On the first page of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat, the old lady has her mouth wide open to swallow a shocked-looking bat. As the story goes on, we are shocked to see her swallow even more odd things: an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard. Finally, the wizard casts a spell that lets her yell, “Trick or Treat!” And all the other creatures come flying out of her mouth.
Each time the old lady swallows something new, the cumulative text repeats what she has swallowed before. Then the illustrations go inside the old lady’s stomach where the swallowed creatures chase each other in a hilarious sequence. The rhyming text and imaginative illustrations work together to reinforce the sequence of the story. The two also support students in following along during a reading, retelling the story, and even beginning to read on their own.
About the Author
Lucille Colandro has delighted children by keeping the old lady busy swallowing a variety of strange objects. Colandro’s There Was an Old Lady series celebrates the seasons, holidays, and even the first day of school.
Teaching the Book
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat is a wacky Halloween variation on the popular cumulative story/song, “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Use the book to teach cumulative story structure, sequence cue words, and multiple meaning words. Activities will engage students in creative language play, fluency practice, and rhyming games.
Theme Focus: Cumulative Story
Comprehension Focus: Sequence Cue Words
Language Focus: Multiple Meaning Words
Get Ready to Read
Introduce students to a traditional nursery rhyme or story that has a cumulative story structure. One classic is “This is the House That Jack Built” from Mother Goose. See an engaging narration of the rhyme accompanied by original R. Caldecott illustrations.
As students listen to the story, encourage them to chime in with the cumulative sequence of events. Then ask: How is this story different from most stories? What is special about the way it is written?
Guide students to describe how the story repeats things over and over again. Explain that this is called a cumulative story because it retells each part of the story that has already happened.
Preview and Predict
Ask students to look at the cover of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat. Have them guess what might happen in this cumulative story.
Multiple Meaning Words
Students may need support with the meanings of some vocabulary words in the book, such as goblin and wizard. Have them study the illustrations to help define these words. The book also provides an opportunity to teach students that some words have more than one meaning. Ask students to watch for these multiple meaning words as they read and draw or write what each word means as used in the book.
Use the There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat! Vocabulary Cards printable and distribute copies to students.
Ask students to use their Vocabulary Cards to answer the following questions about the multiple-meaning words in the book.
- What kind of bat is in the book? What is another meaning for bat?
- What kind of rattle is in the book? What is another meaning for rattle?
- What kind of spell is in the book? What is another meaning for spell?
- What does the word treat mean in the book? What is another meaning for treat?
As You Read
Reading the Book
Model a fluent reading of the book, emphasizing the rhyme in the cumulative text that creates humor and also cues students to remember the sequence of events in the story.
Reread the book, this time encouraging students to fill in the sequence of items that the old lady swallows. You might want to assign one student to each item, and have students fill in their part of the sequence each time it is read. The group can chorally read, “Imagine that!”
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read and be ready to answer it when they have finished the book. Write the question on chart paper or have students write it in their reading journals. How can the old lady swallow all those things?
Using Sequence Cue Words
Explain to students that the events in a story happen in a certain order called a sequence. Words like first, next, and finally are called cue words because they help describe the sequence of a story in time order.
Use the graphic organizer on the There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat! Sequence Cue Words printable to model for students how to use sequence cue words to retell the events of a story. Project the page on a whiteboard or pass out copies to students. Then lead the students through a retelling of the book using the sequence cue words.
Model: We’re going to retell the story together. You can look at the illustrations in the book to help you remember the order that things happen. How will we begin talking about the things the old lady swallowed? We’ll start with the word First. What was the very first thing the old lady swallowed? It was a bat, right? So I’ll write bat on the first line. What is the next sequence cue word? It’s Next. What did the old lady swallow next?
Have students volunteer the remainder of the sequence of events in the story. Ask them to repeat the cue word at the beginning of each line as they fill in the creature the old lady swallowed.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
1. Cumulative Story
Ask students why the old lady swallows the owl, the cat, the ghost, the goblin, the bones, and the wizard? (Sample answers: Students should quote the text in the book that describes why the old lady swallowed each thing.)
2. Using Sequence Cue Words
What does the old lady swallow first? What does she swallow last? What comes after the cat? What comes before the bones? (Sample answers: a bat, a wizard, a ghost, a goblin.)
3. Multiple Meaning Words
What if the old lady swallowed a baseball bat? What else might she swallow in a book about baseball? (Sample answers: mitt, uniform, home base, umpire.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
What is your favorite illustration in the book? Explain what you like about it.
What might the old lady swallow if the story was set during Thanksgiving or Easter?
Is this book an example of a make-believe story or a true story? Explain your answer.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details he text. Tell them there is no one right answer. How can the old lady swallow all those things?
An Old Lady Riddle
Make copies of the There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat! Big Activity printable and distribute to students. Explain that they will each write an Old Lady riddle story. Ask students to think of five things that the old lady could swallow to put together into a surprise at the end. For example, what would be the surprise if the old lady ate a turkey, plates, apples, cranberries, and a table? A Thanksgiving feast! Go over the activity directions with students and clarify any questions. Have them trade papers with a partner to guess each Old Lady riddle.
Content Area Connections
Make game cards out of card stock for the rhyming words in the book. These include: bat/that, owl/howl, cat/fat, ghost/most, goblin/spin, bones/groan, and spell/yell. Write each individual word on a card. Play various games with the cards, challenging students to find the cards that make a rhyming match.
Fascinating Bat Facts
Help students research bats to learn more about these nocturnal creatures. Provide non-fiction books or guide students to age appropriate websites such as Science Kids. Ask partners or small groups to work together to create a list of 10 Fascinating Facts about bats and present it to the rest of the class.
The predictable pattern of the story provides a perfect opportunity for fluency practice that students enjoy. Lead the class in another reading of the book. Then ask partners to work with each other to read the book, one reading the left-hand pages and the other reading the right-hand pages. Give students a few days to practice before presenting their fluent reading to you or the class.
Assign each student one or two of the Halloween creatures that the old lady swallowed. Ask them to draw the creatures, either creating their own image or using Jared Lee’s illustration as a model. Remind them to show the animals looking surprised or scared, as they are in the book. Display the finished drawings in the room, asking students to put the creatures in the order that the old lady swallowed them.
Reading and Writing Connection
Best Meal Ever
Ask students to imagine that they could eat the best meal ever. What will they want to swallow? First, ask them to brainstorm a list of foods such as: favorite drink, favorite fruit, favorite main dish, favorite vegetable, and favorite dessert. Ask them to title their essay “The Best Meal Ever” and write about what they would want to eat. Remind them to use sequence cue words to describe the order of the things they would eat. Have students share their essays and see if there is agreement on the best meal ever.
© 2012 SI ALL RIGHTS RESERVED