Summary of the Book
"The Secret Shortcut" by Mark Teague is an imaginative tale of two friends who are always late for school. They decide to take a shortcut, and it takes them on quite an adventure. They walk through the jungle, and encounter pirates and even crocodiles. Their adventures gets them to school on time… but they are covered in mud! The illustrations cover the page, edge to edge, and are colorful and engaging. They definitely add to the intrigue and help take readers along on the boys' adventure.
Make a Map
Ask students to imagine that they too are continuously late for school. Have them make a map of their own secret shortcut from home to school. Have students choose a fun theme for their map. It could be a sports theme, candy, jungle, or anything else that interests them. They should include a key to show any pictures or labels that they will include on their shortcut. It should have five adventurous stops along the way, each of which is related to their map's theme. These stops should be well thought out since they will then be used to write a story about their short cut. They should then color their map as a final step.
Write the Story
The students will now write a story about their own shortcut. Each of the five stops from their map will be made into a paragraph. They should also write an introductory paragraph explaining why they needed to develop a shortcut, and a concluding paragraph to explain if the shortcut worked. Because of the nature of the story, have students brainstorm some transition words that they can use in their story. Write them on a piece of chart paper that can remain posted and visible during the writing and editing process.
Once they are done writing, have students go through and circle their transition words. The goal is to use at least one transition work in each paragraph. They can then either self edit or peer edit their stories, and then rewrite a final draft. When they share their stories with the class, have them hang up their map while they read their adventure. The challenge is to see if the story follows the path of the map!