Rufus the Writer: Math, Literacy, & Art Book Activities

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Rufus the Writer, a most charming children's book written by Elizabeth Bram and illustrated by Chuck Groenink will delight readers of young ages (and I dare say, the older reader as well) with its whimsical ideas!  Like Rufus, readers will want to also ditch the lemonade stand for a story writing stand, and with the following activities, students will get a chance to do just that and more!  

The story's main character, Rufus, decides to set up a story-writing stand!  Watch as Rufus' friends all line up for one of his engaging tales.  Rufus' stories are so imaginative, that you will find yourself giggling as you read them out loud!  He writes stories about colors (that also teach kids that red and yellow make orange), 

and writes about a ridiculously large sum of money that will get kids wondering, "just how much is a million, anyway?"

and even writes about an entire town of buttons (that has buttons on the buttons on the buttons on the buttons!).  Along with the reading of this beautiful book, your students will have the opportunity to write a story about math, watch an audio adaptation of children's storybooks by David M. Schwartz explaining "How Much is a Million?", make and play their very button dice toss math game, and create whimsical painted trees with buttons for leaves!  

1. Math Story Writing

After reading the story, reread the first story Rufus wrote about the colors red and orange to the students.  Discuss with students how Rufus might have come up with the idea of Red and Yellow having a baby named Orange, and what other math concepts that they can write about, such as:  shapes, numbers, mathematical operations like addition and subtraction, symmetry, etc.  Invite students to write a short story of their own, just like Rufus!  We made ours super simple using just half sheets of typing paper stapled together.  You can go as simple or as elaborate as you like!  

2. "How Much is a Million?" Audio/Video Storybook Adaptation

In the story, Rufus the Writer, Rufus spins a tale of a boy who found a whole bunch of money.  When no one claims it, he ends up spending 1 million dollars to buy a cat.  Discuss with students if they think 1 million dollars is a reasonable amount of money to pay for a cat, then watch the following two storybook adaptations together to fuel more discussion.  How Much is a Million, is a delightful story written by David M. Schwartz and adapted to audio/video by Weston Woods Studios, Inc.  David M. Schwartz also wrote, If You Made a Million.  Both books tackle the difficult job of explaining just how much a million is worth.   

3.  "Make-Your-Own" Button Math Game: Dice Toss 

Students get to be math game creators with this simple, but effective math game.  With just poster board, washi tape, a sharpie marker, a die and a handful of buttons, kids will love performing mathematical operations when they have made the game board themselves! What I especially love about this game, is that you can tailor the game to suit the wide range of mathematical abilities in your classroom.  Kids can use their game boards to either add or multiply, or for more advanced children, they can even multiply 3 numbers together!   Click here for complete directions and details.  

You can also use flat marbles instead of buttons!

4.  Button Tree Art Project

You will speak right to the heart of your students when you break out the paint pallets and brushes!  With a thin, black marker, draw a simple tree on cardboard, chipboard, or foam board.  As an alternative, simply give each student this PDF tree template printed out onto heavy cardstock.  Students paint their trees, and then glue on the buttons to represent either leaves or fruit.  These colorful trees will add just the right splash of bright colors to your walls!  To give students a bit more math practice, try telling students that they can only have a certain amount of buttons.  For example:  "Please take your age and add 5 to it.  That is the number of buttons you need to glue onto your tree!"  

Combining other disciplines with children's literature is a wonderful way to connect learning in the classroom and help students feel confident.  Children's stories give students a springboard to learn deeper and learn in more meaningful ways.  Please feel free to share your fun with Rufus the Writer in the comments section below!