The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant

November Theme:  Cynthia Rylant picture books

Six Traits: Organization (Varied Endings)

Moving/Surprise Endings

A moving story about an old woman who has outlived all her friends.  In order to keep from getting lonely, she names things that she knows she will never outlive (like her house, her car, or her bed).  One day, a shy brown puppy appears at her front gate.  She knows if the puppy stays around, she will have to name it.  She can’t risk that, so she sends him on his way.  What happens after will surprise you. . .

A touchstone text in my classroom was The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant.  I used this book to teach active comprehension by explicitly stating how students could set a purpose for reading.  I also used it to teach moving/surprise endings.

Lesson idea: Gather 5-10 books that are models of different endings and have students analyze the endings.

Have students analyze several books that have surprise or moving endings.  Have them practice writing surprise or moving endings in their own writing.

What books do you use to teach writers’ craft?  Do you have any touchstone texts or touchstone authors?

Coming next month:  Incorporating nonfiction in the classroom

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When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

November Theme:  Cynthia Rylant picture books

Six Traits: Organization (Varied Endings)
What is a touchstone text?  A touchstone text is a text you can turn to again and again for various teaching points.  A touchstone text is a book you and your students know very well.  There are several authors who I turned to again and again when teaching.  One of these authors is Cynthia Rylant. 
Moving Endings
Inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s childhood spent with her grandparents in the mountains of West Virginia, Rylant lyrically describes the simplicity of living in the country using the phrase, “When I was young in the mountains. . .”.
This week When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant is the focus of my review.  I actually reviewed this book this time last year.  My focus then was on brainstorming topics.  Since this was a touchstone text in my classroom, I also used it to teach moving endings.  I don’t want to give away the ending, but the author evokes emotion as she describes how the mountains were always enough for her. . . she never wanted anything more.
Lesson idea: Gather 5-10 books that are models of different endings and have students analyze the endings.


Over the next month, I will review additional Cynthia Rylant books that have different types of endings.   What books do you use to teach writers’ craft?  Do you have any touchstone texts or touchstone authors that you turn to again and again?