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November 2, 2016

Bring the Magic Into Your Classroom With Strega Nona

By Nicole Kent
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    As the seasons change and fall is upon us, one of my favorite things to do in my class is an old-fashioned author study. I love to watch my students make a connection with the characters in the stories.

    Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola, is one of the Core Literature Units that I love to teach. This is a wonderful, traditional folk tale about an old lady named Strega Nona who is known throughout the town for her special powers. She can cure a headache, make warts disappear, and mix a potion that will find a girl a husband if she wants one. Strega Nona also has a little secret: she has a magic pot.

    Big Anthony is hired as a helping hand for Strega Nona. She tells him never to touch her magic pasta pot, but he can't resist. He overhears the spell that makes the pot cook, and waits for his chance to perform the same magic with the pot. That chance comes sooner than he expects.

    While Strega Nona takes a trip to visit a friend on the other side of the mountain, proud but foolish Big Anthony uses the secret spell to make enough pasta to feed the whole town. Unfortunately, he missed the secret to the spell that makes the pot stop cooking.

     

    Read Aloud

    Reading aloud is one of the most important things teachers can do with students from pre-kindergarten on. Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills. It introduces vocabulary; provides a model of fluent, expressive reading; and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.

    I read aloud to my students every chance I get, and at least once a day. Exposing students to a vast amount of new vocabulary words stretches their language development. With these new words in their language arsenal, students have access to more books, authors, and series. An expressive read-aloud can help children connect with characters and goes a long way towards developing their love of reading. Once they have made the character connection they just dive in.

    Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box — give your student’s a chance to read different genres and authors that they might not chose on their own. Literature is one of the best ways to tackle a real-life problem or concern. A story that mirrors or includes elements of an actual situation allows students to analyze from a distance and develop empathy and understanding.

    Strega Nona is a perfect choice for teaching your students about characters and how their feelings change throughout a story. Use Big Anthony as an example and discuss how he must be feeling during different events of the story, such as when the townspeople make fun of him for telling them about the magic pasta pot, when he made the magic pot work, and when he couldn't make it stop.

    Then have each student choose one feeling and draw a picture of a time in the story when either Big Anthony or Strega Nona felt that way. Have the students draw and write a few sentences about the part of the story and the emotion they chose. Let them share with a partner, in a small group, or present it to the class.

     

    Writing Activities

    Have your students chose a writing prompt from the examples below. This is a great way to check for understanding of the text. I have the students write their response on lined paper that I have measured to fit into the cover of Strega Nona’s house. This makes for a really cute bulletin board display.

    ·       Write a letter to Big Anthony. Explain to him what he did wrong and why it is important to listen carefully to directions.

    ·       Do you think Strega Nona’s punishment for Big Anthony was fair? Why? Why not? How would you have punished Big Anthony?

    ·       Why do you think Big Anthony disobeyed Strega Nona’s directions? Do you think Big Anthony will disobey again? Why? Why not?

    ·       If you had been the main character in this story, would you have acted differently?

    ·       What was the theme or author’s message? What events helped you to figure out the message?

    ·       When Strega Nona told the townspeople the punishment must fit the crime, what did she mean?

    ·       Discuss character traits.

    ·       Possible vocabulary words to practice: pasta, fetch, confess, halt, sup, sputter, grazia, simmer, convent, valuable, applause, compliments, overflow, barricade.

     

    Strega Nona Magic Pot

    Students connect with the characters when they are able to create their own magic pot just like Strega Nona. Have the students use the template below. Ask the students: "What would your pot cook? What would be the magic words to make it cook? How would you make it stop cooking? Is there anything else special about your pot?"

     

    Poetry

    My students love to recite fun poems in class. I send home a list of four poems and have the kids work on them over the course of this unit. My students can’t wait to sign up to say them in front class. Each student can work at their own pace and recite them when they are ready. "Strega Nona's Magic Pot" is a particular favorite.

    "Strega Nona’s Magic Pot," by Susan Kilpatrick

    Strega Nona’s Magic pot

    Cooked her pasta nice and hot.

    Special words and kisses three,

    Stopped the pot so magically.

     

    Big Anthony thought he’d do the same;

    He said words, the pasta came.

    But when he tried to stop the pot,

    More pasta bubbled nice and hot.

     

    The people yelled and ran around,

    “There’s too much pasta in our town!

    Who can stop the magic pot?

    From making pasta nice and hot?”

     

    Strega Nona as you knew,

    Figured out just what to do.

    Big Anthony, it is now time

    To let the punishment fit the crime.

     

    Character Web of Strega Nona and Big Anthony

    This is a wonderful collaborative learning activity my students love to do. They work in groups of four and create character webs for both Strega Nona and Big Anthony. After about 10 minutes, we create an anchor chart as a whole class with each group contributing a trait. The chart is written on large paper to keep up on the wall during this unit. 

