Lesson: The Wretched Stone

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Lesson Objective

1. Read THE WRETCHED STONE by Chris Van Allsburg. 2. Complete a writing prompt using story events.

Lesson Plan

1. Show students the cover of The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg. Invite them to make predictions about what this book might be about based on the cover art (crew member heading for the water).  Students may respond that he is going to fall in the water, hanging from ropes, etc. Accept reasonable responses.


2. Tell students to be on the look out for Fritz, the dog, that Chris Van Allsburg hides in his books.  It is difficult to find him since he is not a main character.  We saw him floating around in a garbage disposal in Two Bad Ants, he was Marcel in The Sweetest Fig, and he was a puppet on the boy's bed post in The Polar Express.


You will find Fritz's tail only at the bottom of the page where the monkeys are staring at the rock.  Look closely on the bottom right side of the page!


3. Be sure students see the first page which indicates that the story is "Excerpts from the Log of the Rita Anne" and written by Captain Randall Ethan Hope.  Explain that Rita Anne is the name of a ship.


4. Have students read the story with a partner or small group, depending on how many copies of the book you have.  After reading is complete, ask the following questions to check for comprehension:


What happened on June 5th?  The crew spotted land ~ a small island that was not on their map.


Describe the island.  The island had lush plants with fruit, but there were no animals or insects.  The crew found water and brought aboard an unusual rock.


What effect did the rock have on the crew?  They were fascinated by it and wanted to sit and stare at it.  The crew slowly began to turn into "hairy beasts".  


What happened to the Rita Anne?  It was destroyed in a storm ~ struck by lightning twice.


5. Pass out a copy of The Wretched Stone Prompt to each student.  Read the prompt together (answer will be in the form of a friendly letter) orally with the students and discuss possible responses.  Start the prompt together by having students write the greeting.  They should begin with something like, "Dear Dad or Dear Father".  Discuss how the prompt will be closed.  Students should sign it with something like, "Your son, Randall" ~ not their name since the letter is from the captain of the ship.


6.  Allow students time to work on the prompt. Students may not use extra paper for this letter; encourage them to be succinct and to the point. They may use only the space provided.  Collect and grade this assignment using Letter Scoring Guide.


7. If there is extra time, allow students to read some of Chris Van Allsburg's other books.  Remind them to work on their Picture Book Reports.





In my classroom, I have old fashioned cassette recorders with multiple headphone jacks.  I record myself reading the story on a cassette. Students then take turns listening to the story and following along in the book.  It is a simple, yet nice change of pace.  It also works well for students with special needs.  While the other students are waiting for their turn, they can work on the Book Report Assignment that was given during the first lesson, Introduction to Chris Van Allsburg.


Lesson Resources

Letter Scoring Guide   Writing Assignment
The Wretched Stone Prompt   Writing Assignment


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