Teacher Reflections for
The Last Basselope: One Ferocious Story by Berkeley Breathed
After reading the picture book The Last Basselope: One Ferocious Story (1992) by Berkeley Breathed I knew it would be one great book for others to read or to listen to as a read aloud.
However, the teacher part of my brain wanted to know what the listeners or readers would get out of it. What they would take away from the experience and hopefully desire to respond to so that I might be able to facilitate a deeper understanding.
I thought of imagination, creativity, visualization, dialogue, story telling, and story elements. I rattled through the story elements, plot, characterization, setting, tone, style, theme, and point of view. Any or all could be a possibility.
I didn't think much more about it, until I selected the story to read aloud in a classroom. As I did I thought I would need something to grab the students' attention and focus it on the story for them to really get into it.
I took a poster and drew the characters. I decided to place one character in a less obvious position and included both names for one character. I put each name on its own small piece of poster board. Before reading I planned to ask the students to guess the names of the characters. After they discussed each, I would clip each above the character that was agreed upon or close to characters they thought it might be. The picture below shows the poster, the labels with the names of the characters, the title of the book, and author's name.
I did as planned and the suggestions the students had were interesting and helped them become familiar with the names and encouraged them to listen and find which character was which. For some it might have focused them more on that than the story, but later I realized the story could be read more than once for different reasons.
One interesting thing that happened after reading was the discussion about the characters. Students did want to talk about each character and the role they had in the story.
One interesting idea that emerged was, who was the main character?
Most thought it was Opus and some thought Rosebud, The Last Basselope. The conversation continued with ideas from the book that supported what characteristics each thought a main character should have.
Support for Opus included: he organized the search, located Rosebud, made friends with Rosebud, helped with the escape, and was with Rosebud at the end.
Support for Rosebud included being in the story from the beginning to the end, the title of the book referred to Rosebud, he made a friend, and he was in the book at end.
Either way the discussion was good and the students were eager for me or their teacher to tell them which was the main character. I wouldn't or couldn't and neither would their teacher suggest one more than the other. We believed that what each student thought was important to them should be the deciding factor. We felt it was most important for us not to devalue their thinking as it might lessen their transaction and response to the story and reading in general.
Overall the students enjoyed the book and requested I leave it so they could reread it. They reviewed their ideas on characterization and what a main character might be. They used references from the book and ideas of story elements to support their claims. They also saw other students and adults, along with them, have an enjoyable transaction with a quality picture book and enjoy sharing their reposes to it. It was a planned activity, however it was planned to empower students to enjoy and think critically about a story. I believe it achieved that.
Years later I created an electronic version of the activity and recorded the story so that educators and others could participate on line.