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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

So you may be asking...who IS Harris Burdick??  Well in MY world, Harris Burdick is an inspiration and a great Language activity!!

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a book written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg (also author and illustrator of The Polar Express). This book only has an introduction which is followed by fourteen drawings. The introduction states that the author visited this children's publisher and viewed fourteen drawings each with a title and caption. Now here's where it gets interesting, the illustrator of these drawings is also the author of the stories that go with them, Harris Burdick. Mr. Burdick reportedly dropped these drawings off to the children's publisher and was to return the next day but was never heard from again. So, Chris Van Allsburg published the collection of Harris Burdick drawings along with the title of each of the stories. The drawings are remarkable and have so much detail and wonder to each one of them.

So what can you do with this book of drawings?  LOTS!!! This is how I utilized this awesome piece of work. I chose to use this as a semester long activity with my fifth grade students.
  • First, I had each student pick a picture he/she was interested in
  • Then I had each student use a blank piece of paper and color pencils or whatever inspired them to brainstorm a story to go with their picture. Brainstorming has to be taught to these kids; utilize what they are doing in the classroom. If they use bubble maps, use bubble maps; if they use writing robots, use the robots....we do NOT want to confuse them by adding in something different...use what is being taught in the classroom. Help the students by scaffolding and cueing them to things that are needed in a story: characters, setting, events, ect.
  • The rules were:
    • they had to use the title the picture came with
    • they had to incorporate the picture's caption in their story
  • The next session we discussed the parts of a story: Beginning, Middle and End and what each entails. I use stories I know the kids KNOW and know well....movies are also good examples to help students understand Characters, Setting, Initiating Events, Problems, Attempts at solving the Problem, Resolution and Feelings.
  • Then we move on to actually writing out the I said, I used this as a semester long activity. Rome was not built in a day, neither are good stories!
  • By the end of the semester the students should have a completed short story. Their reward?? Well, you read them the actual story that belongs to each picture ... where do you find these alleged stories you ask?? Well in the recently published book The Chronicles of Harris Burdick ... fourteen well known authors each wrote a short story to accompany each picture.
I know there are so many more activities you can do with these books, if you have an idea please share! I just love the illustrations and imagination Chris Van Allsburg has!

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