Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson is a wonderful book for young readers. It has, quite rightly, received much critical acclaim – including winning the prestigious Newbery Medal and being shortlisted for a host of other accolades. It does not seem to be as well-known on these shores, however.
Its wonderfulness creeps up on you slowly, and catches you unawares. It appears to be a touching account of a boy’s journey on a bus with his grandmother. As we progress through this journey with CJ and his nana, however, we are transported. Nana views the world differently and, along with CJ, we see it through her eyes. There is beauty and wonder in everything around us if we take the time to notice it.
“How come that man can’t see?”
“Boy, what do you know about seeing?” Nana told him. “Some people watch the world with their ears”
This juxtaposition of the mundane with the magnificent is handled flawlessly as De La Pena’s narrative slips into poetry, giving us plenty of language to plunder in the classroom.
He saw sunset colours swirling over the crashing waves.
Saw a family of hawks slicing through the sky
In the resource here, you will find our suggestions for how this text could be used creatively to develop children’s writing skills in line with the Vocabulary, Grammar and Punctuation Programme of Study for year 1 and year 2.
|Year group||NC Statement||Opportunities for exploration in the text|
|1||Suffixes that can be added to verbs where no change is needed in the spelling of root words (e.g. helping, helped, helper)||
Read the text together and collect regular past tense verbs to describe CJ's actions.
Encourage the children to retell the story, using the verbs collected. Children could add captions to illustrations from the book or work in pairs to create a story map, adding labels. For instance:
CJ ducked his head under the umbrella. He watched the other people on the bus.
|1||How words can combine to make sentences||
Share the large double page image of CJ with his eyes closed, lost in the music. Ask the children to recall what CJ sees in his mind's eye when he hears it and re-read the text. Play some music for the class to listen to - encouraging them to close their eyes and let their imagination loose! Encourage the children to write about what they saw and how they felt. For instance:
I saw lightning blast across the sky. I saw the moon and the stars lighting up the night. My heart was banging and i felt like I could fly.
|2||Expanded noun phrases for description and specification||
Having read the book together, collect the noun phrases used by the author, with support from the children. Examples include:
Encourage children to consider a location or event of their choice from the text. In role as CJ and nana, children could role play describing their location / event, using a range of noun phrases, both borrowing from the book and innovating their own. For instance:
I can see noisy children playing in the busy playground. Thundery clouds are blowing across the darkened sky.
Children could then use this collection of noun phrases to write a postcard home in role, describing what they saw.
|2||Formation of adjectives using suffixes such as -ful, -less||
Draw children's attention to the double page where the rainbow arches over the soup kitchen. Discuss the writer's choice of adjective - beautiful. Provide the children with a selection of root words and the suffices -ful and -less.
Give them some time to add the suffixes, turning the words into adjectives and considering any changes in spelling that are needed (eg. changing the y to an i when adding the -ful)
Children could write each one on a seperate piece of card / sticky note and order the words on a washing line of most to least apt when describing a rainbow.
Children could then write a free-form poem about a rainbow. For instance:
Graceful and colourful
Arching across the endless sky...
sequencing sentences to form short narratives
writing narratives about personal experiences and those of others (real and fictional)
Having had a few collaborative reads of the story, children could consider a journey that they have taken, perhaps with the school, out of school, or imagined through drama and role-play.
Children could then write a retelling of their journey, paying careful attention to the detail and beauty around them, as modelled in the text. This could be a written narrative, or an annotated story journey.