Classic Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 3–5
Identical twins Lindy and Kris Powel are always competing against each other, but the competition becomes really bizarre when they both get ventriloquist dummies. At first, Lindy’s dummy, Slappy, seems to be the big trouble maker. Slappy slaps Kris, insults her, and scares her almost to death in the girls’ bedroom at night. Then a horrifying incident happens late at night in the kitchen involving Kris’s dummy, Mr. Wood. And, finally, Lindy confesses that she knows who has been causing all the trouble—she has!
Kris is furious at her twin, but at least she is no longer afraid of the dummies. However, that soon changes after Kris finds a mysterious note inside the pocket of Mr. Wood’s shirt. Soon after she reads the strange words on the note, Mr. Wood begins to take on a life of his own. First, he insults two elderly neighbors when Kris tries to put on a show. Then, even worse, he behaves diabolically when Kris gives a performance with him at a school concert. Mr. Wood spouts out crude insults as well as a putrid green liquid all over the audience.
Things get totally out of control with Mr. Wood when he tries to turn Kris and Lindy into his slaves. The girls lock him into a suitcase and bury him at a construction site, only to find him sitting in the kitchen, covered with dirt, the next morning. Finally, Kris and Lindy outsmart the dummy, who is flattened by a steamroller. The nightmare seems to be over at last—that is, until Slappy comes to life.
Teaching the Book
He’s made of wood and up to no good! Meet Slappy, the evil dummy that over 2 million Goosebumps fans have loved to fear. Night of the Living Dummy provides an engaging opportunity to teach the genre of thrillers, the literary element of mood, and the use of suspenseful words. Activities will engage students in suspense writing, rating scary stories, and creating their own frightful dummies.
Theme Focus: Horror/Thriller
Comprehension Focus: Identify Mood
Language Focus: Suspenseful Words
Get Ready to Read
Engage students’ interest by asking them what they know about R. L. Stine and his horrifyingly successful Goosebumps series. After discussing their responses, give students a guided tour of Goosebumps. Display the website homepage on a whiteboard or screen and show students all the games and activities they can play in their free time. Click on the Books and Audio feature to introduce students to the genre of horror/thriller. Click on 'Author' to show students R.L. Stine's bio and then click on any of the book series featured under 'Books' to show a preview of Goosebumps villains and horrors featured on the book covers. Encourage students to choose their favorite titles and describe why they like them.
Preview and Predict
Display the cover of Night of the Living Dummy and ask students how they can tell this book is going to be a thriller. Have them use the title and illustration to predict what might happen in the book.
Explain that a thriller writer uses words that add to the mood of horror and suspense in the book. Ask students to watch for the following words as they read the book. Encourage them to look for clues in the text to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words and have them check the dictionary definitions. Suggest that they record other words that are full of horror and suspense as they read.
Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- eerie (p. 24)
- shadowy (p. 27)
- bloodcurdling (p. 63)
- bizarre (p. 64)
- horrified (p. 64)
- putrid (p. 92)
- menacing (p. 99)
- frantically (p. 109)
Words to Know
Ask students to refer to the definitions they wrote on their vocabulary cards to answer the following questions:
- Describe the scream Kris made when she saw Mr. Wood in the kitchen.
- How did the green liquid smell that poured from Mr. Wood’s mouth?
- Describe the sound Mr. Wood made that frightened Kris.
- How did Kris act and say things when she was scared?
Ask students to work with a partner, asking more questions based on other vocabulary words. Then draw a word web on the white board or chart paper with the word “Suspense” in the center. Ask students to add more suspenseful words they find in the book.
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read aloud the first chapter of the book, asking students to follow along. After the first four pages, stop and ask about the relationship of the twin sisters. Which sister seems most trustworthy? Which seems like trouble? Then read to the end of the chapter and have students predict what Lindy found in the dumpster.
Assign students to read the rest of the book independently. Allow time for students to share questions and reactions with a partner after a reading session.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read and be ready to answer it when they have finished the book. Write the question on chart paper or have students write it in their reading journals. Do you think the dummies are really dummies? Why or why not?
Explain to students that the mood of a story is the overall feeling or atmosphere that it creates in the mind of a reader. In Night of the Living Dummy, the mood is one of horror and suspense. Suspense creates a sense of uncertainty that keeps readers interested as the action builds. Authors create a mood of suspense through their choice of words, the thoughts and dialogue of their characters, and the actions of the story. Point out that a mood of suspense rises and falls as a story unfolds.
Fill in the first row of the graphic organizer on Resource #2: Identify Mood to model for students how to identify the elements of suspense.
