Slice of Life: Roller Coaster Rides​

Today I was looking through my picture books and came upon Marla Frazee’s Roller Coaster. This book reminds me of the beginning of every year.

Kids come back to school as rusty writers, so we brush up with a familiar experience: the roller coaster story. The time where they overcame their fear and older sibling’s teasing by riding a huge roller coaster. Most kids have that story in their history. This book is a perfect tool to warm up their writing muscles.

First, I ask students to look at the first picture and find the character that most resembles them. I often choose the tense-looking mom next to the pinwheel-hatted boy.

Next, we practice storytelling by taking on the character we chose.
What did we say?
What did we think?
How do we look?


Today, I couldn’t help but look at the couples in the second and last seats. And imagine their stories.

Rachel, looked out at the roller coaster operators, leaning as far away as she could from Cody. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. Why did I say yes? I’m going to die, literally. My hands are so wet, I won’t be able to to hold on.  He’s not even looking at me. How much longer before we start this stupid ride?

Just four seats ahead, George looked at Mabel and squeezed her hand. Her eyes met his and said, this is one mighty fine time George. I’m glad we came.

The sun beat down and the coaster’s CLICK, CLICK, CLICK were all anyone heard as the train climbed UP, UP, UP.

Down they flew.

Rachel instictively threw her arms around Cody and screamed.
Cody instinctively held Rachel and smiled.

Mabel and George leaned back and screamed breathing it all in. Life was good. Experienced riders, that they were, George held on to his hat and Mabel had sensibly wore the one that secured with a tie. The thrill filled them up.

A curve.
A kiss.
Two hardy laughs.

“Hold me, I don’t know if I can stand,” Rachel said as she leaned into Cody.

“Yes, my love, I do remember,” said Mabel.
And George held her tight.

Thank you to Marla Frazee for taking liberties with her story.
And thank you to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. For more real and possibly imagined Slices click here.

17 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Roller Coaster Rides​

  1. Oh, I love this! The story, setting, and those vivid illustrations give you what you need to imagine…and how marvelous that you did. Mabel and George – I am now invested in their story…is there more? 😉

  2. Wow!! What a brilliant idea – become a character in the story and write his/her story!! I always use this book to share strong small moment leads and endings. Now you have added another reason to reread it! And I’ll be sharing this with my 3rd graders in September when we launch our workshop. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Such a great idea. A fun way to start the year and really have them tap into mood and feelings. Some can probably connect those same feelings to the first day of school. I just love this.

  4. I love this, too. The images in this book lead you to imagination. Thanks for sharing your mentor text. Your students are lucky to have you.

  5. I love this book. It reminds me of when I taught first grade. I used it a lot, but never in the way you did. I love the idea of having students think about the people in the illustrations from their perspective. I love your story as well.

  6. Excellent. I love how you went into their heads. This is a perfect way to start the year with your students and now you have a piece to share with them. I love how you named the characters and brought them to life. Mabel was my favorite, but Cody seemed pretty lucky.

  7. Beautiful stories begun by you, Juieanne, and your students will love the adventure of creating their own. I enjoyed that imagined “Cody instinctively held Rachel and smiled”-sneaky Cody!

  8. Wonderful way to spark story telling, especially in the tension of getting on the ride of a new school year. A roller coaster is such a metaphor for feelings. Nice. Thank you!

  9. I adore this book, but am so in love with your digging deeper into the illustrations to find the stories of George & Mabel and Rachel & Cody! So smart, and such great storytelling. Thanks for this inspiring idea!

  10. I love this! I love how you added to and deepened my appreciation of this book with your stories. This is a wonderful way to have students explore illustrations and develop characters and authentic dialogue. I’ve used this book in first grade a lot to explore small moment writing. You’ve just opened a window into how I can use it to engage fourth graders in meaningful work. Thank you! Thank you! Such fun!

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