Ruby the Copycat is an award-winning children's book by Peggy Rathmann about a young girl named Ruby who copies everything her friend Angela does. The story can be used as a framework to conduct a variety of different activities in the classroom, such as a reader's theater, discussions about feelings and individuality, vocabulary review and theme recognition.
List some of the more advanced words that come up in the story, such as "murmur," "coincidence" or "loyal," on the chalkboard and discuss them as a group. First read the passages where the words come up in the story and then explain to students what they mean. Have the students offer their own examples of sentences using the discussed words to ensure that they fully understand how to use the words. This activity helps the students understand the story better, and it also improves and expands their vocabulary.
Have students create a list of all the actions Ruby performs in the story, such as "Ruby wore a sweater with wet paint on it," or "Ruby buried her chin in the collar of her blouse." Have them write down why Ruby did each action, whether it was right or wrong, the lesson learned and a comparable situation from their own life. For example, students may say that Ruby hid her face in her blouse in sadness because Angela was mad at her for copying her. It was right for her to react this way because it is normal to be sad when your feelings are hurt. The lesson learned is that you will be happier focusing on your talents rather than copying others. Students can then link this message to a situation they went through in which they learned the same lesson. This activity encourages students to actively think of the themes of the book and to relate the themes to their own experiences.
Ruby's Reader's Theater
Create a short script out of the story and have students act it out in a reader's theater, taking turns playing different characters and acting out scenes in front of the class. Instruct students to put an emphasis on their emotions and facial expressions to really bring the characters to life. You can even add costumes to get the kids more involved. For example, the students playing Ruby and Angela can wear the same color shirt and mimic each other's actions to emphasize the copycat theme. This allows students to better understand the story as they engage with the text and each other. It also encourages creativity as they interpret the characters in their own, unique ways. A reader's theater also helps students increase their reading fluency and expressive reading skills as they work together to bring the story to life.
Feelings and Being Yourself
The main themes in "Ruby the Copycat" are feelings and the importance of individuality. Help students recognize these themes by having them identify all the different emotions both main characters felt throughout the story, such as Ruby's loneliness on her first day of school and Angela's frustration about Ruby copying her. Start a discussion about empathy as students relate to the characters and imagine being in their place. Ask students how they would react in similar situations and how they would feel. Emphasize that it is important to always be yourself and to think about how your actions may affect others before doing them. This activity will help develop confidence and interpersonal skills, both inside and outside the classroom, as students gain a better understanding of empathy and their own self-worth.
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