• The Ohhhhs and Ahhhhs of the Watsons




    The Watsons is a creative novel bursting with figurative language and expression.  With this in mind, you are to complete the attached pages with drive and gusto!  Please follow the directions in each section.


    1.  Vocabulary list:

                Choose 5 vocabulary words from the list that you do not know.  Write them

                on your paper with a solid definition.

    2.  Music Critiques:

                Read through 1 and 2.  Choose a song from the 60s, critique it, and answer

    the numbered questions under #3.

    3.  Creating Portmanteau Words:

                Have fun with this one; just follow the directions.

    4.  Quotations:

                Read between the lines and follow the directions for this activity as well.

    5.  Figurative Language:

                Ooohhhh, the spice of life.  Follow the directions given.

    6.  Hyperbole:

                We are so full of them!!  Once again, follow the directions.


    Rubric for Assessment


    Vocabulary List (10)

    _____(10) Words and Definitions


    Music Critique (10)

    _____(10) Answered each bulleted

                     question with completeness


    Creating Portmanteau Words (10)


    _____(4) Portmanteau words in Watsons


    _____(6) Your two new words


    Quotations (10)


    _____(10) Redefining the quotes

    Figurative Language(10)


    _____(10) Correctly identified each

                     group of words as a hyperbole,

                    simile, metaphor, or


    Hyperbole (10)


    _____(10) Correctly completed each

                      of the humorous hyperboles





    Total (60)____________

    Vocabulary Lists 



    Chapters 1-4


    automatically              juvenile delinquent

    blizzard                       miraculous

    cockeye                       panning

    demonstration           passionate

    egghead                      pomade

    emulate                      punctual

    flypaper                      reinforcements

    frostbite                     skimpy

    grenade                      thermostat

    hambone                    version

    hostile                        vital

    hypnotized                zombie



    Chapters 5-8


    antifreeze                  maestro

    Chihuahua                peon

    cologne                      pinnacle

    conscience                 seniority

    cussing                       Siam

    dispersal                    strangling

    executioner               symphonic

    flamethrower            technician

    haphazardly              traitor

    high-fidelity              udders

    interpretations         ultimate

    jive                            Western Civilization




    Chapters 9-11


    accustomed                    peninsula

    eavesdropped                rabies

    facilities                        rednecks

    gnashing                       sanitation

    hillbilly music               sheik

    jive songs                      snitch

    pathetic                        temptations



    Chapters 12-13


    duking                       trespassing

    electrocuted              whirlpool

    stingy                        wilier


    Chapters 14-15 and Epilogue


    boycotts                         provoke

    confrontations             quest

    discrimination             raising Cain

    interracial                   seamstress

    Magnolia tree             segregation

    pervasive                    sonic boom

    picketing                    strove




    Other words unfamiliar to you:













    Music Critiques


    1. In this part of the book, the Watsons get the Ultra-Glide, and we readers start to find out about the kinds of music they enjoy listening to.  The oldies with asterisks are mentioned by name in the book.  The others are readily available songs by the artists that Kenny mentions his parents playing on the Ultra-Glide.


    Yakety Yak by the Coasters (Kennys favorite) *

    Under the Boardwalk by the Drifters (Mommas favorite)*

    Straighten Up and Fly Right by Nat King Cole (Dad likes to whistle this)*

    Unforgettable by Nat King Cole

    Ive Got You Under My Skin by Dinah Washington

    What a Difference a Day Makes by Dinah Washington

    Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Dinah Washington


    2.  If possible, access several 60s songs on the internet; listen to the songs and read their lyrics.  Below are several phrases taken directly from Rolling Stone magazines music critiques:


    • hokey, save-the-world lyrics
    • intensely rhythmic
    • too dull; sleep-inducing
    • likeable, danceable beat
    • singing sounds a little tired
    • bounces along on a perky melody
    • they harmonize well
    • sassiest rock-and-roll rhythms
    • plunges listeners into


    3.  Choose one song from the sixties; listen to it carefully and read the lyrics.  Answer the following questions about your song; include the title and artist.


    1.     What do you like about the song?

    2.     What do you dislike about the song?

    3.     How is this song different from the songs of today?

    4.     What age group do you think this song appeals to (children, teens, adults, senior citizens)?

    5.     Would you recommend that another person your age buy this song?

    Creating Portmanteau Words


    Skillful authors sometimes make new words when they feel there is no appropriate word in our language for what they want to say.  These words are called portmanteau words.  Portmanteau means combining two words to create a new word.  Sometimes portmanteau words become a part of our language.  Two portmanteau words you might already know are


    ·        chortle (a combination of chuckle and snort)


    ·        scurrying ( a combination of hurrying and scrambling)


    Directions:  Christopher Paul Curtis introduced several portmanteau words in The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963.  Read these quotes.  Highlight or underline the portmanteau word in each.  On the lines provided, write the two words you believe the author combined.


