“Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers
Stuck is a good book for kids ages 4-10.
Our barometer for what makes a good book is pretty stringent. Not because of our lofty expectations or our high standards, but really for the practical fact that kids come to our class at the end of their school day when they are tired, hungry and mostly want to be out running in the yard with their friends. It can take a lot of song and dance and a few magic tricks to get them re-engaged in reading and writing, but on the days when we pull out Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, no magic is needed.
Stuck (released November 2011) is the newest by Oliver Jeffers, the witty author of The Incredible Book-Eating Boy (also a good one). Stuck is about a boy who gets his kite stuck in a tree and tries to get it back by knocking it down with other stuff. The scenarios get more and more outlandish, but it never really seems to be overdone because it is all so unexpected. While the youngest readers could take the scenarios at face value, the hilarity has a subtly and we noticed our older students had to savor the picture and the text to catch it. For this reason, the book worked for a wide range of ages, we think 4-10. Our favorite moment with this book was watching a group of 4th grade boys literally roll on the floor as they took turns reading aloud the pages to each other.
What We Do With the Book:
This book can stand alone without an activity, especially for older children who may find it a clever departure from a chapter book, but probably only to be read once or twice. Put in a different way, it would make a great gift for a family with several aged children.
On the other hand, in our classroom, we use it to teach and reinforce the letter chunk “st” as in stuck, street, stamp, etc. It can be a pretty simple activity, or it can be pretty elaborate if you want to go all out.
Simplified: Reinforce the “st” Sound Combination
- After reading the book, we have the children search through the book to find any other words that start with the “st” sound.
- Next we have them write out all of the “st” words they can think of (Pre-K kids tell us the words and we write. Older kids write themselves).
- At home, this would be a fantastic mini-activity to do on the couch with your Pre-K through 1stgrader right after reading the book. It reinforces the sounds and letter combinations. Then, if time permits, we include the more elaborate activity below.
Elaborate: Create A Stuck Tree of their Favorite Things
- On an over-sized drawing paper or piece of butcher paper have the child draw or paint a huge tree, with a trunk with several branches. The bigger the leafy area, the more space for them to add things. In the book, the tree was a different color on each page. This made for great creative inspiration for our kids and they created blue, purple, yellow and red trees. We encouraged them to pick their favorite color.
- Next have them brainstorm their favorite things and make a list. We like to tie it this to an age or year so you can look back and see what they liked at their current age, such as My Favorite Things at Age 7″ (Incidentally, you can use this part of the lesson to demonstrate bulleted lists, numbered lists, etc.).
- Finally, they can draw, paint, glue, write, cut pictures or words from magazines, etc., etc. of their favorite things. The best pictures had a combination of written words, objects and pictures.
- Give it a title: “Things I am Stuck On at Age 8 by -insert student’s name-”. Take a picture of them holding it (you won’t want to store that in a baby book) and put it up on the refrigerator.
Extending the Activity:
As a sidebar, on Pinterest, we discovered a paper bag tree posted craftsbyamanda.com that we want to try next time (you can find the step by step directions there). We envision our students either gluing or stringing on their favorite things on to the branches of the paper bag tree. Also, we thought about using it to hold that week’s spelling words, sight words or any challenging words. In this case, we could reuse it each week and add words.