The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Resources for Educators

One of the cool parts of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is that it’s been used in classrooms for years as inspiration for writing prompts — with teachers inviting kids to write their own stories based on the illustrations.

Now, with the release of The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, Houghton Mifflin has put together a new set of resources for teachers.

The most fantastic of all these resources is a complete educator guide for The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, which features multiple discussion questions for each short story, PLUS the following project & activity ideas:

As a pre-reading activity, read aloud the introduction to The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and share the pictures with the class.

Imagine you have the opportunity to interview Harris Burdick. He is willing to answer twenty questions. List the questions you would ask him.

Create a portrait of Harris Burdick.

Create a storyboard for your favorite story.

For the story you like best, write a few paragraphs explaining what you like most about it. Include comments on literary elements such as characterization, setting, plot, and theme. When you have completed that, write a few paragraphs about the story you like least, using specific examples and explaining in detail what it is you dislike.

Write a continuation for the story you like best.

Write your own original story for the Burdick drawing you find most interesting.

Create a drawing and caption in the style of Harris Burdick. Exchange the drawing with a classmate and write a story about it.

The drawings in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick have been compared to the fantastical stories of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. Serling was well-known for getting many of his best story ideas from dreams. Invite your students to keep a notebook of story ideas that come to them in dreams. Invite students to work in small groups and dramatize one of the stories, writing a script with roles, stage directions, costumes, props, scenery, etc.

There is also a downloadable educator guide for The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Additionally, the site features tips for writers creating their own Harris Burdick story, and the following advice for teachers to share with students working on their own stories:

  • Use the caption as the first line of the story—simply write the caption at the top of the page and continue on from there!
  • Work backwards—use the caption as the last line of the story.
  • Use details in the illustrations to help add descriptive language and vivid imagery.
  • The illustrations naturally provoke questions. Choose your most pressing question, write it at the top of the page, and begin answering it. Your answer will create a story!
  • Some of the illustrations will spark stories that are character-driven. To get to know your main character, write a brief character sketch before starting your story.
  • Some of the illustrations will encourage stories that are plot-driven. Make a brief outline before beginning so you will have a clear sense of the story’s progression.
  • These story starters are so fascinating in part because while they take place in a recognizable, realistic world, things are not always as they seem. Let your imagination loose as you write, and remember that you can make magic happen!

Keep these tips in mind … because tomorrow, we’re announcing a very fun Harris Burdick contest!

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