    _______________ + ______________  1.  He noticed that when I talked to people

                                                                         I squinched my lazy eye kind of shut or

                                                                          that I put my hand on my face to cover it.


    _______________ + _______________ 2.  Now all of you will help Rufus feel

    welcome, wont you?  Someone



    _______________ + _______________ 3.  The toilet stopped gluggling


    Extension:  Now that you understand the concept, try creating one portmanteau words yourself.  Use your portmanteau words in a sentence so the reader has a context to understand the word.  Challenge your classmates or teacher to figure out the words you combined.


    1. __________________________________________________________________








    Directions:  Choose 3 of the following quotes.  Reread each one in the book so you know the context.  Then thoroughly explain the meaning of each one on a separate piece of paper.


    1.  Chapter 2: Mr. Alums might as well have tied me to a pole and said, Ready, aim, fire!


    2.  Chapter 3:  LJ finally pulled the trick I knew he was going to, but he did it so cool that I didnt even see it coming.


    3.  Chapter 4:  Byron was the only person who could make you feel sorry for someone as mean as Larry Dunn.


    4.  Chapter 5:  Leave it to Daddy Cool to torture human kids at school all day long and never have his conscience bother him but to feel sorry for a stupid little grayish brown bird.


    5.  Chapter 7:  You think Im hurt and you and every other punk Chihuahua in America is climbing out of the woodwork to try and get a bit out of me.


    6. Chapter 13:  Byron was shaking like he was getting electrocuted and crying like a baby and kissing the top of my head over and over!


    7. Chapter 14:  The light flickered and the smoke cleared, and I could see that hanging on to the other end of the shoe was a giant gray hand with cold, hard square fingers.


    8. Chapter 15:  If hed ever had his ankle grabbed by it, hed know it was real, if hed seen the way it was crouched down, crawling around in the dust and the smoke of the church in Birmingham, hed know it wasnt some made-up garbage, if hed ever seen those horrible toes, hed know the Wool Pooh was as serious as a heart attack.






    Figurative Language


    Talented writers such as Christopher Paul Curtis use figurative language to make scenes more vivid.  In The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 he uses these figurative language devices:


    hyperbole an obvious exaggeration

             example The garbage can was the size of the Titanic.


    simile a comparison using the words like or as

             example The hungry boy ate like a horse.  The soup was as cold as ice.


    metaphor an implied comparison in which one thing is called another

             example The girl was a scared rabbit.


    personification giving human characteristics to a thing (plant, animal, or thing)

             example The vine clutched at her leg and refused to let go.



    Directions:  Read each quote from the book.  Decide whether it is an example of hyperbole (H), simile (S), metaphor (M), or personification (P),and write the abbreviation for your choice on the line provided. 


    _____1.  That snake in the grass has got his phone off the hook.


    _____2.  With Byron walking around me like that we must have looked like we  were in the Wild West and I was a wagon train and Byron was theIndian circling, waiting to attack.


    _____3.  The door jumped out of her way.


    _____4.  Larry Dunn was the king of the kindergarten to fourth grade of Clark Elementarybut Byron was a god.


    _____5.  Mommas voice got strange, hissing like a snake


    _____6.  Momma said that last part like she was dropping a bomb on Grandma Sands.


    _____7.  Ive got about a million (dinosaurs), but before LJ started coming over, I had two million.


    ____8.  All the kids were looking at me like I was a six-legged dog.



    Directions:  Hyperbole is a figure of speech that involves the deliberate use of exaggeration.  (Example:  Im so hungry I would eat a horse.)  The author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 uses hyperbole, often as a way of adding humor to the story.


    Read the following list.  Refer to the given page to find an example of hyperbole related to that item.   Write the sentence that contains exaggeration.


    1.  the cold (pg. 1)  _______________________________________________________





    2.  Byrons lips (pg. 18) ___________________________________________________





    3.  Mommas peanut butter sandwiches (pg. 34) ______________________________





    4.  Mommas eyes (pg. 67) _________________________________________________





    5.  Grandma Sands (pg. 156) _______________________________________________