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December 23, 2008

You Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Boy!

There are some children's books that can completely captivate a class. Students are eager to read them again and again, incorporate them into their play, while making connections between the books and their lives. The Gingerbread Boy is one such book.  
Some of my students from last year remembered the story. As soon as I showed the cover, Makiera commented, "It's like we read last week!  The fox is going to trick him!"  Now granted, we read the story last January, not not last week, but she remembered the most important part of the book!  I encouraged Makiera and others who were familiar with the story to try to remember the characters who chase the gingerbread boy.  My new students were completely captivated as I read.  They actually gasped in surprise when the fox finally swallowed the gingerbread boy! 

In addition to reading the book by Paul Galdone, we also read a version of the story by Richard Egielski.  We completed a Venn diagram of similarities and differences between the stories, and my students charted wonderful connections. Everything from specific quotes ("Gingerbread Man" vs. "Gingerbread Boy") to characters (there is a fox in both stories, only the Egielski version has a police officer) to plot events (both Gingerbread Boys have to cross water) were recalled in their observations. 
We also played "Gingerbread Boy" outside, made patterns by gluing pictures of the gingerbread boy and the fox, retold the story using props, choral read the repetitive text, found sight words in the repetitive text, made a graph of which character students liked the most, discussed our favorite version of the story, and finally, on Thursday, we baked our very own gingerbread boys!  My students rolled the dough and assembled the gingerbread boys, then we all walked down to the kitchen to put them in the oven.  My students went outside to play while the gingerbread boys baked, but when they came back inside they were shocked to find that the gingerbread boys had escaped!  We then proceeded to go on a gingerbread boy hunt around the school; I had prepared teachers to give us clues about where the gingerbread boys might be, and my students were beyond eager to follow the directions and find their cookies!  They ran from one classroom to the next, searching for the cookies, and explaining their quest to anyone who would listen.  When we finally arrived in the main office we could smell the cookies. My students searched all over until finally Aaliyah spotted them.  Julia was so excited that she literally couldn't stop jumping up and down! 
We took the cookies back to our classroom and enjoyed a (surprisingly tasty) snack, then brought cookies to everyone who had helped us in our search.  We completed one more graph -- "Which part of the gingerbread boy did you eat first?" -- and then settled in for a class retelling of the story. 
By incorporating The Gingerbread Boy into so many aspects of our classroom, my students had countless opportunities to comprehend and interpret the text.  This increased their interest in the book, which allowed them to fully engage in all of the learning opportunities I had planned.  It's amazing how much power one book can have over a week's worth of curriculum!
Do you have other recommendations for fabulous books that you have read with your students?  If so, please leave them in the comments section so that we can all benefit! 


I think a lot of it has to do with how much the teacher is into the book. I love Chicken Little for example, and the kids just love all the characters and the voices that I do for the characters. It's great for a fall theme!

Ashley you make an excellent point. I have tried to tell a story every week or every other week because I know that my group of students particularly enjoy my story telling. My passion for a story translates into their passion for stories. I always try to use a written story before or after their story telling to help students connect their experience of the story to the telling of the story.

Ashley and John, I think you're both completely right. I was so excited while planning the gingerbread boy unit, and I'm sure my excitement was contagious. I've never read Chicken Little with my students...maybe we'll do it during our folktales unit!

I love the idea of connecting story telling to literature, John. I sometimes tell stories to help reinforce social skills, but I've never done it with the explicit purpose of making a connection to the text. Something new to try in 2009!

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