Lesson: Introduction to Chris Van Allsburg

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Lesson Objective

1. Read a brief autobiography written by Chris Van Allsburg. 2. Identify the characteristics of fantasy. 3. Learn facts about author, Chris Van Allsburg, and his books.

Lesson Plan

1. Tell students they will be reading fantasy picture books over the next two weeks written by author/illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg.  Pass out Characteristics of Fantasy handout to students.  Read and discuss each characteristic with students.  Create a text to text connection with another fantasy story you've read in class, if possible.  If you haven't done any fantasy yet, I usually pull examples from Harry Potter since so many students are familiar with it.


2. Introduce author, Chris Van Allsburg, by displaying his books around the classroom.  Ask students to name any books they may be familiar with already.  I borrow books from my local library, school library, and my colleagues so I have multiple copies of as many of the books as I can get my hands on!


3. Pass out CVA Author Information handout to class.  After students put their name and date at the top, read the question together.  Students should be able to answer that the type of literature is "Fantasy".  Have them write Fantasy on the line.


4. Take turns reading this brief autobiography of Chris Van Allsburg written in first person.  Have students share facts about the author/illustrator they find interesting. Ask students if they have anything in common with Mr. Van Allsburg.  The books listed at the bottom of the first page are books which will be read during class.


5. Pass out a copy of Picture Book Report Form 2 to each student.  This book report is to be done on a Chris Van Allsburg book.  The six titles students may choose from are at the top of the paper.  Have students fill in the due date at the top.  I usually give students 2 weeks to complete the work since it must be done in class with the books I've collected.  Students are encouraged to read and work in their free time during class.


6. Students are permitted to turn in their book report at any time during the 2 weeks.  Book Report Summaries is an answer key for each of the six book report titles.  If you don't have time to read each book before checking the book reports, a comprehensive summary is given in the answer key along with a grading scale.


7. Allow students time to select a book and begin reading for their book report; they can begin filling out the basic information on their book report form.  Tell students that tomorrow's lesson will center around Two Bad Ants.



Each year I taught this unit, I had fifth graders scoff at the fact that we were reading picture books.  The students felt they were intellectually beyond reading picture books.  I always explained that the vocabulary and concepts were well beyond that of a younger student.  There were things in the stories they would understand that a first or second grader would simply not pick up on or understand.  We would look at the similarities between the author's writing and illustrations.  


I included a list of Van Allsburg's books on the right for you.


Lesson Resources

CVA Author Information  
Characterisitics of Fantasy  
Book Report Summaries  
Picture Book Report Form 2  
Chris Van Allsburg Website


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