[All images seen in this post are © Nick Bruel. Purchase all the Bad Kitty books at Amazon.com]
Have you seen the new Bad Kitty book by Nick Bruel? My friend Sarah introduced it to me (as she does for all good literature) and I was so excited about it! My first graders LOVED Bad Kitty. I couldn’t keep the series on the shelves. And now Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble is the perfect book to use in your writers workshop for grades 1 and up. I’ve outlined an amazing lesson that your students are sure to enjoy and of course I’ve aligned it to the CCSS for you.
Nick Bruel Author Study
To start this unit, I think it would be awesome to dive into a full on Nick Bruel author study. You can find information about Nick here on the Bad Kitty site or visit his author page on Macmillian publishers. I especially enjoy Nick’s interview with Bad Kitty herself and it would be great to share with your students to model what to do (or not to do) in an interview. Also you can click on the image below to see a great trailer of the Bad Kitty Series to drum up interest in your students. And you can stock your library with the previous nine Bad Kitty books too (the books range in GLE from 1-3)! Plus check out the games and extras that would be perfect for another indoor recess activity or morning work!
Once your students are familiar with Nick (and he seems like such a cool and friendly guy!) then you can introduce them to his latest book, Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble. One thing I love about this book is that Nick is introducing all of the story elements in each chapter (see image below). This allows for you to read the book together as a class, chapter by chapter, and stopping to discuss the story elements as you go.
For first grade, I’d create a class book on the chart paper, but for 2nd and up, I think you can give them their own blank books and allow them to create their own stories. As you work through Drawn to Trouble, you can discuss various story elements with your students such as: author, illustrator, protagonist, foreshadowing, setting, antagonist, plot, problem, solution, and the MacGuffin. Wait. What’s a MACGUFFIN?!? Well, the MacGuffin is what a character in your story really wants. Your students take control and decide where they want the story to be set, what the plot will be, who is causing problems and what their solution is, etc. all with Bad Kitty as their guide. Look at the following image to see how Bruel uses his conversational style of writing to talk to the students. The author is truly becoming the mentor in this situation, because it’s as though he’s sitting in your class, conferencing your students as they work.
As you walk your students through the step by step story creation/publishing process, you can easily differentiate and scaffold their learning. This set up really lends itself to the students authoring and illustrating a story at their level, plus as you conference with them one-on-one you are able to see which story elements they grasp and which ones they may need a little more help with. As far as assessment goes, this could not be easier to take anecdotal notes as you meet with each writer and gently push them along in their process.
Sarah did this actual lesson with first and second graders at the Discovery School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. And she’s shared some of photos of the process they went through as they worked through the story elements as a group and also as individuals.
First up, the first graders wrote a class story together. And they wanted to create their setting of their Bad Kitty story in the world of Minecraft! With little prior knowledge about the topic, Sarah enlisted the help of the 5th graders to work on the illustrations. This offered a unique opportunity for students to collaborate and the 5th graders were able to step into a mentoring role to the younger kids and work as the “experts”.
The continued to work on their book through the week. Here are some additional examples:
Some students were so excited about their class story, that they went home to create their own. When they brought them back to school, they not only were able to share with the principal but also emailed them to Nick Bruel himself! How wonderful (and exciting) is that?!
This story was written by a first grader. Ah-mazing what personal interest can do to students writing skills, right?
Common Core Connection
This lesson hits a plethora of Common Core Standards too. I’ve included the Anchor standards for Reading, Writing, and Language that all tie into this lesson, but more detailed in depth standards can be found at the grade level you will be working with.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
This is a great lesson to work on at this point in the school year because students writing is more developed, plus it allows students to be creative and work on something fun, all while learning the elements of a story. And having a real author as your mentor is imperative as you model with your students of any age “what good writers do“. So a big Thank YOU to Nick Bruel for his contributions to the world of reading AND writing. You make our jobs just a tad easier. 😉