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Word Play Fun… Not Your Ordinary Literary Masterpiece!


Art, Language Arts, Science  


4, 5, 6, 7, 8  

Title – Word Play Fun… Not Your Ordinary Literary Masterpiece!
By – Mary Mills
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Science, Art
Grade Level – 4-8
Duration – 3 weeks

Concept/Topic to Teach:

Students interactively explore the mystery genre in order to become more familiar with various forms of word play (similes, metaphors, puns, hyperbole, personification, and alliteration) as evidenced in Bruce Hale’s The Hamster of the Baskervilles, a fun chapter book for reluctant readers.

Texas Essential Knowledge Standards Addressed:

Grade 4-5:

      • 110.15.b English Language Arts & Reading Knowledge & Skills
            8) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Sensory Language.

            Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about how an author’s sensory language creates imagery in literary text and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to identify the author’s use of similes and metaphors to produce imagery.
            15) Writing/Writing Process.

            Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text.
            16) Writing/Literary Texts.

          Students write literary texts to express their ideas and feelings about real or imagined people, events, and ideas.

Grades 6-8:

    • 114.1 and 114.2 Languages Other Than English, Elementary.
    • 114.11 and 114.12 Languages Other Than English, Middle School.

General Goal(s):

  • The students take turns reading the chapters in tandem daily during school hours. They follow the general plot line as well as noting their favorite forms of word play employed throughout the story line.
  • Each student learns the difference between the six types of word play:
    similes, metaphors, puns, hyperbole, personification, and alliteration.
  • The teacher wishes the students to remember word play devices and specific examples of them throughout their academic life.

Specific Objectives (Learning Outcomes):

  • The students orally read two-to-three chapters daily until the class has read the entire book.
  • The students select two different examples of word play each day, writing them in their Response Journals, noting the name of the word play, and making up a complete and logical sentence using words or phrases associated with the word play form.
  • The students create an original story of their own in their Writing Notebooks using a different genre format (example – cartoon, essay, poem, song, news announcement, advertisement, joke book) and several learned forms of word play, adhering to good taste. If they finish their work early, they may voluntarily illustrate their creation.
  • Students who wish to share their tales may do so when they are ready.
  • The teacher will grade these stories, and students may wish to add their creations to their “Best Writing” Notebooks.
  • By the third week, the students select two creative exercises, graded unless otherwise noted (see Independent Practice).

Required Materials:

  • Computers/printers/blank CDs for each student

  • pencils
  • pens
  • colored pencils
  • lined paper
  • Students’ Response Journals
  • Students’ Writing Notebooks
  • 1 copy of The Hamster of the Baskervilles for each student (Scholastic?)
  • a library copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • teacher-prepared laminated genre cards (6 forms of word play with definitions on back)
  • teacher-prepared WebQuest (10 queries) based upon Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (attached below)
  • teacher-prepared “Curriculum Page” (see Internet Resources)

Internet Resources:

Anticipatory Set (Teacher Lead-in):

Query asked by teacher includes “wait time” for all students to raise their hands with possible answers.

  • The teacher holds up the book by Hale, The Hamster of the Baskervilles, asking students whom do they think might have written this book? Make an educated guess.
  • The teacher then locates the name of the main character in chapter 1, saying the name in front of the class… “Chet Gecko, a chameleon?” Can anyone guess why a chameleon has the name of Chet Gecko? The teacher finally asks, “Would anyone like to surmise Chet Gecko’s occupation?”

  • Teachable Moment ensues:
    • Using laminated 4×6 cards, the teacher introduces six word play forms, asking individual students to guess what each might mean.
    • The teacher ensures that there are no wrong answers, just educated guesses.
    • Once the teacher has shown and described the meaning of each word play form, he/she says, “We will now explore ‘The Hamster’ story to find many examples of these six types of word play listed on the cards. If you forget the meaning of a particular word play form, simply look through these cards in the Writing Center.”

