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 obsessed 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 here. (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.
How to Download the Free Printables
To download the freebies for The Widow’s Broom, click on the image below. Be sure to also visit my post about The Spider and the Fly and Hallowilloween read alouds and grab more freebies.
Nicole Shelby says
I love these activity sheets! They will be perfect as a reading center. Thank you so much for creating these and sharing! ~Nicole
Hi Jennifer, I was so excited to see your post on The Witch’s Broom–one of my all time favorite books! I tried to download the papers for it but was denied access through GoogleDocs. Would you be willing to grant access?
Jennifer Findley says
Oops, I had the sharing settings wrong on the link. It should be fixed now! Thanks for letting me know!
Ooops! The Widow’s Broom! I haven’t had my coffee yet 😉
May I have google drive access?
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Mary, I think I have it fixed now. Try the link again. Thanks!
Read Aloud Dad says
I love The Witches’ Broom and all of Chris Van Allsburg’s books! My twins adore them!
You are right – they are fabulous for teaching inferring.
Read Aloud Dad
Chris VanAllsburg is always a good choice. This looks awesome!
Thanks for opening up the link access! I am super excited to work on this with my class. Perfect timing for the upcoming holiday. Your response was super quick and appreciated. Keep up the great work!
Thank you so much for sharing. I am a big fan of Chris Van Allsburg. I will definitely use this book and your activities come Halloween week.
I’m only able to open one sheet – the three text based questions. How can I access the others?
Thank you for this.
Jennifer Findley says
Hi Colleen, the sheets are in the same file as the text-based questions. They are on the other pages in the download (7 pages in all). Let me know if you still have problems finding them.
Linda Marie says
Thank you so much for posting these work sheets. I am doing a study on the artwork and stories of Chris Van Allsburg as an activity with my senior residents, some of whom have dementia, at the nursing home where I work. These questions are very helpful as guides for discussion, especially for some residents who fall back into bulling mode with each other, Do you have other work sheets you created for Chris Van Allsburg’s books?
Is this book appropriate for 3rd grade? Thanks
Monica Galvan says
Thanks! I always read this book to my 3rd graders at halloween time! Thanks for this great resource!!!