Educators' Guides for Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker
HARDCOVER ISBN 13: 978-1-935179-07-8
LEXILE LEVEL: BR
GUIDED READING LEVEL: H
LEXILE LEVEL: BR
GUIDED READING LEVEL: H
|Before Reading|| Prior to class, reproduce multiple copies of the activity sheet if you wish to
have students use it for more than one stage of the writing process (see below).
Start the lesson by reviewing the concepts of “beginning, middle, and end” by
having students sort the events in a real-life anecdote (a brief incident) into each
category. Point out that good nonfiction narratives typically have beginnings that
introduce a challenge or problem, a middle section in which people take action
in response to it, and an ending that provides a successful, or unsuccessful,
resolution. Call attention to how we use temporal transition words (next, finally)
when recounting anecdotes, and how they help listeners/readers understand the
order of events. Have students brainstorm for such words, and list them on the
|During Reading||Read The Toy Breaker aloud to students. Pause once or twice to have students
reflect and share incidents from their lives that are similar to the story’s events:
Were other kids ever hesitant to let you play? Have you ever broken a toy or had
a toy broken? Also be sure to explain the formal elements of comics as needed
and how they’re used to convey certain types of information: panels, word
balloons, sound effects, thought bubbles, etc. Ask students how transition words
that indicate sequential or chronological order (then, later) help readers follow
events in any story, whether in prose, comics, or delivered orally. Please note
that while The Toy Breaker does not feature caption boxes, a device with which
students may be familiar, it does make effective use of temporal words within
word balloons (e.g., pp. 16 and 20).
|After Reading||Revisit the 3-panel sequence on p. 25. Ask students to describe the problem in the first panel (Bo
is stuck in the fence), the actions taken in response (Benny and Penny pull him, Melina pushes
him), and the ending that resolves it (Bo is freed). Discuss how this basic model of three key
actions or scenes can be used for other incidents, even much more involved ones. Then invite
students to summarize verbally The Toy Breaker’s plot in three panels that signal a beginning,
middle, and end. (Possible response: Bo steals Penny’s monkey; Monkey rips; Bo apologizes to
Penny.) Then, perhaps in small discussion groups, encourage students to respond to the story
by recalling similar incidents in their lives, guiding them to choose incidents with minimal
complexity. (Examples: bully does something mean, teacher is told, bullying ends; toy breaks,
Dad fixes, toy can be played with again.) Consider modeling the following format for them: “One
time, I _______. THEN ________. LATER __________.” Prompt volunteers to use these or
other transition words gathered during pre-reading as they briefly summarize their anecdotes to
the group in three distinct stages. Stress that the goal is to capture an incident’s main points, not
all its narrative details.
Distribute the activity sheet, clarifying that the boxes are comics panels. Inside the Beginning, Middle, and End panels, students should depict the corresponding sections of their personal narratives. Tell students that they will make comic strips that serve as both illustrations of their anecdotes and visual prompts for more detailed oral presentations of them.
Explain that cartoonists generally create comics in three stages. “Breakdowns” are so named because they break down a story into its basic visuals much like an outline does during prewriting. Essential for spatial planning, they help creators block out the placement of important figures and objects in each panel to ensure that there is adequate space for word balloons and other text fields. (Sound effects—see The Toy Breaker pp. 14, 20, 25—are quite popular with young writers.) Model this practice with stick figures, and then have students sketch their own breakdowns on the activity sheet (if you opted to print multiple copies for each student) or as “thumbnails” on scrap paper. Text can be drafted at this point, added directly into the breakdowns to see if it fits. The pencil stage fleshes out these rough sketches into detailed drawings and includes the lettering of text into balloons, bubbles, and captions; if errors are made, they can still be erased and corrected. At the final stage, penciled art and text is made permanent. You can photocopy the pencils so that the original is preserved, with students applying ink and color as a form of publishing, or have them trace over their original pencils directly.
Finally, have students narrate their comic strips orally. Coach them to provide background for their anecdote and to clarify the strip details in a panel-by-panel manner, including transition words where appropriate.