Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Picture Book Month: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The story goes that a mysterious man, "Harris Burdick" dropped off some illustrations with a Boston publisher over 25 years ago and promised to return with the accompanying stories. Mr. Burdick was never heard from again. Chris Van Allsburg's book shares these somewhat dark and mysterious illustrations with the original captions, leaving the reader to fill in the story.

What it looks like in the Middle: (Thanks Shawna)
Hundreds of school children have written  short stories for these illustrations, and 14 authors just published their own stories for these illustrations, but in the middle, our students treasure group work and drama, so this is a great book to do just that.

Students are shown one illustration on the elmo to study closely and then they're given the caption. As a class we brainstorm what could have happened 2 seconds before and 2 seconds after this illustration. I try to choose one that will bring out a lot of discussion, but not so juicy that it limits the ones I use for the group work.

In smaller groups, they are given just one illustration with the caption. They talk about what they think is going on and what happened 2 seconds before or 2 seconds after. Once they get an idea, they come up with their tableau where they become the picture 2 seconds before or after.
From Miller & Tysen's musical "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick"
The other students get to see the illustration and the frozen tableau and they talk about what they see and get to "tap" characters (their classmates who are either animate or inanimate objects) and ask questions to try and understand what the group's story is about.

Individually, the students can then write a caption for their new piece, write a lead, write a 5 minute story, etc. - depending on what we're working on.

There's a really funny video on Amazon that interviews some of the 14 authors about their take on Harris Burdick. Too hilarious.

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