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What is he trying to do? Did Marcel's dream come true? What was it?

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What kind of person do you think he will be? How do you think he might treat his dog Bibot? Focusing on this one aspect will be easier and more fruitful if your students have already discussed the book in the context of a read-aloud before you present this lesson. This lesson can be presented in the context of a unit on writing fiction, fairy tales, or fables, but it works well on its own as well. Introduction: Tell your students that you will begin by discussing briefly how Van Allsburg teaches Bibot a lesson in The Sweetest Fig , and that they are going to have a chance to write stories in which a character is taught a lesson as well.

Teaching: Begin with an informal discussion in which you talk with your students about what they think Monsieur Bibot is taught by his experience with the figs. This should involve a discussion of his character: What kind of a fellow is he? What kinds of things does he need to learn?

Your students may say things like "He is mean," "He is selfish," "He is too particular," "He only thinks of himself. If your students need your support in coming up with ideas like these, feel free to interject. Ask your students to think about what Van Allsburg does in the story to make sure Bibot learns his lesson and why he chooses that particular device.

Guide your students toward the idea that Bibot is placed in a position where he is dependent on Marcel's kindness, just as Marcel was dependent on his. Hopefully, this will help him to become more empathetic and less selfish!

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Van Allsburg chooses a "punishment" for Bibot that fits exactly with what he needs to learn in order to be a kinder person or rather, dog. Tell your students that they will be writing stories like this, in which a character is taught a lesson for his or her poor behavior. They may use stories from their own experience, or they may completely make them up. Writing Time: During writing time, students should be writing independently. Confer with them individually.

You may want to pay particular attention to making sure that the lesson their character is taught actually makes sense. You may also need to check to make sure that the characters' struggles are clear.

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Share: Share the work of a student who has written a story in which a character is taught a lesson. Write or tell a story that tells a lesson together as a class. Expanding This Lesson: You may need to carry this work on over the course of several lessons so that your students have a chance to nurture and revise their work. Writing fable-like stories like these can be difficult. Collect the stories your class has written into a book. Share it with your school community.


Have your students turn their stories into skits to be presented to the rest of the class. It is helpful if they are working within the context of a reading workshop in which they are reading books independently each day chosen from a leveled classroom library, but the same lesson can be presented in the context of a basal reader. You will want, however, to organize your students into writing partnerships before beginning this lesson. Ask them to sit next to their partners in the reading area as you teach.

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Introduction: If you have not yet read the book to your students, do so now. Tell your students that one of the amazing things that authors do is write characters that are so easy for us to believe in that we actually begin either to like them or dislike them. In The Sweetest Fig , the character of Bibot is one about whom many readers develop strong feelings. Tell them that during the lesson, they will be talking about how Van Allsburg creates characters about whom we readers have feelings.

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Later, in their independent reading work, the students will be noticing how they feel about the characters in their own books and discussing this with their partners. Teaching: Ask your students how they feel about Bibot. Do they like him or dislike him? Most students will say they don't like him and will be quite willing to list a host of reasons for their feelings: he is mean to his dog, he only thinks of himself, he only helped the woman because he wanted her money, he is selfish, and so on.

Tell them that whenever they are reading books with characters in them, it is important to pay attention to how we readers feel about the characters and why we feel that way. As they go off to read on their own in their partnerships, ask them to keep in mind that you'll be asking them about whether or not they like their characters, and why.

Reading Time: During reading time children should be sitting near their partners. They need not be reading the same book. As they read independently you will confer with them individually about how they feel about the characters in their books and why. Stop them midway through reading time and ask them to discuss with each other how they feel about the characters in their books, and what the authors are doing to make them feel that way.

Listen in on several conversations during this time. Share: Ask a partnership whose conversation you heard to share their thinking with the class. It will be helpful if you choose children who can model not only the thinking work you asked them to do about their characters but also how to talk and listen to each other in a respectful way. Adapting This Lesson for More Experienced Readers: More experienced readers will be able to go into more depth about how Van Allsburg creates his characters as likable or unlikable people.

Ask them to notice and discuss more specifically what the authors in their independent reading do to give readers a feeling about their characters. More experienced readers will be able to handle having this sort of discussion in the context of book clubs. You can organize your students into groups of four or five and ask them to discuss together how the authors of their books create likeable or unlikable characters.

How does this lesson transfer into students' own writing? Ask them to pay attention to what they can do in their writing to create characters about whom readers will have feelings. Expanding This Lesson: This lesson could be presented in the context of a study of the story elements. Spend several more lessons discussing character, and then move on to discussions of plot, movement through time, and setting.

What does Van Allsburg do in his writing to create each story element? How do the story elements work together? We will help you edit, design, publish, promote your book, and define your overall brand for a successful launch and media recognition. There are more ways than print to tell your story and share your words of wisdom and inspiration. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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