It is exciting to find a book that lends itself to creative thinking, simple research, and logical reasoning. This picture book allows students to think and create.
Enrichment teachers know the value of a well-timed picture book. Many gifted students read early, so they move on to chapter books quickly and miss a lot of the fun art of picture books. Also, picture books allow the whole class to enjoy a story and art together. The best picture books allow a class to go beyond the covers and create something new, and Roger McGough's Until I Met Dudley does just that.
A Summary of Until I Met Dudley
McGough's book is written in a pattern students will quickly pick up on. The innocent narrator offers an imaginative explanation for a common household appliance, and then Dudley offers a technical explanation on the following pages. Because the art is done by the legendary Chris Riddell, it is both playful and precise. When the narrator details how cats lick dishes clean inside a dishwasher, the art is fun and detailed. When Dudley explains how a dishwasher actually works, the art is technical with bright, happy lines.
Using Until I Met Dudley to Encourage Creative Thinking
After students have seen and heard Until I Met Dudley, many of them will want to make their own similar stories. This is the perfect chance for teachers to develop creative thinking skills. Instruct students to fluently list mechanical objects that they want to learn more about, and then have them come up with a creative explanation of how it works. It is important that teachers allow students a wide range of possible springboards. Many students will choose musical instruments and toys, which is fine. Although everything in the book plugs in, the objects students choose do not need to be limited to electrical appliances.
Students should sketch out a picture of the creative explanation, and then then write a short narrative (about a paragraph, like the book) to connect the picture to the back story.
Using Until I Met Dudley to Encourage Simple Research
Once students have created the creative explanation, it is time to research the real explanation. Even if students think they know how, teachers should insist they look up the technical points because Until I Met Dudley is a very precise book and students will need to echo that exactness. The book The Way Things Work by David Macaulay and the website for How Stuff Works is an excellent resource for students.
After students have learned the actual workings of the object, they need to create a detailed diagram and explain how it works, again writing a short paragraph that echoes Dudley's style of explaining.
How Until I Met Dudley Encourages Logical ReasoningIn both the creative and the logical explanations, students need to present a logical flow of cause and effect to show how something works. The book is so thorough that students will find themselves developing logical skills simply through the art of creating and discussing diagrams.
Teachers should allow at least four hours for this activity, depending on what research resources are available. Binding the pages to create a class version of Until I Met Dudley will tie the whole thing together and offer something to share with parents as they are learning more about the enrichment program and demonstrating how students think, create, and learn individually.
Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work (ISBN: 0711211299) was published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd in 1999 and is still readily available. It was written by Roger McGough and illustrated by Chris Riddell.
Originally posted on Suite101 on June 23rd, 2009
Helping gifted and talented students choose appropriate reading materials is a tricky road; gifted children tend to read voraciously and at high levels.
These reading habits are understandable characteristics of giftedness; gifted children are cognitively more developed than is normally expected. However, gifted readers need guidance in book selection. A child reading at a college level is not necessarily ready for college material. Just because a ten year old can comprehend Anne Rice's writing does not mean that a ten year old is ready to meet the Vampire Lestat.
This, then, becomes the difficulty for parents. Students of all reading abilities tend to enjoy books about people slightly older than they are, so a ten year old will relate to and be interested in books about thirteen year olds more than books about twenty year olds. Finding books written at a high interest high ability level requires time and work.
Choosing BooksDoing an advanced book search at Amazon.com and highlighting the appropriate age range is one tool. Amazon also provides book reviews, and reading those reviews is an excellent start. The reviews are usually written by adults, but sometimes there are child reviews. If there are no child reviews, beware: this is not a book for children.
Sorting through reviews can be time consuming, and teen readers can finish books and return them to the public library before their parents see them. Reading the back of the book or the book jacket yields a lot of information, as does flipping through. However, the best approach is just to ask your child one question, “If this book was a movie, what would you rate it?”
Whatever the answer – even the safe “G” rating – should be followed up with discussion. This widens those narrowing lines of communication, gives parents insight into their children, and helps promote communication skills in general.
High Ability ReadersJust because a child is involved in a higher-level book does not mean it should be taken away, of course. Knowing that a child is reading a book with death, violence, or illicit activities means that parents need to read the book, too. If that is not possible – and it often is not – parents need to open the door for conversations. Children may leave books with inaccurate perceptions, and it is not unheard of for children to have nightmares from the frightening book they fell asleep reading.
Sometimes gifted children need to hear, “We'll put this book up until your life experience catches up to your reading level.” When parents say that, they need to drive directly to the library or bookstore and find a book that is of the appropriate interest level. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series is more a more appropriate vampire series than Interview with a Vampire or Dracula.
Parents as ReadersParents should not discount non-fiction as a reading choice. Adults have a blend of non-fiction and fiction reading; children tend to read non-fiction books as assignments and fiction as free choice reading. Parents may want to share their own reading choices, not as material to be read, but as examples of genre. If parents are reading National Geographic, then National Geographic Kids is an obvious connection for children. Teachers can use parent newsletters to help keep parents up to date on books.
Often non-fiction, especially historical readings, are often as fascinating as historical fiction without the elevated drama that requires some life experience to appreciate. Helping gifted children pick out appropriate reading materials helps keep them in common experience with their peers and helps preserve childhood a little longer, which are admirable goals in themselves.
Originally posted on Suite101 on July 15th, 2008
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.