Procedures for Student Independent Practice Exercises:

Each student judges and selects two of the following creative exercises (graded unless otherwise noted):

  • The student researches and studies book, video-audio sources, or Internet sites regarding real hamsters and their habits, characteristics, and habitats, taking notes, then writing 3-5 paragraphs, employing an effective beginning and a logical ending.
  • The student completes the teacher-prepared WebQuest based upon Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (10 queries) and locates two forms of word play used in Doyle’s Detective Sherlock Holmes’ work. The student consults the Teacher Curriculum Page (Doyle’s website) or peruses the library copy of the work in order to find the correct answers.
  • The student describes in their own words what a real “private eye” does, listing characteristics needed to be an effective P.I. Challenge: Do you think a real P.I. has to spend lots of time researching and writing about their findings? Alternatively, do you think they mainly sit in cars watching for criminals, pound pavement searching for clients, and use wiretaps to find the answers to their cases? Justify your personal opinion. (This activity is not graded since it is opinionated).
  • The student studies the characteristics of birds of prey, like buzzards. (Do you think buzzards have good breath?). The student draws a buzzard or a caricature of a buzzard. (The student may select another bird of prey).
  • The student designs a dirty, rotten stinker tattoo (referred to on page 36 of The Hamster of the Baskervilles by Hale). It may be in color or in black-and-white. Remember to name the tattoo.
  • The student accesses the Internet to locate true information about an animal-of-their-choice: tarantula, gecko, turtle, chameleon, rat, mouse, frog, tree frog (Popper in story), poison dart frog, beaver, mole, ferret, dog (Rynne Tintin, a character in the story). Then the student writes a poem about their chosen animal -or- picks one animal and describes why it is their favorite pet, illustrating it.
  • Student fills out a 2-page fill-in-the-blanks graphic-type organizer The Hound of the Baskervilles Detective Log from the following PBS Masterpiece Theatre site:
  • FYI – students who volunteer their two favorite word-play forms during class shared-reading time may earn up to two “Participation Points” daily. Raise your hand politely when sharing this information. (Participants must note the name of each word play form and show the class an example of its use in the story line).

Closure, reflecting Anticipatory Set:

      The teacher espouses:
Bruce Hale’s Hamster of the Baskervilles spoofs detective novels using various forms of word play. Yes, the ending is contrived, but the journey to solving the mystery is fun and intriguing. Each book in the series makes us laugh, as we learn new types of word play. The six forms of word play we have studied will be memorable to us as we mature, thanks to Hale’s creative “way with words.”


  • The teacher peruses the students’ Response Journals and Writing Notebooks daily, ensuring that all students make connections with the six forms of word play. The teacher adds notations like “making connections” or “not making connections” to the “Running Record” for each person.
  • The teacher grades the students’ original writings and/or illustrations (cartoon, essay, poem, song, news announcement, advertisement, and joke book).
  • The instructor grades the two Independent Practice exercises selected by an individual pupil. Of course, the opinion piece about a real private eye’s reason for being (raison d’être) will not be graded. The class members who pursue this question might wish to share their ideas in round-robin style during the course of the three-week study of word forms.

  • Students who pursue Curriculum Page sites receive extra participation points (up to 5 points) for documented Internet quotes, details, or pictures used in their writings.

Adaptations, Extensions for Gifted & Talented, and Connections to Other Subjects:

    See Independent Practice Exercises above.

Mary Mills’ WebQuest for The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  1. Go to

    Skim and name three occupations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

  2. Go to

    Describe Baskerville Hall in your own words using the passage from Chapter 6.

  3. Go to

    Dr. Watson in his Chapter 10 diary excerpts describes the hound. Do you think Dr. Watson is a superstitious man, or not? How many times has he heard the baying of a hound at night? He acknowledges to us in his diary that the sounds he heard were real. Does he think a real person might be behind these events instead of a spectral, ghostly hound? Justify your reasoning.

