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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The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant

A lovely story about a lonely old woman and the items she loves.
Setting a Purpose for Reading
Cynthia Rylant introduces us to the main character and describes how she has outlived all of her friends and so she names inanimate objects now. She does not like the idea that she will be a lonely old woman without any friends to call by name. So she only chooses to name objects that will “outlive” her. She names her chair, her car, her bed, and her house. The objects become her friends. One day when she is out in her yard, a puppy stops by. Will the Old Woman resist the puppy or take the puppy in? Lesson Idea: Read aloud the beginning of the story up to the point where the puppy shows up. Stop and ask students, “What more would you like to know about the Old Woman and the puppy?” Record student responses. Students will wonder what will become of the relationship between the Old Woman and the puppy and will want to read on to find out, thus setting a purpose for reading. After reading, confirm student’s predictions.