Teaching Vocabulary Skills with a “Top Secret” Picture Book

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups, by David Wisniewski, is an attention-grabbing picture book that middle grade kids will love to read on their own.  It would also be a good choice for a mentor lesson about writing with parts of speech and vivid vocabulary.

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups is about those rules we all teach our kids when we tell them to drink their milk, comb their hair, or not play with their food.  This picture book lets kids in on the big secret – the real reasons why grown-ups want them to do these things.

Using The Secret Knowledge

Lots of illustrations, a variety of text features, and the funny exaggerations in the text make this book appealing to the middle grade age range.

One thing that makes it easy to use for a lesson in class is that the book is divided into short sections, about four pages each.  You can choose one section to read to the class and use with a lesson,  and then recommend the rest of the book for kids to check out on their own.

I’ll choose the “Eat your Vegetables” section as an example.  Grown-ups tell kids to eat their vegetables because they are good for you.  This story tells kids the real truth.  We must eat as many vegetables as we possibly can to keep them under control!  After all, no one wants to go back to the Age of Vegetables when man-eating veggies ruled the earth!  Kids learn that the discovery of fire is what finally brought these predatory green under control, because with that discovery, cave men could finally “cook their leafy foes.”

For the Vocabulary Lesson?  

  • Interesting adjective-noun combinations – “leafy foes,” “saber-toothed asparagus”
  • Active verbs – these vegetables “stomped,” roamed,” “stalked,” and “terrorized”
  • All eight parts of speech
  • Introductory phrases and clauses – sentence structures that keeps the story moving along
  • Transition words – “eventually,” “the real turning point”
  • Alliteration – “predatory potatoes,” “vanquished vegetables”
  • Humor in word choice – “(the) celery stalked”

These are just a few examples.  After you read The Secret Knowledge, I’m sure you will have your own favorite parts to use as mentor text with your class.  If you have a good idea to add, leave it as a comment below.

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