By Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Get to know McDuff:
McDuff is a scrappy terrier who is lucky enough to escape from the dogcatcher and find a home with Fred and Lucy at number seven Elm Road. The McDuff stories offer readers adventures with new neighbors, an escape, and a new baby. Children will feel like they have a friend of their own while they learn to read with one of children’s literatures most darling dogs.
About the illustrations:
Susan Jeffers has created an historical setting that makes readers feel like they just moved in next door. The beautiful palette and the vivid depiction of emotion are just two of the elements that draw children into the stories. Ask children whether this story is set in present times or somewhere in the past or future, and then make them give examples as to why they know this to be true. This critical analysis of the illustrations will also help tune-in readers before you get started.
Sight words and McDuff
Create a McDuff board game using any of the generic ones available on the net (or create your own). Make a stack of sight words that you want to reinforce with your students and if you like add trivia from the McDuff books like: who are McDuff’s owners? What is his favorite treat? What color is McDuff? Where does he live? Around the gameboard add details from the stories too like the four streets: Main Street, Pine Street, Oak and Elm. Also include a few chance squares like: McDuff gets lost, lose a turn or McDuff Saves the Day, extra roll or McDuff chases a rabbit move ahead three spaces. Students pick up a sight word and if they read it correctly (and/or spell it correctly) then they can roll the dice or spin. More difficult sight words can be added as needed, or for students who are already proficient more challenging stacks can be created.
McDuff Moves In
Ready to read:
What is a dog pound or shelter? Have you ever been to one? What are they like? How do animals end up in a pound? What can people do to help these animals?
What does it take to own a pet? Make a clock face out of construction paper and then add pictures near the hour of what your pet will need. For example, at 7:00 put a picture of walking the dog.
Rosemary Wells always uses strong, descriptive verbs to bring her stories to life. Review with your students what a verb does in a story and then reread McDuff Moves In. As you go along have students raise their hands when they hear a verb. Next, as a class brainstorm a list of other verbs that McDuff might do. Or, take your students out to recess five minutes early and have them take notes of what actions (or verbs) the other classes are doing. Then, write at least five sentences using those words.
Where did Fred and Lucy get McDuff’s name? Tell the story of how you came up with your own pet’s name. Don’t have a pet? Make up an imaginary one and name him.
Find out from your parents how they decided upon your name. Write it down and illustrate it.
Sing this song to the tune “The Farmer in the Dell”
Love your pet today
Love your pet today
Give him food and water and love
Then take him out to play!
McDuff and the Baby
Starting the story:
Look at McDuff’s face. Does he look happy? How do you think he feels? Have you ever had a new baby in your house? What was it like?
Every day in every way:
McDuff is happy “every day in every way.” List the things that make McDuff happy. What types of things make your pet happy? What types of things make you happy? What would be a perfect day for you and your pet?
McDuff never speaks aloud, but he doesn’t have to- his face shows exactly what he is thinking and feeling. Let students write the dialogue McDuff would say if he only could! These can be written on post-it notes and left in the book for kids to read independently too.
McDuff loves to hear the comics read aloud to him. Have students bring in their favorite comics to share with one another. Then, have students create their own comics about a topic they think would cheer up McDuff.
Sing this song to the tune of “Rockabye Baby”
McDuff likes to walk the trails in the park
and listen to radio, just after dark
feed him some pudding for a treat
and he will love baby just as sweet.
McDuff Comes Home
Starting the Story:
Look at the front cover what do you think McDuff has been doing? Have you ever had a pet run away or get lost? What did you do?
One of the fabulous things about the way Rosemary Wells writes is that she knows how to wake up the senses! Read through the story once, and then read it again, but this time have students point to their eyes, ears, nose, mouth or palm to indicate a part that appeals to each sense. Or, create a chart listing the same and sort phrases under the correct sense.
Then, have students brainstorm things that would go in each list from school, home, and other locations.
Make a lost poster for McDuff. Describe him under the portrait including what he looks like and what he might be doing. Be sure to include information about his home and who they should contact if he’s found.
Make up the dialogue between Fred and Lucy when they realize that McDuff is missing. What do you think they say to each other? What do they decide to do? Act the scene out in small groups.
What season is it? How do you know? Make a poster split into four sections (for the seasons) and have students offer clues to how they came up with the setting. Do this for the other McDuff books too.
McDuff Goes to School:
Starting the story:
What’s exciting about starting school? What’s scary? What kinds of things might McDuff learn in school?
How do Fred and Lucy make new friends with the neighbors? What could you do for a new neighbor to make them feel welcome? Brainstorm a list of things that you’d like to tell a new student to the area about fun places to go and great places to eat.
McDuff learns to understand French! Learn these common phrases in French:
Please= s'il vous plait
Thank you= merci
You’re welcome= de rien
Good-bye= Au revoir
My name is= Je m’appelle
Marie Antoinette is not allowed on the furniture at her house. McDuff always sits with Lucy and Fred on the couch at home to listen to the radio. How do you know what the rules are at someone else’s house? How do you keep out of trouble? How do you help your friends know the rules at your house? Make a list of rules that you have to follow at home. Illustrate them and then post them on an inconspicuous door. Share with your friends if you need to.
McDuff Saves the Day
Ready to Read:
How can someone “save the day?” What does that mean? Can you think of some examples?
Fourth of July:
How does your family celebrate the Fourth of July? Where do you go? What do you see? Hear? See? Eat? What is your favorite part? What do you think McDuff will do?
Write a story about your own family’s Fourth of July celebrations. Be sure to include many details and use at least three of your five senses to tell the story. Use the answers to the previous questions to get you started.
What things do Lucy and Fred bring for the baby? Why is it important to bring so much stuff? As a class, brainstorm a list of items you should bring for the following events: a picnic, a day at the beach, afternoon at the park, camping or spending the night with a friend. For an extension, have students rate the items to pack from most important to least important.
Create firework art! Drip acrylic paint onto paper and then blow the drops into a starburst pattern using a common straw. To add vibrant dimension to the project use neon paints on black paper.
Make up your mind
McDuff can’t get comfortable in the front or the back seats. One way people make up their minds is to create a pro/con list. What are the pros and cons of each place McDuff wants to be? Write (or draw) a pro/con list about something you’re trying to decide on for yourself. For example: whether to play soccer again, to go swimming or to the park, what to buy with birthday money.
McDuff’s Wild Romp
Ready to read:
Do cats and dogs always fight? What kinds of things can happen when they get together? Why don’t they tend to like each other?
Give me Similes!
Rosemary Wells is a master at using similes effectively. Reread McDuff’s wild romp and find examples of them. Then, have students write their own similes based off these examples:
The wind blew like ______.
The snow looked like ____________.
The coat felt like _______________.
See if they can come up with more of their own by observing other kids on the playground, at gym, or in art class.
Cause and Effect:
Each thing that happens in McDuff’s Wild Romp causes something else to follow. Make a list of each plot point and have students say what the effect of that action was. You can use this information to create a chart, or have students create their own by drawing pictures to go with the text.
After reading the story with the children, ask them the following questions:
What will happen next? What makes you think so?
Who do you think will get in the most trouble? Why?
Will they be invited back again to Aunt Frieda’s house? Why?
Will McDuff be allowed to go back again? What will the do next time if he is?