Most students love reading super scary stories during October, and I must admit that I have given in and read some “school approved” scary stories. However, I recently found this really great book, The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg. This book fits right into the Halloween season, but also has some powerful lessons to teach the students about bullying and acceptance. This is a perfect Halloween read aloud for upper grades and perfect for sneaking in some rigorous reading skills. I will mention some of those reading skills in this post and feature them in the free activities that you can download at the bottom of this post. On another note, I am completely obssessed with Chris Van Allsburg’s books. They are perfect for upper elementary read alouds. Click here to read about one of his other books, The Sweetest Fig, and grab some free downloads for that book.
You can pick up a copy of the book at the link below. (This is an Amazon Affiliate Link.)
The book begins with a witch falling from the sky after her broom lost its magic. A widow, Minna Shaw, discovers the witch and welcomes her into her home to heal from her injuries. The witch soon leaves, leaving the broom behind. Minna discovers the broom still has some magic. The broom begins by sweeping constantly, but soon learns other helpful chores. The neighbors, the Spiveys, believe the broom is wicked and want it gone. After teasing the broom, the Spivey children are taught a lesson when the broom hits them on the head. Upset, the Spiveys storm to Minna’s house and insist that the broom be destroyed. Minna shows them where the broom is sleeping and allows the men to destroy the broom. Or does she? The ghost of the broom is soon seen teasing the Spiveys until they eventually move. At the end, the reader discovers that Minna tricked the Spiveys into burning an ordinary broom. She had painted her broom white to disguise it.
Discussing the Book:
This book can really lead to a powerful discussion about why the Spiveys disliked the broom so much when the broom had done nothing wrong. To begin this discussion, ask the students why they think the Spiveys are afraid of the broom. Guide the students into the understanding that they are afraid of the broom because they don’t understand it, and it is unusual to them. Ask the students if they have ever been afraid of someone or something they didn’t understand.
After discussing the motivation behind the Spivey’s disgust of the broom, discuss bullying and how the broom was bullied for being different and because the Spiveys were afraid of it. Compare the Spivey’s bullying of the broom to Minna’s acceptance. Neither character understood the broom and its magic, but their reactions were vastly different.
After discussing the bullying and the acceptance, tie this into the concept of theme. Have the students formulate sentences describing the theme of the story and the evidence from the story that supports that theme. Click here to read more about how I teach theme.
This book could really lead to several different writing prompts, depending on your focus. Here are a few:
- Think about a time you were bullied or you saw someone being bullied. How did you react? How did it make you feel?
- Choose an ordinary object from your home or the classroom. What would happen if the object suddenly came to life? How would you react to it? How would others react to it? Write a story about this object coming life.
- Compare and contrast the Spiveys and Minna Shaw.
Evidence Based Questions:
All of Chris Van Allsburg’s books are fabulous for teaching inferring and this is no exception. There are several evidence based questions that could be asked with this book. I chose 6 of my favorite questions that require the students to think about the details in the text in the free download.
Can you see why I love this book so much? This is the best “Halloween” themed book that I have found that the students enjoy and can have a pretty meaningful discussion about. Click on the link below to grab all the freebies shown in this post.
Want more Halloween ideas for upper elementary? Click here to read a huge post with lots of ideas for almost every subject.