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Lesson Plans for Shortcut by Donald Crews

This lesson plan is designed to read the book aloud to kindergarten or first grade students.


During a summer visit to their grandmotherís house, five siblings decide to take the shortcut home by walking on the railroad tracks. They get stuck on the tracks with a freight train coming. Sound words in the book are a chance to introduce onomatopoeia.


Students will be able to:
  • Discuss the importance of following directions

  • Make and confirm predictions

  • Define term onomatopoeia and identify examples of it in text

  • Make text-to-self connections

  • Discuss foreshadowing

  • Discuss stragegies good readers use when reading
  • Work in pairs collaboratively


Materials needed for this lesson plan include:

  • A copy of Shortcut by Donald Crews

  • Chart paper and markers or chalkboard and chalk

  • Illustrative (story) paper for each student

  • Crayons and pencils for each student


Before Reading:

  • Discuss classroom rules. Why do we have these rules? Discuss how rules keep people safe.

  • Discuss that we are going to read a book by Donald Crews. If the students have already heard Bigmama's, ask what they remember about that story. Talk about the fact that the family is riding on a train. In this story, there is a train, too. There are also train tracks.

  • What kind of noise does a train make? When a word sounds like the sound it makes, the word is called onomatopoeia. Have students repeat this term three times.

  • Have students give other examples of onomatopoeia and write these examples on chart paper. If needed, prompt students to provide sounds that animals make.

  • Take a picture walk through the book to page with "Whoo-Whoo" in left corner. Ask how the children are acting on the tracks. Ask it there is probably a rule about not walking on the tracks. Why would there be a rule about this?

  • Talk about how the pictures "foreshadow" that something dangerous is happening. Explain the term "foreshadowing."

During Reading:

  • After reading first page, ask "I wonder" question: I wonder why they decided to take the shortcut home.

  • After reading next page, point out that the book answers the "I wonder" question. Mention that good readers ask questions in their heads when they are reading.

  • After reading, "We should have taken the road," on the next page, point out that this is foreshadowing.
    • Does the shortcut sound like a good idea?
    • Do you think everything is going to be okay?
    • What do you think might happen? Record class consensus and 3 predictions on chart paper.

  • I wonder why they are clowning around on the tracks.

  • Point out words that sound like sounds - onomatopoeia. Have students help "read" the sound "klakity-klak-klak-klak."

  • Why do you think the siblings are so quiet walking home? Why do you think they didn't tell Bigmama or Mama?

After Reading:

  • Point out consensus as to if everyone will be safe and the predictions recorded. Were we correct? Where in the story do we find out if we are right or wrong? Have class help find the page. Point out that good readers also check their thoughts.

  • Are adults being mean when they make rules? How does the story help you understand why rules are so important?

  • Discuss how we asked "I wonder" questions while reading. Explain again that this is something good readers do. However, the answers aren't always in the book. But not finding the answers is okay because it gives us something to think about after we have read the book.

  • Has anything scary ever happened to you? Discuss using three or four examples from class.

  • Explain that students will be given the chance to draw a picture of a time when they were scared and try to write a sentence about it.

  • Distribute illustrative paper, crayons, and pencils.

  • Encourage inventive spelling, and alloow students to dictate to teacher or aide as needed. Strongly encourage students to try and when rules of phonics are used, exclaim at how easy it is to read because the student is using these rules.

  • Students who finish early can choose another Donald Crews book from class library or can choose a book from leveld book browsing boxes.

  • After about ten minutes, have students pick a partner with whom they wish to share their pictures and stories. Explain that each person will have one minute to explain his or her picture, and then the partner will have the opportunity.

  • Time students and assure transitions to other partner occur.

  • Ask three students to share their partner's story.

  • Discuss that good readers pay attention to other people's stories and praise efforts to tell their partner's story.


  • Student participation in classroom discussion. Are students able to make predictions about story? Can they confirm if predictions are correct?

  • Following directions. Are students able to complete the activity and take turns?

  • Teacher observation. Can students discuss vocabulary words and use them properly?

  • Text-to-self connections as recorded by students.


  • Bigmama's
  • Carousel
  • Parade
  • School Bus
  • Flying
  • Bicycle Race
  • Ten Black Dots
  • Parade
  • Harbor
  • Truck

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