I’m going to reread pages 24 and 25 to see how the author builds suspense. First, I’ll look for suspenseful words. I’ll write down “staring eyes glow,” “mocking grin,” and “eerie, yellow moonlight.” How do the character’s thoughts or words build suspense? I’ll write down, “What was that sound?” “Kris realized she was breathing hard,” and “Why am I so freaked out?” Next, I’ll look for actions that build suspense. I’ll add, “Kris quickly jerked her hand away,” and “Slappy reached up and grabbed her wrist.”
Have students fill in the rest of the organizer. Direct them to reread the text carefully to find examples of words, thoughts, and actions that build a mood of suspense in the story.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion focusing on these story elements.
1. Genre of Horror
Night of the Living Dummy has both realistic and unrealistic parts in the plot. How do the realistic parts help make the story scary? How do the unrealistic parts make it scary? (Answers should reflect that the realistic parts make a reader think this could really happen to him; the unrealistic parts are just scary and creepy.)
2. Identify Mood
Do you think that the humor and jokes in the book decrease or increase the mood of suspense? Give reasons to support your answer. (Sample answer: The humor just made it even more shocking when strange things happened.)
3. Suspenseful Words
Choose two of the vocabulary words that you think best describe Slappy. Why did you choose these words? (Answers should reflect the words’ connotations as well as denotations.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
1. Text to Self
What would you have done with Mr. Wood as soon as you found out that he was alive? Would you have treated the dummy differently than Kris did?
2. Text to World
Why do you think so many people enjoy horror books and movies? Do you like them? Why or why not?
3. Text to Text
Compare R. L. Stine with other writers of horror and suspense. What do you like or dislike about Goosebumps compared to the other horror stories?
Content Area Connections
A Scare Scale
Challenge students to create their own “Scare Scale.” Model how to draw a line scale with five points numbered 1 to 5 with 1 as the least scary and 5 as the scariest. Ask students to write the names of their favorite scary movies, TV shows, and books at the bottom of the scale. Suggest that they add an adjective to the top of each number on the scale, such as creepy, disgusting, or horrifying.
Top Ten Phobias
Suggest that students research the topic of phobias, a favorite theme of horror writers. Working with partners or a small group, ask students to compile a list of the most common phobias, including the scientific names and descriptions. Students may enjoy discussing which phobias their favorite scary movies or books use.
Talk Like a Dummy
The pages in the back of the e-book include “A Dummy’s Guide to Ventriloquism.” Suggest that interested students read the guide and practice “throwing their voices.” Encourage them to participate in a Dummy Talent Show using stuffed animals or dolls as their “dummies.”
The Book and the Movie
If possible, make available to students the DVD of Night of the Living Dummy. Have the group or class watch the film and ask them to compare it to the book version of the story. After viewing, discuss with students which they liked more and how the film built a mood of suspense.
Ask students to use Night of the Living Dummy as a mentor text to write their own scary story. Remind them about the elements of suspense that R. L. Stine uses to create the mood of his story. Suggest the following story starter for students: You are in your bedroom at night. Everything seems the same, and yet something is different . . . disturbingly different. It’s almost as though something in the room has come alive—something that shouldn’t be dead . . .
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell them there is no one right answer. Do you think the dummies are really dummies? Why or why not?
Challenge students to get into a Goosebumps state of mind and create their own dummy version of Slappy. Consider referring them to the Fright Gallery page in the back pages of Night of the Living Dummy to use as a model. Use the Big Activity resource and ask students to describe a ventriloquist’s dummy that, like Slappy, has special powers. Have them draw the dummy’s face in the space on the page and then post their dummies in a Fright Gallery in the classroom.
This Storia e-book has the following enrichments to enhance students’ comprehension of the book.
- Word Scramble (3)
- Do You Know?
- Word Twister (2)
- Who Said It?
About the Author
R. L. Stine insists that he has never lived one of his stories. “I’ve never been chased by a mummy or met a ghost. But many of the ideas in my books are suggested by real life. For example, one Halloween my son, Matt, put a mask on and then had trouble pulling it off. That gave me the idea for The Haunted Mask.”
Stine started writing when he was 9 years old. He would write stories and jokes on an old typewriter and hand them out at school. “The teacher would grab them and take them away,” Stine says, “but I kept doing it.” After graduating from Ohio State University, he moved to New York City, where he worked on a variety of writing jobs.
Today he has achieved the position of the bestselling children’s author in history. In the early 1990s, Stine was catapulted to fame when he wrote the bestselling Goosebumps series, which sold more than 250 million copies and became a worldwide multimedia phenomenon.
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