    Check out Scholastic Printables for a Reading-Response Project for Strega Nona. The project includes reading tips; before, during, and after activities; and reproducibles to help your students.

     

    Literature Folders

    For every literature unit that we do in class I have my student create a literature folder. I use a manila file folder and have my students decorate the outside with the setting of the story. My students really enjoy this activity.

     

    Sequencing Activity

    I am always looking for activities to use to check for understanding of the text. I find this activity is fun for my students to do. I have them work with a partner and refer back to the text in order to complete the activity. 

     

    Ceramics Art Project

    A wonderful way to incorporate literature into art is by creating narrative 3-D figures of the characters we have grown to love. Each student creates a clay figure of Strega Nona or Big Anthony. Through working in this medium, students get hands-on experience learning the process of making, drying, and firing clay.

    The students sketched the figure they want to be their storyteller on a piece of paper before beginning the project.

    We started making the figures from the bottom first and worked our way up to the top. We used a long pinch pot for Strega Nona’s body. To make Big Anthony, we started with his boots and legs. His legs must be thicker than in dePaola’s illustrations so he can stand! Some students made a big pot and scored it on Big Anthony’s legs to make him steadier. Strega Nona does not have to have a torso. Since she is wearing a long skirt, we just added her head on top of her pinch pot body. The students score two pieces of clay and dab water on them to make the bond stronger. The bottom portion of the figure should be strong enough to hold the upper portion of their figures.

     

     

    Additional Books

    Descriptions are taken from the Scholastic Book Wizard

    Strega Nona's Harvest

    Strega Nona tries to teach Big Anthony about gardening and the importance of order, but when Anthony does not follow her directions and uses her growing spell, his small vegetable patch turns into an uncontrollable jungle.

     

     

    Strega Nona Meets Her Match

    Strega Nona has cures for warts and headaches, even lovesickness. She uses old-fashioned potions and magic and the villagers in Calabria flock to her door. But when her friend Strega Amelia comes over the mountain for a visit, she brings more than just gossip. Soon she's set up her own shop, using the latest modern gadgets, offering sweets and cappuccino — to all of Strega Nona's regulars! Looks like Strega Nona's met her match, unless she's got her own cure for Strega Amelia!

     

    Big Anthony and the Magic Ring

    When springtime arrives in the little town of Calabria, Strega Nona notices that her helper Big Anthony is less attentive than usual to his chores. "What you need is a little Night Life," she advises him.

    How her advice and, of course, a little of her magic conspire to raise Big Anthony's spring fever to an alarming degree will delight old fans and create new ones when they are introduced to Tomie dePaola's warm, zany world of human nature and its foibles.

    "Big Anthony romps through a case of spring fever with an ill-gotten magic ring, against the architectural background and blue skies of la bella Italia." — Booklist

     

    Big Anthony: His Story

    Big Anthony will always be a favorite among children. Strega Nona says it best in describing her bumbling but lovable assistant: "He's adorable . . . but Mama Mia!" How did Big Anthony find Strega Nona in her little house in Calabria?

    From the day he is born on a farm in northern Italy, Big Anthony gets into trouble because he doesn't pay attention. He causes so many disasters that when he is a teenager, his father sends him south. Some of the cities he passes through on his way to Calabria — Pisa, Firenze, Roma and Napoli — will never be the same.

     

    Strega Nona's Magic Lessons

    Bambolona, the baker's daughter, becomes tired of working so hard for her father. When Bambolona asks for help, Strega Nona says she will teach Bambolona magic. Big Anthony is jealous, however, and wants to learn magic, too.

    Big Anthony tries to join Strega Nona's magic class, with hilarious results.

     

    Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

    It's Christmastime in Calabria. There's no time for Strega Nona's usual business of curing headaches, mixing love potions, and getting rid of warts. Instead she must prepare her annual feast for the whole town.

    Poor Strega Nona. How will she ever have the feast ready by Christmas Eve?

     

    Strega Nona Takes a Vacation

    Lately Strega Nona has been distracted — she even gave Signore Mayor the wrong remedy for his headache. One night Nona has a dream about her Grandma Concetta, who has been in heaven for many years, and her little house at the seashore. Nona decides that she will take a vacation there.

    While Strega Nona is away, Bambolona will do the daily remedies and Big Anthony will do the chores. With these two left in charge, what could possibly go wrong?

    Children learn best when they are interested in what they are learning.


    There are many wonderful books out there that illustrate valuable lessons and make a connection with your students.  What are some of your favorite activities to do with Strega Nona?  I'd love to see all of your wonderful and creative idea in the comment section below!                                                                    

    Don't forget to subscribe to my blog on Scholastic Top Teaching if you would like to get my latest posts delivered right to your inbox.

