Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Widow's Broom - Text Dependent Questioning


It is I, Gary, from ScrappyGuy Designs.    The month is October, the leaves are falling, the moon is full in the inky darkness above. Perfect timing for a spooky tale!

I love this time of year. In Atlanta the mornings are cooler as I walk to work, yet on the way home the jacket is off as I sweat my way back. Halloween is my second favorite holiday, right next to Christmas. I think it has something to do with my upbringing. My family loves horror movies and we often have competitions to see who can bring the scariest ones to watch whenever we get together.

I've learned to tone down the graphic and gore in my teaching, but I still love the spine-tingle. That is why I love sharing The Widow's Broom by Chris van Allsburg with my students.

I could go on and on about the amazing artwork presented in a sepia pointillism that does incredible things with light and shadows. The sense of movement is absolutely palpable in various illustrations. Such as this one:

But that's not my focus for today's lesson. It's about the spooky tale woven by Mr. van Allsburg about a shy, lonely widow who discovers an injured witch in her garden one morning. She helps the witch in her recovery. The witch disappears as quickly as she arrived, but she leaves one thing behind.

Her broom.

Thus begins the tale of Widow Shaw and her relationship with a magical item. My students love discussing this book. Especially the meanness to the broom instigated by the Spivey neighbors. Watch out for van Allsburg dog, Fritz, to make an appearance!

My school does a lot of work with Text Dependent Questioning. 'Common Core expects students to use evidence from texts to present careful analyses, well-defended claims, and clear information. A central tool to help students develop these skills is text-dependent questions: questions that can only be answered by referring back to the text.' (

I've got a spooky treat for you. Here's a preview of the questions I ask my students about this book.

I've also put some of the questions together on a net of a cube that you can cut out and glue together to make a dice for students to work together in a group to answer the questions. You can click on either picture and it will take you to the downloaded materials for your records.

Your students will have fun rolling the dice and discussing their impressions of the book using evidence from the text to prove their points.

Hopefully you will have fun this October watching your kids enjoy this book. Definitely check out Chris van Allsburg's other titles. There's always more than meets the eye!