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October 6, 2011 October Read-Alouds: Literacy Fun With Pumpkins, Leaves, and Bats By Michelle Sullenberger
Grades 1–2

    Depending on where you live, you may have recently noticed a chill in the air, and the leaves may be turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. While many of your students may be focusing on how much candy they will receive trick-or-treating at the end of month, here are three of my favorite read-aloud books with accompanying activities that won’t require a trip to the dentist.





    Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington


    A good book for illustrating the life cycle of a pumpkin is Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington. Jamie, the book’s main character, plants a pumpkin seed in the spring, watches it grow all summer, and picks the pumpkin in autumn to carve into the perfect jack-o’-lantern. He saves some seeds from his pumpkin to plant next spring. This book’s large, clear print and simple narrative invites beginning readers to read along. The beautiful illustrations support the meaning of words and develop vocabulary.

    After reading, we sequence the story using picture cards and further discuss plant growth. Using the sentence starter “Pumpkins have . . . ,” we brainstorm ideas as a group, and I model patterned writing. Chart paper or sentence strips work well for this activity.  Some of our brainstormed ideas include:  "Pumpkins have lines." "Pumpkins have seeds." "Pumpkins have sizes." Using this patterned writing as a model, students author their own books of pumpkin facts.


    After rereading Pumpkin Pumpkin several times, we write about the life cycle of a pumpkin and illustrate our pages. My students love making their own books and are always eager to share their writing with others. Use the Scholastic pumpkin printable to create great pumpkin-shaped writing booklets for your students, and download the Pumpkins Poetry Frame and the Pumpkin Snack Packet for even more pumpkin fun this month. 

    Look What I Did With a Leaf  by Morteza Sohi

    Morteza Sohi’s Look What I Did With a Leaf allows you to integrate literacy with science and art to make creative animal and nature scenes. The book offers examples of leaf collages, information on the life cycle of a leaf, and descriptions of many tree leaves.

    To begin the activity, take a nature walk to gather leaves, or ask students to collect dry autumn leaves to bring to class. In class, sort the leaves and discuss their edges, shapes, and sizes. Study the parts of the tree and learn why deciduous leaves change colors. Allow students to use the images in the book as inspiration for their own leaf collages. Encourage them to incorporate at least three different types of leaves into the design. For the collages, students arrange the leaves how they want them, glue them onto 11" X 17" sheets of construction paper, and add details with crayons or colored pencils. You may choose to laminate these animal and nature scenes. Short on time in the classroom? Students and parents may also enjoy this project: It makes for a great family activity.  



    Other autumn books not to miss include Leaf Man and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. For more leaf ideas and unit resources, download the Leave It to Math printable.


    Stellaluna by Janell Cannon 

    After an owl attacks, the fruit bat Stellaluna falls and is separated from her mother. Stellaluna lands in a nest of baby birds and takes on the life of a bird, eating bugs and sleeping at night. Once Stellaluna learns to fly, she is reunited with her own mother. This book suggests many themes for discussion, including family, acceptance, differences, feelings, and friendship.

    After reading this book, complete a story map of the characters, setting, problem, and solution. Complete a Venn diagram with your class showing the similarities and differences between bats and birds. Use the information from these diagrams to write facts about Stellaluna.

    To motivate my 1st graders in writing down these facts, I model how to write using the sentences starters “Stellaluna can . . . ,” “Stellaluna is . . . ,” and “Stellaluna eats . . . ” Then each student writes independently about the book.

    After they've done some patterned writing, I have them make their own Stellalunas from these simple materials to showcase the results.


    Materials Needed to Make One Bat: brown paper lunch bag, two small brown triangles (for the ears), two small yellow circles and two small brown circles (for the eyes), one small brown circle or pom-pom (nose), a small, red mouth, brown wings, and the Happy Bat writing paper from Scholastic’s Great Shapes Stationery.

    Steps to Make One Bat: Trace and cut out the wings. (I arrange for a parent volunteer to do this ahead of time.) Trace and cut out the ears, eyes, and nose. Glue wings, ears, eyes, and nose to the paper bag. Glue the writing paper to the back of the wings.

    Students then write their facts about Stellaluna on the stationery. This nonfiction writing idea is a hit with 1st graders!

    What are you planning to read with your class this month? Share one of your favorite October books and activities with us.

    Have a great month, and happy reading!



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