Saturday, June 11, 2011

Do you really need to ask for the wild rumpus to start?

Where the Wild Things Are is as full of as much magic as you remember.   Maurice Sendak's illustrations are marvellous.   What you may have missed during earlier reads is his genius use of white space.   This is something that was pointed out to me at the 2009 Eastern Virginia Writing Project by teacher Michelle Crotteau.   Notice how the white pages are taken over by color as Max goes deeper and deeper into his imagination.   That's symbolism-- which isn't always easy to teach to 8th graders.

An activity that Ms. Crotteau connected to this children's book involves using an adjective word list.   The word list included adjectives to describe appearance, color, disposition with both positive and negative connotations.   Students can choose words from the list to describe Max and the Wild Things.   It's something that I have students do individually first.  

Then, I ask them to consult with the other students in their row before adding a few of their adjectives to the white board.   The white board is clean with the exception of the words "Max" and "Wild Things."   Students love writing on the board, and it isn't long until the board is covered.   This is the wild rumpus part of the lesson.  

As a class, we question adjectives that don't seem to fit, and the student who suggested the word defends his/ her choice.   99% of the time the students have logical reasons for what may first seem like an ill-fitting descriptor.  

Here's an example of a personality word list that includes adjectives with both positive and negative connotations.  
Follow this link over to American Masters (PBS) for more information about Mr. Sendak.
Thank you to Christopher Newport University's Spring 2011 children's literature class for donating their copies of Wild Things to my new classroom!   Thanks also to Michelle Crotteau for bringing me more copies of her comprehensive adjective lists.

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