  4. Go to

    This is Chapter 2, in which the Baskerville curse is mentioned. It notes the early eighteenth century, which is the 1700s. Hugo Baskerville loved the yeoman’s daughter, but the fine young maiden feared his evil nature. She escaped from his clutches and ran to the moor for refuge. There she must have met the evil creature, which scared her to death. (She was also very fatigued from running, of course). After Hugo Baskerville was killed by the beast, can you locate and state how many generations of Baskervilles were destined to be cursed?
    The actor, Basil Rathbone, played in a major movie version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

  5. Go to

    When did Basil Rathbone make his first Sherlock Holmes film, The Hound of the Baskervilles?
    What other type of media did Rathbone use to record the Sherlock Holmes stories?
    For how many years did Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce play Holmes and Watson roles?

  6. Go to

    What motivated Doyle to write The Hound story?

  7. Go to

    In what year and in which magazine were the first episodes published?

  8. Go to

    How many Sherlock Holmes stories and novels did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle write?

  9. Go to

    (Important note: See the URL, the word detectives is misspelled, but the site is still accessible).

    Name the five fictional detectives noted on the Stone Arch Books/Capstone Kids publishing site.

  10. Go to

    How does the fictional Sherlock Holmes solve his cases? (Please list the two ways).


CONGRATULATIONS! You have finished your WebQuest,
however, remember to:

  1. Browse the hardbound/paperback story of The Hounds of the Baskervilles, finding two different examples of word play phrases (simile, metaphor, pun, hyperbole, personification, or alliteration).
  2. Describe the name of the word play.
  3. Give the page number and write the entire sentence containing the phrase for each of the two word-play examples you have researched.

Mary’s WebQuest – Possible Answers for The Hound of the Baskervilles:

  1. 3 occupations – ophthalmologist, surgeon, and author
  2. Baskerville Hall description in your own words.
    • Teacher tip: Here is what the passage contains:

      A few minutes later we had reached the lodge gates, a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by the boars’ heads of the Baskervilles. The lodge was a ruin of black granite and bared ribs of rafters, but facing it was a new building, half constructed, the first fruit of Sir Charles’s South African gold… Baskerville shuddered as he looked up the long, dark drive to where the house glimmered like a ghost at the farther end… The young heir glanced round with a gloomy face. “It’s no wonder my uncle felt as if trouble were coming on him in such a place as this.” said he. “It’s enough to scare any man.” … The Avenue opened into a broad expanse of turf, and the house lay before us. In the fading light I could see that the centre was a heavy block of building from which a porch projected. The whole front was draped in ivy, with a patch clipped bare here and there where a window or a coat of arms broke through the dark veil. From this central block rose the twin towers, ancient, crenellated, and pierced with many loopholes. To right and left of the turrets were more modern wings of black granite. A dull light shone through heavy mullioned windows, and from the high chimneys which rose from the steep, high-angled roof there sprang a single black column of smoke…

    • Mary’s version in her own words:

      The gray and black colors of the entry and building were scary and distressing to the younger Baskerville. He shuddered at the sight of the property. The daylight was fading, so the shadowy grounds might have reminded him of a graveyard since ivy covered the building, draping it in darkness.

