Amelia Bedelia is the lovable, literal-minded housekeeper who always seems to be getting it wrong in the book series of the same name. When she hears instructions like "make a sponge cake," she makes a cake with real sponges. Her fumbling offers a great opportunity to teach students about idioms and other turns of phrase. Students can also study the stories to learn about character development, plot and other narrative elements. The books in the series are suitable for first- and second-graders.
The character Amelia Bedelia has a very distinctive look. Read the story aloud -- without showing students the pictures of the title character -- and ask students to listen closely for descriptive words. Ask them to jot down notes or create sketches as you read. After hearing the story, students should then draw a portrait of what they think Amelia Bedelia looks like. Students should draw things that show off her personality as well, such as her holding a spoon because she likes to cook or holding a book because she likes to read. The activity encourages students to listen closely and to analyze a story for character description and development.
Amelia Bedelia's misunderstanding of language is at the core of her stories. Present students with a "chore table" that includes three columns: Amelia's chore as it is told to her, what Amelia actually does and what Amelia should have done. Ask students to fill in the chart while you read the story aloud with each of Amelia's chores and what she actually does. After the story is finished, ask students to fill in the final column about what Amelia should have done. Have students explain what they think is the correct meaning of the idioms that Amelia Bedelia misunderstood. Many students may not have known these phrases before either, so the exercise is an opportunity to teach the meanings of some common idioms, as well as to explore the function that these kinds of phrases play in language.
Identifying Cause and Effect
Identifying cause and effect in the story helps students deepen their understanding of plot and how all the elements have to work together for the narrative. After reading the story, ask students to identify some things that happened in the book, such as that Amelia Bedelia was left alone with the baby or fed her a bottle. Ask students what the effect of each action was; for example, the baby started to cry because she was alone with Amelia but stopped crying because she received a bottle. Through this activity, students will understand how events influence each other in the narrative and influence character development.
Role-playing helps students better understand characters, including their motivations and their personalities. Lead a game where students take turns pretending to be Amelia. Read an instruction, such as, "Add a pinch of salt to the mixture," and ask students to act it out the way they think that Amelia would do it. The class can then talk about what the phrase in question really means and why they think Amelia would have acted in the way the students portrayed. The exercise reinforces understanding of idioms and deepens understanding of character development.
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