Blast from the Past: Dr. B’s Cat on the Mat Song
By Dr. Sam Bommarito
As my regular readers know I’ve been looking for things to help my after-school reading club. The club consists of a total of twenty 1st and 2nd graders. It meets once a week. It serves as a supplement to the regular reading program. We always work on both comprehension and fluency/decoding. I’m trying to include both analytic and synthetic phonics in what we do along with a strong message of “lets read (and sing) like a story teller”. While looking for materials to use with them, I ran across a fluency song I wrote way back in 1999. It has a foundation in analytic phonics and it is a takeoff on Brian Wildsmith’s the famous Cat on the Mat book. Let’s first talk about that book and why I like it so much.
In my first year of teaching reading recovery this was one of the books I learned about when I visited another recovery teacher to observe a lesson behind the glass. The book came up again while I was at a summer institute at Teacher’s College. The staff was at Teacher’s College was abuzz about the fact that the previous summer Fountas (of F&P fame) had come to visit. She did some model lessons for the staff. It seems that she would go to the classroom library to pick out a book around to build a lesson. The staff quickly noticed that this particular book was one she picked multiple times. The story line of the book goes like this. At first the cat is very happy (see that smile on the front cover?). Then various animals come to sit on the mat. This sets up predictable sentences like “The cow sat on the mat.”; “The horse sat on the mat”. As the mat gets crowded the cats face changes from happy, to upset and finally an “enough is enough” stage. The cat says “Spsssst”. All the animals leave. The final page shows the cat, smiling once more, with the closing sentence “The cat aat on the mat”. This book became my “touchstone/anchor text/exemplar for what a good predictable book should include. It used repeated phrases with the new word at the end of each phrase supported by a strong meaning clue ( e.g. the picture of the cow or horse or … ). The book had a genuine story to it. By the way that is sets apart a poorly written predictable stories like “Tan Dan ran to the van to get the fan. He ran and ran and ran”. Tan Dan & company cannot begin to compete with well-crafted books like this one. In sum, an important part of a well written predictable book is that has more than predictable language supported by meaning clues. A good predictable book also has a story line and/or teaches a lesson. Very often predictable book have a surprise at the end. That is why I like this particular book and why I like the predicable books of authors like Eric Litwin or Joy Cowley (BTW she is the master of the surprise endings). THEIR BOOKS (AND SONGS) HAVE A STRONG STORYLINE AND OFTENTIMES THEY HAVE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED. Teachers looking for predictable books to use in their lessons for beginning readers should know that these are crucial things to look for in the books they choose.
Below is my attempt to do that with a song of mine own. I used this with my first graders for a quite a number of years. Here it is:
The song contains predictable language. The pictures at the bottom support the words cat, rat and mat. There is definitely a lesson to be learned “caring and sharing that’s where it’s at”. Back in the day my students were more than happy to sing this song multiple times. BTW I monitored to make sure they “matched” as they read. That way practicing the song also practiced the sight words in the song. Beats flash cards all to pieces. My current after school children also seem to enjoy this song. There’s more to come. I promised the Reading Club we would write some of our own books as a class. We’ll project my template of publisher story book using a smart board. The kids will “share the pen” and help me fill in the pictures and text for the book. We’ll do new endings and new twists on some Joy and Eric’s books. We might even add to the saga of the cat on the mat. In this way the book club members will be gaining the background of experience needed to eventually write some books of their own. By Christmas we’ll pick the best of the stories we’ve written to run off and share with their respective classroom libraries. To do that, It comes in handy to have a printer that does two sided printing. Here is a link to a blank book template for publisher and to a pdf with the song. Permission to use the song in classroom settings is given. Use in commercial programs et. al. requires my prior written permission. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1PM16aIVAVLV-BPvgE1qmZG3hyUxisBB_?usp=sharing
To hear the song, click on the link below.
Notice that we clap on the line “What do you think about that?” So just like my kids from a long time ago, my kids today will be writing, and singing their way into fluency. That’s how I’m building some analytic phonics into my after-school work. That’s how I teach sight words. Repeated readings of books containing sight words does the trick every time. Next week I’ll talk about the synthetic phonics component and my use of think alouds as I carry out the various phonics components. We’ll also review the importance of viewing prosody as more than simple reading rate. Until then:
Happy Reading and Writing.
Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, I write the songs and so do my kids)
BTW- Bill Kerns and I will be leading a panel discussion at the Write to Learn Conference in St Louis. It is being held on Bill’s campus, Harris Stowe State University. Mary Howard will be a keynote speaker on Saturday. Please consider coming. Here is a link to information about the conference: http://www.missouriearlylearning.com/
HELD AT THE WILLIAM CLAY CENTER ON THE HARRIS STOWE STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
Copyright 2018 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.