Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Strega Nona

My class is in the thick of our study of one of my favorite authors, Tomie Depaola! Although Tomie has written so many great books, in my opinion he is most well known for his Strega Nona stories.

For those of you who don't know the story (shame on you!), it is based upon another folktale called The Magic Porridge Pot. Tomie was inspired by this folktale, and reworked it with an Italian twist! The first thing we did as a class was read both stories. Then we created venn diagrams to compare the two stories.

In Strega Nona, we are introduced to the goofy, clumsy Big Anthony, who comes to help Strega Nona take care of her house. When Big Anthony sees Strega Nona cast a spell over the pasta pot, he cannot wait for her to leave so he can try to use it himself! In the story Strega Nona's Magic Lessons, Big Anthony gets himself into even MORE trouble because of his actions. I thought that this story would be a perfect way to reintroduce understanding cause and effect. I had the students complete a graphic organizer to highlight what the effects of Big Anthony's decisions are in the story.

The third Strega Nona story I read to the class was Strega Nona: Her Story. This story is the prequel to Strega Nona. The kids loved seeing Strega Nona as a little girl and learning how she grew up to be the Strega Nona that they know from the original story. In this particular story, Tomie uses a lot of Italian words and phrases. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity for a foreign language lesson! 

We first created a list of the words we heard in the story:


Then, the kids got a mini-dictionary that they had to fill out. The students had a lot of fun combining the different words to create fun Italian phrases!


Since there is molto pasta in Strega Nona, I wanted to incorporate that somehow into a fun activity. I decided to try "pasta punctuation". I wrote out sentences from the story without any punctuation. With pieces of pasta (penne, macaroni, and shells), students had to place the pasta where there should be punctuation:



When they finished adding the pasta, they had to write down the sentence with punctuation on a sheet of paper:


This was a great way for students to think about quotations, apostrophes, and commas. Many students struggled with where to put the punctuation at the end of a quote. We talked about how if the character is saying STOP with excitement, the excitement is contained in the quote, so the end quotation marks should be after the exclamation point! 

To celebrate the end of this portion of the author study, our class put on a wonderful reader's theater of the original Strega Nona for our school's Friday assembly.  We worked hard creating fabulous sets and props for the show!






And of course, we needed the magic pasta pot:





The audience loved it, and the kids were so proud of themselves!

We will next be traveling from Italy (Tomie's father's side) to Ireland (Tomie's mother's side). Tomie has written some hilarious Irish folktales that I cannot wait to share! Slainte!

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