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A Chair For My Mother

A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Reading Level: 2    Read Aloud Level: 2
Topic(s): family

TeacherView by Christina Camarena
Grades taught: 2-4
Franklin Elementary School
East Chicago, Indiana USA

The Review
This Caldecott Honor book shows love and family loyalty. After a fire destroys their home and possessions, Rosa, her waitress mother and grandmother save dimes and nickels until they can afford to buy a big comfortable chair that all three of them can enjoy.

The Activities
Missing Clues

Directions: After reading the story, look at the clues that are on the chart. Your mission is to provide the missing information. As a good detective, you must look at the information that is provided. Remember your details from the story. Have fun.

  1. drove the truck

  2. Josephine

  3. works as a waitress

  4. after school

  5. likes to hum

  6. will buy a chair

  7. thanked everyone

  8. took a long time to find her

  9. bought pizza

  10. old man

  11. Sally
Journal Writing
  1. As your students are reading the story, have them keep a 'feelings journal.' Have them write each new character's name in their journal. Next, have them make two columns: MINE/THEIRS. As the children are reading the story, have them write their feelings down. Then have them write what the characters in the book were feeling. The children will then compare their feelings to the character's feelings.

  2. Have the children take the place of the little girl. Now get their thoughts moving in the direction of the fire. Have them imagine what she felt when she returned home to find everything burnt. What material possessions do they own that means a lot to them? Have them write about this. Even your young children can relate to this. My youngest daughter was only two when our house burned down. She missed her "nite - nite" or blanket. My seven year old missed her trophies. Both of them were made to realize what value to place or not to place on material possessions. Have your children write about how they would feel to find that their grandmother and cat were safe.

  3. Have the children look around their classroom or bedroom. What would they miss the most, if there was a fire?

  4. Ask the children, why do you think the little girl only puts half her money in the jar? Have them write about what she does with the other half.

  5. Have your children look at the pictures of the different types of chairs. Have them pick one that they would buy for their mother. Have them write about why they would pick that one.
Creative Writing
  1. Pretend that you have a chair that is very old. Have your children write a story, titled, IF THAT CHAIR COULD TALK .... Have your child imagine what that chair would say when Fluffy the cat used it as a scratching post. What about when brother Billy wasn't potty trained or when Aunt Bertha tried to sit in it? If that chair could talk, it would probably have some pretty humorous stories.

  2. Momma said that there was no place for her to take a load off her feet. Have your children write about what was on her feet? This would be a great opportunity for a lesson on figurative language. Give your students some figurative sayings. Have them illustrate the actual words. Next, have them explain what they really mean. Here are a few examples.
  1. "I laughed until I split my sides."

  2. "I will clean the house, when the cows come home."

  3. "He is knee high to a grasshopper."

  4. "She talks a blue streak."

  5. "She talked my ears off."

  6. "Reach out and touch somebody."

  7. "... paint the town red."

  8. "He has me over a barrel."


  1. $Money, money, and more money$: Give your children copies of the different coins. Have a game to see who can come up with the most combinations to equal one dollar. Give them the following chart to get them on their way.

    A dollar is ....
    2 Half dollars equals one dollar
    4 Quarters equals one dollar
    10 Dimes equal one dollar
    20 Nickels equals one dollar
    100 Pennies equals one dollar

    You may want to give the children these examples.

    1. _____ quarters = $1.00
    2. _____ dimes + _____nickels = $1.00
    3. _____ half dollars + quarters = $1.00
    4. _____ pennies = $1.00
    5. _____ pennies + _____ nickels + _____ dimes = $1.00

TeacherView by Carmen Talavera
Grades taught: 5-6
Craig Williams Elementary School
Lakewood, California USA

The Review
This is the story of a young girl, her mother, her grandmother, and a very large jar. The girl lives with her mother and grandmother. One day their house burns down. Everything inside burns as well. They move into a new apartment, but it is empty. This new home is also missing one very important thing--a big, fat, comfortable chair. The mother needs a place to rest her feet when she comes home from work, the grandmother needs a place to sit back and hum--it isn't easy to get comfortable in a hard kitchen chair. The mother brings home the biggest jar she can find from work, and everyone begins to put all of their change into the jar so they can buy a big, fat, comfortable, wonderful chair.

The Activities

  • Students can write about what they would buy with a jar full of coins. How much money would there be? Would it be a gift for someone else or for yourself?

  • Students could draw a picture of their dream house and write about it.

  • In the story it takes the family a while to save up for the chair. Is there anything you've ever saved up to buy? What was it?

  • Read these other books by Vera B. Williams:
    Something Special for Me
    Music, Music for Everyone
    Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe
    The Great Watermelon Birthday
TeacherView by Laura Hoyler
Grade taught: 3
Dominion Trail ELementary School
Ashburn, Virginia USA

The Review
A Chair for My Mother is a wonderful story about a girl, her mother, and her grandmother, who suffer a great loss when their house catches on fire. Now they save every coin they have in a large glass jar, so that one day they can buy a new easy chair, so that Mama and Grandma can be comfortable after a long day. Finally the jar is full, and they buy the chair they are dreaming of! This is a wonderful story of saving and determination, and of never giving up!

The Activity
After reading the book, discuss what it would feel like to lose everything you had. Talk about things that would be the hardest to lose and things that would make you really sad. Talk about saving for something you want, and how sometimes it can take a very long time! Ask the children if they have ever saved their money for something.

Next, provide each child with a large paper jar. Provide coin rubber stamps and have them "fill" their jar with the coins. Now ask the children to write about what they will buy with their full jars. Display the jars and stories in the hallway!

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