    Thanks for reading, have fun with your teaching and your students.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Nicole

     

     

     

    As the seasons change and fall is upon us, one of my favorite things to do in my class is an old-fashioned author study. I love to watch my students make a connection with the characters in the stories.

    Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola, is one of the Core Literature Units that I love to teach. This is a wonderful, traditional folk tale about an old lady named Strega Nona who is known throughout the town for her special powers. She can cure a headache, make warts disappear, and mix a potion that will find a girl a husband if she wants one. Strega Nona also has a little secret: she has a magic pot.

    Big Anthony is hired as a helping hand for Strega Nona. She tells him never to touch her magic pasta pot, but he can't resist. He overhears the spell that makes the pot cook, and waits for his chance to perform the same magic with the pot. That chance comes sooner than he expects.

    While Strega Nona takes a trip to visit a friend on the other side of the mountain, proud but foolish Big Anthony uses the secret spell to make enough pasta to feed the whole town. Unfortunately, he missed the secret to the spell that makes the pot stop cooking.

     

    Read Aloud

    Reading aloud is one of the most important things teachers can do with students from pre-kindergarten on. Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills. It introduces vocabulary; provides a model of fluent, expressive reading; and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.

    I read aloud to my students every chance I get, and at least once a day. Exposing students to a vast amount of new vocabulary words stretches their language development. With these new words in their language arsenal, students have access to more books, authors, and series. An expressive read-aloud can help children connect with characters and goes a long way towards developing their love of reading. Once they have made the character connection they just dive in.

    Don’t be afraid to go outside of the box — give your student’s a chance to read different genres and authors that they might not chose on their own. Literature is one of the best ways to tackle a real-life problem or concern. A story that mirrors or includes elements of an actual situation allows students to analyze from a distance and develop empathy and understanding.

    Strega Nona is a perfect choice for teaching your students about characters and how their feelings change throughout a story. Use Big Anthony as an example and discuss how he must be feeling during different events of the story, such as when the townspeople make fun of him for telling them about the magic pasta pot, when he made the magic pot work, and when he couldn't make it stop.

    Then have each student choose one feeling and draw a picture of a time in the story when either Big Anthony or Strega Nona felt that way. Have the students draw and write a few sentences about the part of the story and the emotion they chose. Let them share with a partner, in a small group, or present it to the class.

     

    Writing Activities

    Have your students chose a writing prompt from the examples below. This is a great way to check for understanding of the text. I have the students write their response on lined paper that I have measured to fit into the cover of Strega Nona’s house. This makes for a really cute bulletin board display.

    ·       Write a letter to Big Anthony. Explain to him what he did wrong and why it is important to listen carefully to directions.

    ·       Do you think Strega Nona’s punishment for Big Anthony was fair? Why? Why not? How would you have punished Big Anthony?

    ·       Why do you think Big Anthony disobeyed Strega Nona’s directions? Do you think Big Anthony will disobey again? Why? Why not?

    ·       If you had been the main character in this story, would you have acted differently?

    ·       What was the theme or author’s message? What events helped you to figure out the message?

    ·       When Strega Nona told the townspeople the punishment must fit the crime, what did she mean?

    ·       Discuss character traits.

    ·       Possible vocabulary words to practice: pasta, fetch, confess, halt, sup, sputter, grazia, simmer, convent, valuable, applause, compliments, overflow, barricade.

     

    Strega Nona Magic Pot

    Students connect with the characters when they are able to create their own magic pot just like Strega Nona. Have the students use the template below. Ask the students: "What would your pot cook? What would be the magic words to make it cook? How would you make it stop cooking? Is there anything else special about your pot?"

     

    Poetry

    My students love to recite fun poems in class. I send home a list of four poems and have the kids work on them over the course of this unit. My students can’t wait to sign up to say them in front class. Each student can work at their own pace and recite them when they are ready. "Strega Nona's Magic Pot" is a particular favorite.

    "Strega Nona’s Magic Pot," by Susan Kilpatrick

    Strega Nona’s Magic pot

    Cooked her pasta nice and hot.

    Special words and kisses three,

    Stopped the pot so magically.

     

    Big Anthony thought he’d do the same;

    He said words, the pasta came.

    But when he tried to stop the pot,

    More pasta bubbled nice and hot.

     

    The people yelled and ran around,

    “There’s too much pasta in our town!

    Who can stop the magic pot?

    From making pasta nice and hot?”

     

    Strega Nona as you knew,

    Figured out just what to do.

    Big Anthony, it is now time

    To let the punishment fit the crime.

     

    Character Web of Strega Nona and Big Anthony

    This is a wonderful collaborative learning activity my students love to do. They work in groups of four and create character webs for both Strega Nona and Big Anthony. After about 10 minutes, we create an anchor chart as a whole class with each group contributing a trait. The chart is written on large paper to keep up on the wall during this unit. 

