it was a hit and kids learned something great. I will suggest, however, that you could stretch this book into further age groups. Read on for some ideas...

1. Preschool and Kindergarten Dramatic Play:

One of the great teachers I have worked next door to had a kit I would borrow once a year to share with my three and four year olds--the four year olds like it much more. She assembled all of the items, most of which are common household items like Scotch tape, crayons, and a broom (she had a mini version of one), to tell the story of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". What I didn't know when I borrowed the kit was how pre-literacy skills were built when using the items. 

For instance, you can set these items at an activity center for two kids. The kids can work together to "read the book" and to act it out. The child who reads the book can use the pictures to help her tell her friend what to get out (e.g. "Get the straw!" or "He needs a napkin to get rid of the crumbs!"). I love the way kids could interact with the book. Matching verbal commands with pictures is early literacy!

For a more teacher-prepped version of this, make a list of all of the items Mouse will want. As the child goes down the list you can have a printed picture on the back of the text (like a flashcard). Encourage the child to look at the printed word and the picture. Clearly, this takes it to the next learning level in Kindergarten and even first grade.

2. First, Second, and Third Grade Creative Writing:

I used this activity with first and second grade, and I am now kicking myself for not using it with third grade. As most of you know, Numeroff and Bond have created an entire series of "If You Give a _____ a _____" books. They are all delightful, but this one and "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" rank as my top two. One of the fun activities I use in my classroom is to have students mimic the writing pattern and style.

For instance, I could write:

If you give a camel a Cheeze-It (the best snack in the universe), he will want a Valencia Orange to wash it down. Once he tastes that Starbucks drink, he'll want to get a cake pop to go with it. Eating the cake pop will remind him of going to a birthday party, so he'll want to call his friends over. But once he picks up your iPhone, he'll remember he wanted to play Angry Birds. 

And so on. Clearly my example is taken directly from my ADHD brain and life; go figure. But the point is, kids like making connections and this is a great format for them to make those wild, "Axe Cop" kind of connections.

The hardest part for the kids is finding the link back to the first part of the story. I often have them pair-share to come up with solutions. If they are really stuck I have then draw what the first item they offer to the animal is. That normally helps them see it, and from that they may come up with:

But when the camel sees the RedBox with the movies in it, he'll want a drink to go with his movie. And chances are he'll want another red box, a box of Cheeze-Its, to go with it.

Or something like that. They write better versions. Go see for yourself!
The inside page that pays homage to mothers and fathers everywhere.

3. Upper Grade and Beyond Grammar Focus:

I am not a huge grammar hound with kids, but the subject is important. I do end up teaching them quite a bit on the subject because it is empowering. One of the reoccurring grammar topics covered by this book is subordinating conjunctions and dependent clauses. Over and over again, the book uses phrases like "If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to task for a glass of milk." and "When you give him the milk, he'll probably ask you for a straw." The beginning clauses, you may notice, when ripped apart, cannot stand on their own. Thus, they are dependent upon the other half to make sense.

I use "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" as a mentor text as it does a great job of demonstrating these often neglected commas. The famed AAAWWUBBIS will help you teach this concept even better, but be sure to use this book as a fun, throwback mentor text!

I also have students mimic the writing style and create as many absurd lines for this book as possible. It is similar to the above writing prompt, but we tend to do sentences and not a whole story.

Remember, make small mouse-steps toward strong grammar; it pays off in the end!

4. Discussions/Writing Prompts:

Use these prompts to talk about the book with your kids, or you can have them write their responses. Remember, picture books don't need to stop in second grade!

1. Should the boy have given the mouse the cookie? Why or why not?
2. What adjectives would you use to describe the mouse?
3. What are the boy's feelings toward the mouse? Do they change as the book develops? How can you tell?
4. How is this book similar to the Cat in the Hat? How is it different
5. If the mouse came to your house, what different activities would he want to do based on the things you have at your house?

I hope you enjoy "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"... And I hope you and your kids enjoy all of its busy fun!

Happy learning!

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