How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Mark Teague - Teaching Ideas

One of my favorite books to read at the beginning of the school year. It is a fun book to read because of the rhyming and the pictures are so vivid. I like to use this book as an example of how exciting a story could be when you use your imagination. I will usually have my kids add some imagination into their own story about what they did for summer vacation. When done they read their story to the class and we all guess what parts are true and what parts they made up. It is a lot of fun and makes the writing process "not so boring". 

Along with the writing there are plenty of reading skills and strategies that work great with this book. I have included a FREE story element activity that can be used with this book after reading. Not only can you use it with the book but your students can fill it out as a starting point for their own story - who are their characters, what is their setting and what was the problem and how was it solved.

Reading level: 2.5
Theme: Imagination
Genre: Humorous Fiction

Suggested Vocabulary: westbound, plains, wrangler, cowhand, stampede, matador, buckaroo

Reading skills and strategies:
  • asking questions - {possible questions before} Did the cowboy save the boy? {possible questions during} Was Wallace afraid when he was taken by the cowboys? Is Wallace ever going to get to his aunts house? Why did all the cowboys hide when the cows were stampeding?  {possible questions after} Is that what Wallace really did for summer vacation? Why can Wallace hardly wait for summer vacation?
  • author's point of view - First person point of view. Wallace Bleff, the main character is telling the story.
  • author's purpose -  entertain {evidence} The story is told in rhyme. The illustrator drew a phone booth in the middle of the desert. The story about being taken by cowboys is all made up, Wallace's imagination. All these things are silly which make an entertaining story.
  • beginning, middle, end - {most important event from beginning} Wallace was take by a bunch of cowboys. {most important event from middle} Wallace learned some cowboy tricks - roping, riding, and making fire with sticks. {most important event from end} Wallace saved everyone at the picnic from the stampeding cattle.
  • cause and effect - Why was Wallace telling this story? because he had to write a story about how he spent his summer vacation. Why was Wallace captured by cowboys? because they needed a new cowboy, the last one quit. Why did Wallace write to Aunt Fern? so she wouldn't worry. Why did Aunt Fern call? because the round up was over and she was having a barbecue.  Why did the cowboys hide behind a tree at the barbeque? because a stampede of cows was coming. Why did Wallace grab the red tablecloth? because he used it like a matador would to scare the stampede of cows away.
  • characterization - describe Wallace {looks like, feelings, thoughts, character}
  • compare & contrast - your summer to Wallace's summer
  • connections - {possible text-to-self connections} Riding a horse. Visiting family during the summer. Having to write a story at school about what you did this summer.
  • drawing conclusions & inferencing - Do you think the teacher believes Wallaces story? {text clues}Throughout the story the teacher keeps looking at Wallace like she is not quite believing Wallace's story. {my conclusion} I don't think Wallace's teacher believe all of Wallace's story.
  • plot - the turning point or climax in the story is when the round up was done and Aunt Fern called and invited everyone over for a barbeque.
  • predict - What do you think the cowboys are going to do with Wallace?  The story say's "there is more to being a cowboy than boots and a hat..." what do you think that means? Why do you think all the cowboys hid behind the tree instead of trying to stop the cows from stampeding? What do you think Wallace is going to bring in for show and tell?
  • problem & solution - There are a number of  "problems" in this story, here are a few you can talk about. 1. {problem} Wallace had to write "another" story about how he spent his summer vacation. {solution} Instead of making it a boring story Wallace used his imagination and wrote an exciting tale about his summer vacation. 2. {problem} Wallace was taken by cowboys and couldn't get to his aunts house. {solution} He decided to help the cowboys and wrote his aunt a letter so she wouldn't worry. 3. {problem} There was a stampede of cows at the barbeque. {solution} Wallace grabbed a red tablecloth and used it like a matador to scare the cows away.
  • sequencing - Wallace headed out west to visit his aunt. Wallace was captured by cowboys. The cattle boss asked Wallace to help them and Wallace said yes. Wallace wrote to his aunt so she wouldn't worry. Wallace was given new cowboy clothes. He learned to rope, ride and make fire with sticks. Aunt Fern called with the roundup was over and invited everyone to a barbeque. They ate delicious food and listened to music. Someone yelled "They're gonna stampede!". Wallace grabbed a red tablecloth and used it like a matador to scare the cattle away. All the cowboys cheered because Wallace was a true buckaroo.
  • story elements - list title, author, character's, setting, beginning, middle, end, or problem & solution. 
  • summarize - {someone} Wallace's parents {wanted} wanted him to visit his aunt {but} he got captured by cowboys who asked him to help. {so} So he got some new clothes and learned some new cowboy tricks.  {then} When the roundup was all finished Wallace's aunt called and invited them all to a barbeque. {finally} At the barbeque there was a stampede and Wallace saved the day!


I have also created a True False Comprehension Game to be used after reading this book.

Happy teaching!


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  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I love incorporating picture books into my lessons with my class. I am your newest follower and would love for you to check out my blog and follow me as well! :)

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  3. This is a great resource for my upcoming read aloud on this book! Thank you (I've pinned it!)

    Mindful Rambles


Thoughts and comments are always welcome!