Book of the Week: Big, Bad, and a Little Bit Scary

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Big, Bad, and a Little Bit Scary, by Wade Zahares

We have two copies of this book, in case you want to develop a team lesson around it. It’s guided reading level P, so it’d be perfect to use as a formative assessment for end-of-3rd-grade standards (Federal Way 3rd graders should be at an instructional level of O-P by June).

Each poem is by a different author, and at least three of the poems meet the cognitive rigor detailed in Common Core Appendix A. I’ve copied “The Alligator,” “The Eel,” and “The Barracuda” into a document for your shared reading pleasure.

"Fall is Flying By"

On an unrelated note, you should definitely take a look at Zahares’ website, which includes a pretty impressive body of work. If I had unlimited funds, I’d get this print for our classroom. They feel like super-color-charged versions of art deco era WPA posters.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:


  • Check for understanding. Remind students that although many of the poems are short, it’s still important to pause and make sure they fully understand what was read. One reason this is particularly important is the use of figurative language. If a student reads too quickly and is somewhat familiar with the animal featured, they may assume some qualities, such as “They’ll strip off your flesh like you’d skin a banana” (from Dick King-Smith’s “Strippers”) can be taken literally.
  • Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text. November’s literacy focus of the month at Wildwood is author’s purpose, so I’ve been a bit fixated on this skill lately. Each of the poems (particularly the three I shared in the link above) are written in a distinctly different style, each of which seems influenced by the animal that’s the subject of the poems. Talk about the word choice, rhyming patterns, and phrase length in each of the three poems. How did the author’s choices change the mood of each poem?

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!