  3. Dr. Watson’s diary – paragraph with answers:

    And have I not cause for such a feeling? Consider the long sequence of incidents which have all pointed to some sinister influence which is at work around us. There is the death of the last occupant of the Hall, fulfilling so exactly the conditions of the family legend, and there are the repeated reports from peasants of the appearance of a strange creature upon the moor. Twice I have with my own ears heard the sound which resembled the distant baying of a hound. It is incredible, impossible, that it should really be outside the ordinary laws of nature. A spectral hound which leaves material footmarks and fills the air with its howling is surely not to be thought of. Stapleton may fall in with such a superstition, and Mortimer also, but if I have one quality upon earth it is common sense, and nothing will persuade me to believe in such a thing. To do so would be to descend to the level of these poor peasants, who are not content with a mere fiend dog but must needs describe him with hell-fire shooting from his mouth and eyes. Holmes would not listen to such fancies, and I am his agent. But facts are facts, and I have twice heard this crying upon the moor. Suppose that there were really some huge hound loose upon it; that would go far to explain everything. But where could such a hound lie concealed, where did it get its food, where did it come from, how was it that no one saw it by day? It must be confessed that the natural explanation offers almost as many difficulties as the other. And always, apart from the hound, there is the fact of the human agency in London, the man in the cab, and the letter which warned Sir Henry against the moor. This at least was real, but it might have been the work of a protecting friend as easily as of an enemy. Where is that friend or enemy now? Has he remained in London, or has he followed us down here – could he be the stranger whom I saw upon the moar?”


  4. Generations destined to be cursed passage:

    Yet may we shelter ourselves in the infinite goodness of Providence, which would not forever punish the innocent beyond that third or fourth generation which is threatened in Holy Writ. To that Providence, my sons, I hereby commend you, and I counsel you by way of caution to forbear from crossing the moor in those dark hours when the powers of evil are exalted.

  5. Answers to 3 questions: 1939, radio, 7 years (on radio and in films)
  6. Doyle’s motivation for writing the story: Doyle got the inspiration for the book from real-life people and places, as well as folklore.
  7. What year first published? 1901. Magazine name? The Strand Magazine.
  8. Total of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories written – 56 Sherlock Holmes stories plus 4 novels
  9. 5 fictional detectives on Stone Arch Books/Capstone site:

    Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Nancy Drew, Sam Spade, and Perry Mason.

  10. How does Holmes solve his cases? He uses his clever powers of observation and reasoning to solve cases.

    End of 10 questions – Check student papers for two word play examples from “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”


Cheat Sheet for the Teacher


p. 38 fickle foot of fate
p. 3 Cadillac of cruddiness
p. 25 Ferret Faucet


Puns (play on words):

p. 8 Erik Nidd (arachnid) tarantula
p. 10 “Oh, joy. English class can put anyone into a comma.”
p. 24 “We wore the stink of frustration.” (after characters left dumpster).
p. 66-70 Jack and the Beans Talk
p. 26 Igor Beaver
p. 69 Lauren Order
p. 37 Kurt Replie (curt reply)
p. 3 “Something was rotten in the state of Ratnose.” (compare to Something was rotten in the state of Denmark).



p. 31 “Back in class, the heat was wilting students like a blast of buzzard’s breath.”
p. 48 “A monster… a cross between a werewolf and a hamster, with feet like a giant.”
p. 1 “Some Mondays drag in like a wet dog, dripping puddles of gloom and trailing a funky stink.”
p. 2 “Dazed as a meerkat on a merry-go-round.”
p. 6 “Mr. Ratnose’s whiskers quivered like an overstrung banjo.”



p. 27 Bosco Rebbizi – surly ferret with a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood tree.
p. xii “My idea of voodoo is mom’s mosquito-swirl ice-cream sundae.”
p. 3 (regarding Mr. Ratnose’s classroom messiness) “If that mess were a monument, it’d be the Statue of Liberty.”
p. 9 “This interview was going nowhere faster than an coyote in concrete booties.”



p. 34 Mrs. Burrower, a sixth-grade teacher (a mole)
p. 6 “Mr. Ratnose, I’m your gecko.” (Chet)
p. 15 “(Erik) turned his many eyes on me. None of them had a friendly look.”
p. 20 “Frowns and bored looks hung on most faces, like a gallery of grumpitude.” (also a simile).



p. 45 Chet notes, “I could never lead a life of crime, with the stealing, cheating, and lying. It’s harder on the nerves than three days of standardized testing.” (All the students will love this word play)
p. 3 “My jaw dropped. I couldn’t pick it up.”
p. 12 “Crime waits for no gecko.”

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