The JGC/United Publishing Philosophy: Just because we found the world a certain way doesn't mean we have to leave it that way. Our goal is to help readers see beyond what is to what can be by opening minds and hearts with the power of imaginative literature. — John Gile, Editor & Publisher

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What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? — Teaching Aid
For Vocabulary Development, Conflict Resolution,
Reading Motivation, Creativity, Compassion, Cooperation

(You may find it convenient to print and keep this section for use with your students.)

Author John Gile calls What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? a "please interrupt me" book. It is designed with natural breaks to provide opportunities for you to explore important considerations with the children.

•"There was a time, long before we were born, when words and names were unknown, when people lived in caves and trees . . ."

The beginning of the book provides opportunities for you to explore the way life used to be and help the children realize they have powers to develop and a role to play in making life better for themselves and for future generations. You can stimulate their imaginations and convey some of your own family history by telling about the experiences of past generations in your own family, the strength they showed in overcoming their challenges and paving the way for you and the children. It's an opportunity to provide real life heroes and profiles in courage for the children. In your sharing with the children, you can help foster positive community spirit by helping them realize that everything they see around them — home, school, city, country — wasn't always here, that everything was built by people who had the power to imagine how life could be better and the courage to plan and work for the improvements we sometimes take for granted. You can use What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? to help the children understand that nothing happens until someone makes it happen — and that the reading and writing powers you are helping them develop are giving them the ability to make wonderful things happen for themselves and others, too.

•". . . Back then we spoke in grunts and groans . . ."

You can use this section of the book to cultivate language awareness and to foster a love for words. You can make it personal for the children by talking with them about their own language experiences. When they were babies, all they could do was make noises and point if they wanted something. Maybe they have little brothers and sisters or cousins or babies in the neighborhood and can talk about how how those babies can't do anything but cry for food or a diaper change or when they are uncomfortable. You can help them become interested in language by exploring how much better and easier life is when we develop our communication skills and can use words to express what we want or need and to understand what others are trying to tell us.

•". . . But then we learned that building fires could make the dark night bright . . ."

You can use this section of the book to talk with the children about inventions and progress, about the powers of imagination that are stimulated by reading and expanded by writing. Be sure to take advantage of the lyrical writing and rhyming patterns in the book, including the internal rhyming. As you share the story, stop reading and let the children guess what the rhyming word will be in some of the lines. Also call attention to the word play such as ". . . and warm us in the beastly cold and put wild beasts to flight. . ." This is an opportunity to talk about word families and roots which can help us understand what a word means even if we've never encountered it before.

•". . . More changes came . . . made a wheel . . . make homes better, but nothing compares with the changes that came when someone carved the first letter . . ."

Now the central focus is on written words and opens up for you a world of ideas to explore with the children. Think of all the power the written word has given us. Through the written word, we can call on the experience and wisdom of past generations. We can learn about any subject that interests us. We can tell our own story and pass along to future generations what we have learned.

•". . . Words took form and gave us power . . ."

You can use this section of What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? to bring in reading heroes such as Helen Keller and Frederick Douglass. You can tell inspiring stories about the role of reading in your own life and the lives of entire cultures. For example, you can draw on our Native American history and tell the story of Chief Sequoyah. Convinced that a system of writing would help the Cherokees grow in knowledge and better cope with changing life in North America, he created a writing system that led to Cherokee books and newspapers for his people. You might also refer to the giant redwoods named in honor of him and his achievements and use those magnificent evergreens as a connection between What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? and its caring about others connection in The First Forest where the heroes are the evergreens.

•". . . What if, today, we lost words we say? Nothing would be the same. . ."

This is where the laughter starts. Just as Oh, How I Wished I Could Read! provides laughs and gasps in the adventures and mishaps encountered in the character's dream about not being able to read, What Is That Thing? Whose Stuff Is This? takes you and your children on a rollicking tour of life in a world without word power. You can take advantage of this opportunity to focus on words and language by sharing from your own experiences with word power and why words are important to you — and by inviting the children to do the same. The story's mix of practical and far-fetched illustrations of word power helps the children understand the important role of words in their lives. It stimulates their imaginations to enlarge their understanding and provide lifelong motivation to develop word power through reading.

•". . . We need words to understand others and help others understand us . . ."

You can use this part of the book to help the children become more sensitive and thoughtful in their use of words. It's important to have a large vocabulary, but it's equally important to think about how we use words. The good words we say to each other can build healthy esteem and happy communities. Harmful words can destroy lives and create misery. This part of the book is especially important because it relates to the conflict resolution theme which is central to John Gile's writing and his programs.

•". . . Words give us power to learn and to grow . . . We've come a long way . . ."

As you approach the end of the story, you can use the examples from the book as a launching pad for the children to come up with their own examples of what they and others have used words to do — and what their word power is going to help them do in the future.

•". . . Quietly, steadily, word power grows . . ."

Now that we've explored the wonderful world of words and created a hunger for word power, it's time to share the "secret" of how to make word power grow: "It's growing whenever we look in a book and make time and take time to read."

Good News For Teachers And Principals

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Copyright 2009 by JGC/United Publishing, 815.968.6601. All rights reserved. Revised: January 21, 2010