Productive and Critical Thinking

with A Series of Unfortunate Events
by Lemony Snicket, HarperCollins, 2002 Activities ©2007 Nancy Polette

About The Series
The chronicles of the three Baudelaire orphans are set forth in a series of books, each containing thirteen chapters. From the very first book where the children receive the terrible news of their parents’ deaths, continuing through the entire series, disaster lurks at their heels.

1. A Whole Brain At Work!
Characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events represent four different thinking strengths. Match each character with the kind of thinking he or she does best. Thinker? Organizer? Responder? Creator? Violet, Klaus, Sunny, Count Olaf

2. Introduce the series with Readers’Theatre Booktalks.
The Bad Beginning
Violet, Klaus and Sunny are orphans/ and heirs to an enormous fortune/ left to them by their deceased parents. They are/ placed in the home of a distant relative, Count Olaf,/ a mean and dishonorable man. / The children are given one bed so two/ have to sleep on the floor./ Meals are meager/ and the work they are forced to do/ is hard./ When the orphans discover that the only thing Count Olaf wants is their fortune, they/ want to leave./ The Count, however/ has other plans./ He suspends Sunny in a bird cage above the tower/ and threatens to harm Sunny if Violet/ refuses to marry him./ In that way, as her husband, he/ can control the fortune./ Violet, / tries to rescue Sunny but is captured as well./ Count Olaf’s troupe of players guards the children so that they/ cannot communicate with others or escape. /While the orphans are plucky and resourceful,/ and it seems that Count Olaf/ will be victorious,/ they do survive their series of misadventures/ only to find more trouble./ All: If you want a book with a happy ending, don’t read The Bad Beginning!

3. Topic Talking:
Before reading, students speak on three topics related to the series.

4. Topic Focusing:
Guess the answers to these questions about hurricanes.
A. What is the top speed of winds in the center of a hurricane? ____ miles per hour.
B. The usual speed of the hurricane’s outer winds is _____ miles per hour.
C. The highest speed of hurricane’s outer winds can be _____ miles per hour.
D. How many people drowned in the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas.______

4. Literary vs. Factual Account
Choose One: wind, waves, shore
Tell what it reminds you of.
Tell what it does that a person does. Tell where.
EX: The waves were clawing fingers reaching for the shore.

Use all words in one row in an excuse they give Mr. Poe as to why the orphans can’t live in Count Olaf’s house.
-misfortune -intelligent -despair -resources -mansion
-mysterious -frightening -thieves -meditate -delicious
-participate -orphans -perish -guardian -tolerated
-grotesque -inhuman -troupe -dilemma -notorious
-dilapidated -revolting -poison -despicable -recuperate

6. Word Game:
Combine a noun and an adjective. Define!
-Fickle -Wicked -Beach -Mansion
-Rancorous -Grotesque -Whirlpool -Carnival
-Vile -Ersatz -Garden -Sailboat
-Odorous -Miserable -Lighthouse -Mill
-Sneaky -Louse -Cafe -Lane
-Sinister -Grimy -Lumbermill -Hospital

7. The Start and the Finish.
Fill in the missing action.
A. They were making their way toward shore,
B. Then the children watched in horror.
C. “Where can we get help in the middle of a lake?” Klaus asked.

8. How many allusions can you identify?
Baudelaire, Virginia Wolfsnake, Beatrice, Mr. Poe, Georgina Orwell, Prufrock Prep, Principal Nero, Coach Genghis, Kafka Cafe, Plath Pass, Auguste Dupin, Isadora & Duncan, the Birds, Hugo & Colette, Ahab Memorial Hospital.

9. Improvisation
Using a large trash bag, pantomime an object related to one of the characters. The audience is to guess the character.

10. Two Word Story:
Six players tell a story two words at a time. Title: “The Dirty Dungeon.”

11. Problem Solving:
How can the orphans get Aunt Josephine to leave the cave (where she feels safe) and confront Count Olaf?

12. Skills from the Text
A. Nouns, adjectives, prepositions 5 cents each
Verbs, pronouns 10 cents each
Adverbs 20 cents each A, An, The=0
How much is this sentence worth?
Violet climbed rapidly to the top of the tower.
Write a 75 cent sentence about Klaus.
B. Re-write these sentences keeping the meaning but not using any word containing the letter I.
The house on the cliff had a wide window.
Violet wore a ribbon to begin inventing.

13. Fluency: Name many things that are:
A. As sinister as Count Olaf.
B. As irritating as a bad cough.
C. As brave as a girl kissing a snake.

14. Research Reporting Patterns
A. Acrostic: Olaf’s companions in looked physically different from others. Create an acrostic or a bio poem about Mickey Carroll or Robert Wadlow, physically different people who achieved success.
B. The Mystery Report
Violet liked to invent things. Find 10 facts about an inventor. List your facts in random order. These are clues. One of your clues must be a “give away” clue. Play the Mystery Game.
C. The Good and Bad Report
Thomas Edison was born in 1847. When Tom was seven his father got a job in Michigan and Tom entered school there.
That was good!
No, it was bad because his teachers thought he was dull. He dropped out of school in third grade.
That was bad!
Well, not really. He became a voracious reader and at age ten set up a laboratory in his basement…..
D. Fact and Fiction Book: Make a statement about an inventor on one page. Support or deny the statement with evidence on the next page.
E. To Test The Truth Show
Three people pretend to be the same famous person. Two do not tell the truth. The audience votes on the person they believe to be telling the truth..
Host/Hostess: Welcome everyone to our show. Three people are claiming to be the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is up to you to determine which one is telling the truth. Now let’s meet our guests.
#1: My name is Daniel Handler. I write under the pen name of Lemony Snicket. I am 33 years old, live in San Francisco and began writing this series in 1939.
#2: My name is Daniel Handler and I am better known as Lemony Snicket. The first book in the series was published in 1999 and I had no idea that children would want to read such sad books. In fact I just signed with the director of Men in Black to turn the books into movies.
#3: My name is Lemony Snicket and I am the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events which I write under the pen name of Daniel Handler. I like writing books where nothing good ever happens. Since children might be mad at me for the unhappy endings I never make personal appearances.
Host/Hostess: What else can you tell us?
#1: When I go to book signings I tell people that Lemony Snicket has been detained due to some terrible accident and I am standing in for him.
#2: I am working now on number ten of the thirteen books that will be in the series. Each book has thirteen chapters. I did this because thirteen is an unlucky number and nothing lucky ever happens to the orphans in the books.
#3: I began my career writing adult books until an editor suggested that I try children’s books. It was then I came up with the idea of the poor Baudelaire orphans and the woeful, hand-wringing narrator who tells their story.
Host/Hostess: Now it is time to discover the real Lemony Snicket. We will vote by a show of hands. Is it #1? #2? #3? (Take time to count) Here is the moment you have all been waiting for. Will the real Lemony Snicket please stand up.

15. Book Reports
Summarize one of the novels using the title as an acrostic poem or use karaoke in a singing report.

Complete guides by Nancy Polette for the first four Lemony Snicket books are available from Pieces of Learning. For a free catalog call 1-800-729-5137.

About Your Speaker
Nancy Polette is Prof. of Ed. at Lindenwood University and author of 100+ professional books & six children’s books. She travels the U.S. providing staff development for schools & school districts on scientifically based strategies for meeting performance standards in reading, writing and research K-8.