John Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco

December Theme:  Ideas

This month’s theme is Ideas.  How can we use picture books to model for students how authors come up with ideas for their writing?

Recommended Grades: 3-5

I had the pleasure (yes, I really said that!) of taking a road trip with my family (my children are 7 and 4) over the Thanksgiving holidays.  It was a fantastic time and one of our stops included Little Rock, Arkansas.  Carol Rasco, of Rasco from RIF, suggested that I take my children to see the ducks at the Peabody Hotel.  I hadn’t heard of the story, but essentially the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock is the sister hotel to the original in Memphis, Tennessee.  Both hotels play host to several ducks who live there.  Every morning the Duck Master brings them down to the hotel lobby where they march to the hotel fountain and stay for the day.  Then every evening, they march back to the elevator and to their suite.  Imagine my surprise when I found this book in the gift shop!  Patricia Polacco is one of my touchstone text authors and I hadn’t heard of this book before.

John Philip Duck is a fictional story inspired by the legend of the Peabody Ducks.  Young Edward and his father both work at a grand hotel.  When Edward brings his pet duck to the hotel, everyone keeps his secret from the hotel manager, Mr. Schutt.  Then one day, Mr. Schutt discovers the duck swimming in the hotel fountain.  What will Edward do to save his duck?

Lesson idea: Read aloud this book and discuss how Patricia Polacco came up with the idea to write the story.  Brainstorm with students places they have traveled and events they may be able to turn into writing ideas.  Encourage them to place their ideas in their writer’s notebook.  Also encourage students to keep a journal/writer’s notebook with them to write down ideas as they come up with them.  You never know when an idea might strike!

If you are looking for additional resources and ways to teach ideas to students, please read the post I wrote about Abe’s Fish: A Boyhood Tale of Abraham Lincoln, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Artful Reading.

**Note** I provide these lesson ideas under the assumption that you are familiar with The Six Traits of Writing.  If you are not, and would like more information on teaching students about ideas or any other six traits component, please feel free to contact me at Dlittle[at]linkstoliteracy[dot]com.  I am happy to provide more specific lessons or resources if necessary.

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