Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Relatives Came ~ Lesson Ideas { A Must Read Mentor Text}

Hey there!

How are you?  We are crazy busy getting ready for our first week of school.  We have meet the teacher day tomorrow and then the first day of school on Wednesday.  I do not feel at all ready.  But I know that it will all come together and be just fine...right?

I am here today to share a book that I think is so sweet and many can make a connection to.

I want to talk about The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant.  Don't  you just love Cynthia Rylant's books?  I do...  :O)

So, there are many reasons that I love this book.  I love it because I can completely relate, for one.  I live in Georgia.  All of my extended family lives in Ohio.  My parents moved down when I was only one year old, so I've never had my extended family close by.  Every year, we'd travel to Ohio to see them.  I can remember that feeling like it was yesterday, and it was so fun to go see them each year.  It's so much like this book.  It brings up so many memories and happy feelings when I read it!

It's a big possibility that our students have had similar experiences like this, too.  Even if they didn't have to travel so far, they can probably relate to seeing family after having not seen them for a long time.  Hopefully, they can drum up some of those same happy and loving memories!

The other reason I love this book is the way that Cynthia Rylant really describes the setting and how she takes the small moment of the relatives arrival and really makes it come to life!

I think one of the hardest things for students in their writing is to really describe the setting of a story.  I love how Cynthia Rylant describes it here.  You can see that on the very first page she says "They left when their grapes were nearly purple enough to pick, but not quite."

What does that mean?  It would definitely spark some conversation...luckily it tells us in the first sentence that it was summer.  But, she didn't leave it at just that...she described it by comparing it to the grapes!

Again, the way that Cynthia describes the setting provides the opportunity to discuss different ways to use your senses to build a picture in the reader's eye of the setting.  It says, "They had an old station wagon that smelled like a real car."  It makes me wonder exactly what that means?  I know what a new car smells like.  I can smell it right now...can you?  She could have just said they have a new car...but she didn't...I love that about her!

Also, it begs the question, if the narrator thinks they have a "real car," what kind of car does the narrator's family have?  So, in other words, this book isn't just a great model for writing, it also is great in reading too!

I could really go on and on here, but I will spare you.  I just really love the way that she describes the setting using senses.  And, that she takes the small moment of relatives arriving, and blows it up and makes a story out of it!!

I really think this is a great mentor text for modeling how great authors describe the setting using their senses so that their readers can visualize it and get inside the story!!  I think that students could try it in their own writing!  Especially, if they try by writing a story about a time that they traveled to visit relatives or when they came to visit them!

So, I whipped up a little graphic organizer that you can use with your students to help them use their senses to describe the setting in their own piece!

Just click on the picture and you can download it!
Clipart from Glitter Meets Glue and font by Cara Carroll
I hope this will be helpful to you!  I know it's simple, but sometimes simple is best!!
Have a great week!

(If you have never linked up before you can check HERE for more information.)

Next week's topic- Math


  1. I love this book too! I usually use it when I am going to teach setting in memoir writing, but while I was reading your post today you made me think about using it in a different way! LOVE that. My students write about what it is like to walk into our Middle School for the first time.. how they feel, what they see, smell, hope etc. I may use this book to show them how to describe their first day without actually saying "It was big because..." My better writers will get it, and it will be interesting to see who will take that leap early in our year.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

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  2. Cynthia Rylant books are very good books! I love the illustrations used in this book. Thanks for sharing.


  3. I love this book. I use it with my kiddos when we are talking about conclusions. It circles back to the beginning. Thanks for sharing how you use it!

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

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  5. That's such a great mentor text - especially when teaching any sort of narrative or memoir. I also used it as a text to show the passage of time. She never says "how long" in days, weeks, months, etc. but she shows it though little details like when the grapes were ready to harvest (or something similar -- I don't have my copy with me)... it's excellent for moving us through time without the 2 days later "stuff." My students really did well with that craft technique after we read the book!

    Sadly, we no longer write narratives in fifth grade but it's still a favorite on my shelf!

    My Shoe String Life
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  6. I use this book for personal memoir. I love that you focus so much on the setting-thanks for giving me a new way to use this book!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  7. Great suggestion. :) I have always loved this book and it is perfect to work on descriptive settings. I have never thought of using it this way! YAY! I love new inspiration.
    Creating Lifelong Learners
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  8. Excellent book suggestion- as always! Thank you for the freebie, too!
    Don't stress about back-to-school because it all DOES get done! I'm quite sure you ladies have it all under control anyway!! ;)
    Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

  9. I absolutely love this book! I use it when we talk about connections. I love how you pointed out how well the setting is described. I will now use it for setting as well!

    Thank you!


  10. Thanks for the awesome lesson idea and graphic organizer. I love the way you focus on setting and all the discussion points in the book. I can totally relate to this book since we were just the relatives that came to visit :) - this is perfect for the beginning of the year when I know a lot of my kiddos have done some visiting over the summer. Thanks for hosting an awesome linky and being awesome BBB's.

  11. Your blog is wonderful! Everything is adorable - love the polka dots and cute clipart! I'm speech-language pathologist and many of my students struggle with social-pragmatic language skills. This book would be a great way for me to introduce a sub-set of social skills that are needed for interacting with out-of-town relatives. The graphic organizer is perfect for my students who struggle with language formulation! Thanks for sharing the wonderful ideas!

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