Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh, How I Love Mr. George Baker!

Do you know Mr. George Baker?  To know him is to love him.

This is one of my favorite picture books.  It's about a man who is 100 years old and just learning to read.  He rides the bus to school with Harry, his 7 year old neighbor who is also learning to read.  They become good friends. It's a great book with an almost musical text. 

You will love Mr. George Baker and his friend Harry.

One of the reasons I love this book is because of how short yet strong it is.  Picture books are not usually simple, easy books.  They are often many pages with a good deal of text.  It can make it difficult when you want to do a mini-lesson with a book that doesn't take forever read.  I also like to read the entire picture book if I can, as opposed to just a few pages for the lesson.  That's what makes this book perfect.  It's a fairly short read with simple text, yet it carries a powerful message and can be used for so many lessons.  I love books that apply themselves to a variety of lessons! 

By the way, if you aren't using your picture books for multiple lessons, give it a try.  For example, I use Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters on and off all year.  It's another strong picture book that applies to many lessons.  However, it can be a long read in one sitting.  The boon is that once you have read the book, you can use it in future lessons reading only the parts that apply.  Your friends already know the full text, so they will be on board.  Not only does this make your mini-lessons more concise, the repeated exposure to the text will really be helpful to your friends.  You will find that the more you use the book, the more they will take away from it each time.  It's also important to revisit familiar texts for your lower students.  They really need the repeated exposure to sort of imprint the text in their heads so that they can begin to really focus on applying the strategies.  That's my Quick Tip!

Okay, time to get back on topic! 
If this were a writing lesson, wouldn't you totally be
telling me that last paragraph is off topic! :-D 

Here are a couple of ways I use Mr. George Baker in my class.
  • Making Inferences - This is how I used it this week.  We made a chart of Mr. Baker's description, actions, and dialog.  Then, next to it we made an inference for each section.  At the bottom of the chart, we combined them all in to a character sketch.   My friends knew from his physical description that he takes pride in how he looks.  They knew from his actions that he is a patient, kind, talented, and intelligent man.  They knew from his dialog that he has a sense of humor and values education.  This is all derived from some fairly simple text.  Save this chart because you can use it in the Show Not Tell lesson below.
  • Show Not Tell - In writing, I'm always trying to get my friends to show through action rather than just tell.  This is great to do after you're done the reading lesson on inferences.  It's also where revisiting a text pays off.  We've already read the book, so we can really focus on the author's craft.  I will bring out the chart of the inferences we made and ask how we knew all those things about Mr. Baker considering the author never really said any of that.  On the chart side that lists his description, actions, and dialog, we've already identified how the author shows instead of tells.
There are other lessons you can do with this book, but those are two of my favorites.  If you want to have a look-see, I found the Reading Rainbow episode where they read this book on You Tube.  Yup, it was a Reading Rainbow book.  If that's not a good recommendation, I don't know what is!  I've embedded it below.  The actual book reading runs from about minute 1:40 to 7:00, a little over five minutes. 


See, I'll bet you also love Mr. George Baker now!


  1. Just checked out this book from my public library! Love your lesson ideas. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my 4th graders tomorrow.

  2. Can you provide a copy of the inferencing chart to download and print?