Tuesday, August 20, 2013

There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer - Teaching Ideas

There was once a nightmare in a boys closet. The boy was afraid of this nightmare, until the day he shot him with his toy gun. After being shot the nightmare cried and cried and the boy didn't know what to do. He finally tucked the nightmare into bed with him, but not before he shut the closet door...just in case.

This is such a wonderful story and Mercer Mayer draws the best monsters! Your students will certainly be able to identify with the boy in the story, and more than likely have stories to share about what they are afraid of in their room when the lights go out.

Below are a list of reading skills, strategies and ideas you can use to extend your read aloud. I have also created a "My Nightmare" freebie for you to use after sharing this classic.

Reading level: 3.4
Theme/subject: bedtime, confronting fears
Genre: fiction

Suggested Vocabulary/phrases: nightmare, creeping

Reading skills and strategies:
  • Asking questions - {possible questions before} I wonder what a nightmare is. I wonder why the nightmare is in the closet.  {possible questions during} I wonder why his mom and dad are not helping to get rid of the nightmare. I wonder what the nightmare was going to do in the boys room. {possible questions after} I wonder if they boy is going to be afraid of the other nightmares anymore.  **Remember to have your students answer/reflect their questions.
  • Author's point of view – First. Be sure to find 3 pieces of evidence to support this (I, my).
  • Author's purpose - Entertain {evidence} The boy went to bed with his toy gun and his army helmet. The nightmare was not very scary looking. It was sad when the nightmare was crying. All these things make a very entertaining story.
  • Beginning, middle, end - {most important event from beginning} The boy closed his closet door before going to bed. {most important event from middle} The nightmare started to cry when he got shot. {most important event from end} The little boy let the nightmare sleep with him.
  • Cause and effect – Why did the boy close his closet? So the nightmare wouldn’t come out. Why wouldn’t the boy look behind him? Because he was afraid of what he might see.  Why did the boy have a toy gun and army helmet in bed? So he could protect himself from the nightmare. Why did the nightmare start to cry? Because the boy shot him. Why did the boy bring the nightmare to bed with him? Because he was crying. Why did the boy close the closet door at the end of the story? Because the nightmare was afraid there might be a nightmare in the closet.
  • Character analysis - describe the boy. Describe the nightmare. {looks like, feelings, thoughts, character}
  • Character changes – at the beginning of the book the boy was afraid of the nightmare in his closet. At the end of the story the boy was no longer afraid of the nightmare.
  • Compare & contrast – Your nightmare and the boy’s nightmare.
  • Connections - {possible text-to-self connections} being afraid of something in your closet. Wanting to take something to bed to help protect you.
  • Drawing conclusions & inferencing – Why did the nightmare go to sleep with one eye open? {text clues} the nightmare pointed to the closet when he was in bed and looked scared. The nightmare smiled when the boy closed the closet door. {what I know} The boy was afraid of a nightmare in the closet and felt a little better when the closet door closed.  {my conclusion} I think the nightmare fell asleep with one eye open because he was afraid of a nightmare in the closet.
  • Main idea & details - {main idea} The story is mostly about the nightmare in the closet. {details} the boy went to bed with a toy gun and an army helmet to protect him from the nightmare. The nightmare came out of the closet and the boy scared him.
  • Plot - the turning point or climax in the story was when the boy shot the nightmare.
  • Predict – What do you think the story is about? Do you think there is a nightmare in the closet? What do you think the nightmare will look like? What do you think the nightmare will do when he sees the boy? What do you think the boy will do to the crying nightmare? Do you think another nightmare will come out of the closet?
  • Problem & solution - {problem} The boy was afraid of the nightmare in his closet.  {solution} the little boy went to bed with a toy gun and an army helmet to help protect him.
  • Sequencing – The little boy closed his closet door. In bed the boy would sometimes peek. The nightmare came creeping out. The boy shot the nightmare. The nightmare started crying. The boy brought the nightmare to bed to help him stop crying. The boy tucked the nightmare into bed. The boy closed the closet door. The boy and the nightmare fell asleep.
  • Story elements - list title, author, characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, or problem & solution.
  • Strong thought – The boy went to bed with a toy gun and an army helmet to keep him safe from the nightmare in the closet. What do you do or your parents do at night to make you feel safe?
  • Theme – sometimes what you are most afraid of is more afraid of you.
  • Visualize – What does your nightmare look like?
You can pick this up from either one of my stores.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
 Happy planning!


  1. I have to tell you that I just found your blog and simply love your book reviews with the strategies and skills that could possibly be used. Keep up the good work!

  2. These are great papers to use with the book! Thanks for sharing at Manic Monday!

  3. I have always loved this Mercer Mayer story. Such a cute writing idea!


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