Sam & Nate by PJ Sarah Collins (Orca, 2005) is a humorous story of two young boys at school and their friendship as it grows through a year of change. With letters, notebook scraps, and miscommunications along the way, the boys learn more about themselves, the ups and downs of being twins, working with others, and helping the new teacher. The book contains six stories, each packed with grade 2/3 Science, Language Arts, and Health and Career Education (Personal Planning) curriculum.
“It is always a pleasure to read a story that skilfully takes the reader into the heart of a working classroom… As a former teacher, I laughed throughout the story, recognizing that much of the humour – while funny to adults – will be found authentic to young readers… Social interactions, friendship, loss, and perseverance are all themes that can be found in this dramatic little window into school life in the elementary grades.”
By David Ward, author of The Hockey Tree, Escape the Mask (series), Archipelago. [Resource Links, Volume 10, Number 5 (June, 2005)]
Teaching Ideas: Curriculum Connections
1) Pre-Reading Idea:
Using the strategy of Think-Pair-Share, have students reflect on where they
have met their closest friends. How did they become friends? Was it an easy
process or a bumpy one? Have students brainstorm what qualities make up a satisfying friendship. How important is being able to work through misunderstandings with your friends? (Sam and Nate started their friendship with a fight! Sam and Nate, Chapter 1).
2) Discussion Questions:
a) Who are all the people in your school community? How many people help Mr. Tangent in Sam and Nate Chapter 5?
b) Is taking a vote the best way for a group to decide what to study? What are some
other ways / strategies groups can make decisions together? (See Chapter 2).
c) Describe the personality differences between the two main characters Sam and Nate.
(Even though Sam and Nate are trying to be twins in Chapter 3, it is also the part of the book where they are least like each other).
d) Mr. Tangent used to teach high school before he taught Sam and Nate’s class.
What do you imagine it will be like when you go to high school?
e) Sam and Nate encounter communication problems, bossy kids, and separation anxiety at school. What are good strategies for solving problems with others?
3) Suggested Activities:
a) Create a Quiz Show, much like Mrs. Licorice does in Chapter 4. Make questions from whatever unit you are studying and put them on index cards. Divide the class into two teams. Then set up a grid like Tic-Tac-Toe on the blackboard. Each team wins a spot as “X” or “O” when they successfully answer a question together. If a team wins three spots in a row, they win!
b) Have students write a Days-of-the-Week story that includes a problem and a solution. “On Monday… On Tuesday….” (In Sam and Nate, Chapters 1, 2, and 4 are set up that way.)
c) Read Sam and Nate, Chapter 2, to launch a group research unit about animals. (Sam’s group: Dinosaurs, page 18) (Nate’s group: Monkeys, page 19-20)
d) Study the most fascinating mammals on the planet: whales! In Chapter 4, Sam and Nate measure out a Blue Whale in the hallway and create a habitat diorama, among other things. Why not dive right in and do the same?
e) Rock your classroom like Sam and Nate do in Chapter 3! If you’re hesitant to teach your own music class, check out one of the inclusive musical packages below – both are sure to be a bit hit on whatever scale you use them.
Helpful Resources to Accompany Sam and Nate:
www.musicfirstexpress.com Check out the musical package Celebrate You and Me – Helping Kids Build Self-Esteem by Roger Emerson. It contains the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T that Mrs. Licorice used for her students in Sam and Nate, Chap. 3.
www.musicfirstexpress.com Another fun musical for primaries is Dinostars! by John Jacobson and Mark Brymer. Great classroom fun for Jurassic lovers like Sam and Nate!
Jeffrey and Sloth by Kari-Lynn Winters and Ben Hodson (Orca, 2007). This is a great picture book for exploring issues of power / powerlessness and helping students to solve
their own problems (see Sam and Nate, Chapter 2).
Don’t let Mr. Tangent teach your weather unit (Sam and Nate, Chapter 6). Get ideas from the pros at www.theweatherchannelkids.com/weather.
Check out my favorite toy company at www.melissaanddoug.com. They have an affordable and adorable wooden mailbox for your classroom (or you could just make your own with a box). Either way, kids just love mail! (Sam and Nate, chapter 1).