Monday, February 16, 2015

Teaching With Props: The Story Souvenir Suitcase

After two months of no snow, we finally got a full fledged snowstorm coming our way!  
I get a chance to catch my breath and catch up on a blogpost. 
I have blogged before about this book by Dave Burgess.  It is my "go to" book for those times in the year when I feel my energy and enthusiasm waning (like right about now). 
I read it and then suddenly I feel the need to go teach somebody something somewhere. 
It's delightfully inspiring and such an easy, fun read.  Plus it's pirate you can imagine you are out in the south Pacific somewhere....

More recently, he and his wife have collaborated on this fabulous picture book for teachers. 
 Do you have a student teacher?  Get them this book, it would make a great gift. 
Super adorable.

Product Details

Dave Burgess writes about the importance of engagement.  He makes a point of  using hooks and props to capture students' attention. This year I brought out a hook from my long ago preschool teaching days...

The Story Souvenir Suitcase.  

I used to fill it with little props related to a theme or story we were getting ready to read.  
This year I decided to dust it off and use it with my third graders. They are not too old for this kind of stuff...they eat it up. 
Much to my delight it did just what I intended it to. 
It grabbed them by their little brains and got them to attend, listen and even better than that,
 it got them to THINK. 

Here is my suitcase. 
 It is actually my husband's father's suitcase. It is a bit beat up and even smells old and musty.   All part of the intrigue, it lured them in from the get go.  I introduced them to the idea of the story souvenir suitcase at the very beginning of the year when we were just starting to share books together. We talked about how cool it is to read a book, how you can get lost in it, how books can take you somewhere else for a while. To this day, someone will comment on how they felt like they  "left the room" during our book nook time - like they were in the book. Isn't that what we want reading to be for our kids.  
Then I told them that I had a wonderful book to share with them and that inside the suitcase were souvenirs from the story....items that would give them clues as to who they might meet in the story (characters), where they might go (setting) and what might happen (plot).
I popped open the suitcase to reveal the book and we talked about what we could predict from the title and cover illustration.  Then I pulled out each item and students shared predictions about how each item might show up in the story and why it may be important. 

This was my Stuart Goes to School Suitcase.  Souvenirs from this story included... a cape, ties, a toy school bus, a barrette, a muffin and a boys pass.  
Students had all kinds of predictions and questions regarding these items and they were all tuned it to the reading to find out the answers.  They got super excited when the souvenir showed up in the story. 

The suitcase also works fabulously for a nonfiction book. 
 We were reading a story about fossil fuels and the suitcase was filled with pictures, items and words related to this nonfiction text. 

I am big into getting students to set a purpose for reading through the use of questions. 
Before reading, we ask questions and then predict what the answers may be. 
We always reflect back on the answers we got from reading the text. 
This question lead poster is used for both reading and writing. 

Want to hear more ideas of props to use to engage your learners? 
Check back....maybe we'll get lots of snow!

Want the story suitcase sign?
Email me:

Now I'd love to hear your prop and student engagement ideas.....