Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Jon Agee - April 19

Happy Birthday Jon Agee - April 19

When I was a special education teacher, I had my students spend a small part of each language arts class "working with words".  Students would manipulate letter cards to make words and then rearrange them to find new words.  It was a quick way to focus on word patterns and isolate the sounds we had been studying.  This week my children and I "worked with words" in some hilarious new ways by investigating books by Jon Agee.  We learned about:

- Palindromes (words or phrases spelled the same forward and backward, i.e. Sit on a Potato Pan Otis),
- Anagrams (rearranging letters of a word or phrase to make a new word or phrase, i.e. Elvis Lives),
- Oxymorons (a contradictory phrase, i.e. Jumbo Shrimp), and
- Spoonerisms (initial sounds of words are switched, i.e. Smart Feller, Fart Smeller.

These word play concepts could have been fun all by themselves, but Jon Agee brings so much more with the illustrations that accompany each idea.  These illustrations helped my children understand the word play concepts and got them very excited about words!  By far, our favorite word play concept was palindromes.  Jon Agee described his introduction to palindromes in the video interview posted below, "I was at a restaurant with a friend and he drew in my little notebook some palindromes.  I thought I can do a better palindrome than he can.  So, I started to do one, then another, then another.  I couldn't even read a book without wanting to turn words into palindromes."

We read two of Agee's palindrome books Palindromania and Sit On a Potato Pan, Otis: More Palindromes.  He also has two others, Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and So Many Dynamos.  I was trying to think of a way for my children to interact with Agee's palindromes.  I remembered a while back when I first mentioned palindromes to my daughter.  We were at the grocery store and I challenged her to find one.  She was able to find "Bob" on a Bob Evans breakfast sausage package and "S.O.S." on the cleaning pads box.  My first thought was to reenact that trip to the grocery store.  But, I continued to think while playing with a slinky my children had just received in a goodie bag from a birthday party.  I thought it be cool if I could get Agee's palindromes to move like a slinky.  So, I came up with the Palindrome Accordion to demonstrate the forward and backward spelling of one of Agee's palindromes in Palindromania:



How To Make the Paper Palindrome Accordion:

I used a large piece of construction paper, folded in fourths, and then cut the strips.
I taped the strips together and then folded the paper into an accordion using directions from Kids At Art.com
I then wrote a letter on each tile vertically.  I added 2 geese illustrations because I had extra tiles.
I also color coded the letters in my palindrome - the first and last letter were the same color and so on.
This week is National Turn Off Your TV Week (April 18-24, 2011).  I hear that in many households, it has been expanded to "no screens" too. Many of Jon Agee's books would provide your family with an evening of fun.  Last night, we spent well over 30 minutes reading Orangutan Tongs: Poems to Tangle Your Tongue.  We took turns reading the tongue twisting poems.  We laughed at each other when the words came out all wrong.  It was a blast trying to say some the more complex sentences three times fast. I think my daughter was best at reading the poems, but my son wins the award for the best laugh!  Click Here to Listen to the Orangutan Tongs song by the Promise Makers (from Jon Agee's website).



Jon Agee has many Picture Books too.  We recommend:



Links:

1. Jon Agee's Website - 20 Questions Interview
2. Author Spotlight - Reading My Library
3. Jon Agee Biography - Answers.com, Macmillan
4. Birthday Source - BTSB, Children's Book A Day Almanac, School Library Monthly, Children's Lit


Jon Agee interview - March 2, 2011 from Regina Ziffer on Vimeo.

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