    Check out Scholastic Printables for a Reading-Response Project for Strega Nona. The project includes reading tips; before, during, and after activities; and reproducibles to help your students.

     

    Literature Folders

    For every literature unit that we do in class I have my student create a literature folder. I use a manila file folder and have my students decorate the outside with the setting of the story. My students really enjoy this activity.

     

    Sequencing Activity

    I am always looking for activities to use to check for understanding of the text. I find this activity is fun for my students to do. I have them work with a partner and refer back to the text in order to complete the activity. 

     

    Ceramics Art Project

    A wonderful way to incorporate literature into art is by creating narrative 3-D figures of the characters we have grown to love. Each student creates a clay figure of Strega Nona or Big Anthony. Through working in this medium, students get hands-on experience learning the process of making, drying, and firing clay.

    The students sketched the figure they want to be their storyteller on a piece of paper before beginning the project.

    We started making the figures from the bottom first and worked our way up to the top. We used a long pinch pot for Strega Nona’s body. To make Big Anthony, we started with his boots and legs. His legs must be thicker than in dePaola’s illustrations so he can stand! Some students made a big pot and scored it on Big Anthony’s legs to make him steadier. Strega Nona does not have to have a torso. Since she is wearing a long skirt, we just added her head on top of her pinch pot body. The students score two pieces of clay and dab water on them to make the bond stronger. The bottom portion of the figure should be strong enough to hold the upper portion of their figures.

     

     

    Additional Books

    Descriptions are taken from the Scholastic Book Wizard

    Strega Nona's Harvest

    Strega Nona tries to teach Big Anthony about gardening and the importance of order, but when Anthony does not follow her directions and uses her growing spell, his small vegetable patch turns into an uncontrollable jungle.

     

     

    Strega Nona Meets Her Match

    Strega Nona has cures for warts and headaches, even lovesickness. She uses old-fashioned potions and magic and the villagers in Calabria flock to her door. But when her friend Strega Amelia comes over the mountain for a visit, she brings more than just gossip. Soon she's set up her own shop, using the latest modern gadgets, offering sweets and cappuccino — to all of Strega Nona's regulars! Looks like Strega Nona's met her match, unless she's got her own cure for Strega Amelia!

     

    Big Anthony and the Magic Ring

    When springtime arrives in the little town of Calabria, Strega Nona notices that her helper Big Anthony is less attentive than usual to his chores. "What you need is a little Night Life," she advises him.

    How her advice and, of course, a little of her magic conspire to raise Big Anthony's spring fever to an alarming degree will delight old fans and create new ones when they are introduced to Tomie dePaola's warm, zany world of human nature and its foibles.

    "Big Anthony romps through a case of spring fever with an ill-gotten magic ring, against the architectural background and blue skies of la bella Italia." — Booklist

     

    Big Anthony: His Story

    Big Anthony will always be a favorite among children. Strega Nona says it best in describing her bumbling but lovable assistant: "He's adorable . . . but Mama Mia!" How did Big Anthony find Strega Nona in her little house in Calabria?

    From the day he is born on a farm in northern Italy, Big Anthony gets into trouble because he doesn't pay attention. He causes so many disasters that when he is a teenager, his father sends him south. Some of the cities he passes through on his way to Calabria — Pisa, Firenze, Roma and Napoli — will never be the same.

     

    Strega Nona's Magic Lessons

    Bambolona, the baker's daughter, becomes tired of working so hard for her father. When Bambolona asks for help, Strega Nona says she will teach Bambolona magic. Big Anthony is jealous, however, and wants to learn magic, too.

    Big Anthony tries to join Strega Nona's magic class, with hilarious results.

     

    Merry Christmas, Strega Nona

    It's Christmastime in Calabria. There's no time for Strega Nona's usual business of curing headaches, mixing love potions, and getting rid of warts. Instead she must prepare her annual feast for the whole town.

    Poor Strega Nona. How will she ever have the feast ready by Christmas Eve?

     

    Strega Nona Takes a Vacation

    Lately Strega Nona has been distracted — she even gave Signore Mayor the wrong remedy for his headache. One night Nona has a dream about her Grandma Concetta, who has been in heaven for many years, and her little house at the seashore. Nona decides that she will take a vacation there.

    While Strega Nona is away, Bambolona will do the daily remedies and Big Anthony will do the chores. With these two left in charge, what could possibly go wrong?

    Children learn best when they are interested in what they are learning.


    There are many wonderful books out there that illustrate valuable lessons and make a connection with your students.  What are some of your favorite activities to do with Strega Nona?  I'd love to see all of your wonderful and creative idea in the comment section below!                                                                    

    Don't forget to subscribe to my blog on Scholastic Top Teaching if you would like to get my latest posts delivered right to your inbox.

    Thanks for reading, have fun with your teaching and your students.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Nicole

     

     

     

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