I think that sometimes the hardest part of writing is coming up with the first sentence. What can you say that will hook the reader? I think author Michael B. Kaplan did an amazing job with the soon-to-be-a-classic first line of his Betty Bunny books: “Betty Bunny was a handful.” It just grabs you, doesn’t it?
I love having students in my classroom who have big personalities. They crack me up! The way they view the world makes me smile every time they share a story from their point of view. I can list all of the big personalities that I’ve had through the years because those are the kids that I loved teaching most. Often I learned more from them about how to be a better person than they ever learned from me about reading or math. I remember all my big personality students fondly when I read Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake.
While Betty first appeared in Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake, (published in the spring of 2011), she has had many more adventures since then in Betty Bunny Wants Everything (another one of my favorites), Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It, and Betty Bunny Wants a Goal. With Stephane Jorisch’s beautiful watercolor illustrations bringing Kaplan’s hilarious stories to life, it’s no wonder that both my students and I laugh out loud while we read them.
After I have read Betty Bunny to my class, I have them draw what they think “being a handful” would look like. We talk about the real meaning of that idiom and then they create a sentence using it correctly. One of my big personalities this year wrote, “Mr. Smith is being a handful.”
Use my Betty Bunny inspired-template to have your students draw their own "handful."
My class loves when Betty says, “I hate chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is yucky. What’s chocolate cake?” Revisiting this part after you finish reading the story is the perfect way to have your students talk about things that they don’t want to try. Of course, you will have kids who say they “aren’t scared of anything” but then you silently watch as they scream and run away from any unidentified insect on the playground. You will also have the students who are very honest about not wanting to try coleslaw or sleeping in their own room but once they try it, they realized they love it . . . or at least can tolerate it. If you have time, ask your students to spend a few minutes thinking about and then drawing a fear they overcame. This drawing helps with the discussion because they have their thoughts on paper to refer back to while the class listens.
Another part of Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake that my class finds hilarious is how Betty repeatedly says that she is going to marry chocolate cake. I ask students to think about what their favorite food is and then draw what their wedding to it would look like. Then they have to complete a sentence where they work on identifying the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words. This activity offers the best of both worlds as it allows them to be silly and creative but also work on foundational literacy skills.
Use my Betty Bunny-inspired template to have your students draw what food they are "wedded" to.
A final idea that I’ll share is about the overarching main idea or central message of the book. It’s really a lesson in patience. If you have ever worked with small children (your own or your students) you know that patience is one of those really hard lessons for some of your kids to learn and practice. Here are a few ways that you can teach patience:
We work on patience every day in my classroom because I’m always giving my class teasers about what is coming up later in the day or even in a few days. When they hear what’s coming, they want it right away, but instead we talk about being patient by coming up with different strategies about how we can help ourselves wait. One strategy is to simply write the time of the special event and place it in the front of the room. This gives them something to match the clock to and takes care of them asking a thousand questions. At the same time my students are learning how to wait patiently.
Another way to teach patience is when you remind students to raise their hands instead of just calling out. For example, you can say, “Raise your hand and wait patiently.” This verbalization reinforces the idea that patience is something that we are consistently working toward in school.
The website A Place of Our Own has some games that your class can play to help learn patience. My favorite is “What Time is it, Mr. Fox?” except when we were growing up in the South we called it “What Time is it, Old Witch?” Either way, it’s fun and having patience in the game pays off.
None of these activities would be worthwhile if the book wasn’t absolutely superb. Here are some warnings though, before you read this engaging book to your class:
Make sure that you are of “great voice.” Try to have several different voices ready before you begin because the characters have a lot of dialog. I always voice Bill (Betty’s oldest brother) like a cheap knock-off of the Jeff Spicoli character from the 1982 classic, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Read the story all the way through because *SPOILER ALERT* when you get to the end and she puts the cake in her sock . . . that is funny stuff! No teacher wants to snort laugh in front of their class although (and I’m testifying from personal experience), you will survive.
Leave plenty of time for reading because it’s on the longer side of text for a picture book. But because each word and phrase seems so carefully chosen, you will want to relish it. You will not do Betty Bunny any justice by speeding through because your lunchtime is quickly approaching.
Finally, have fun with Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake because it is a very fun book. You can use your points to get a copy at Scholastic Reading Club.
I can’t wait to see you next week.