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Books written about mystery, magic, and intrigue are always popular with younger readers. The books Masterpiece and Scumble, utilized below as Book Discussion lessons, support fourth through six grade language arts lessons.

Analyzing the creativity of the characters of these popular tween novels engages young students. It helps them to proactively explore new directions to build stronger synthesizing research skills such as reflective writing, as well as information ethics and legal awareness. They learn to respect others’ intellectual works, to avoid plagiarism, and to become aware of copyrights, trademarks, and patents which could also apply to their own creative works.

Respecting authors and creators of masterpieces with Masterpiece by Elise Broach

The characters in the suspenseful story Masterpiece by Elise Broach reveal distinctive personality attributes and creative talents. The lead characters’ traits range from a beetle that sketches mini-drawings to a young boy who literally learns about the meaning of the story’s Four Virtues drawings: Prudence; Temperance; Justice; and Fortitude.

Examining the Virtues theme in Masterpiece not only engages students, but helps them to explore new directions which build stronger research ethics, honesty and trustworthiness, and respect for others’ intellectual works. They learn to avoid plagiarism and become aware of copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual properties. Further essential subjects could be studied too, (e.g. better communication and writing skills; societal perspectives on gender, race, culture, family, etc.).

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Linda Kocis, Patent and Trademark Librarian of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (OH), for collaborating on creating these Book Discussions for upper elementary school lessons.

Important Note

Book Discussions for the popular books Masterpiece and Scumble presented here provide an ideal opportunity for librarians and teachers in upper elementary grades to proactively address plagiarism and copyright challenges associated with research writing exercises.

See Creative Thinking Lessons for additional background to teach Book Discussions content on plagiarism and intellectual property, e.g. copyright.

Assignment for fourth through sixth grade audiences: Have students read Broach’s Masterpiece. The following activities could be combined into a single lesson or multiple lessons while students read or complete the book.

  1. Ask students the question: What is a masterpiece? After a few students reply, perform a Web images search for the term masterpiece, e.g. images, to display popular metaphors which provide further discussion. Then read or display dictionary definitions of masterpiece. After that, see how many in the class know the definition for the word synonym which leads into class participation to prepare a list of synonyms to further describe a masterpiece. Finally, display common images of creative personalities, e.g. musician, painter, business person, singer, scientist, etc. and ask the class to suggest other types of creative individuals who create masterpieces.

  2. Either post a list of the book’s character names on a whiteboard and ask students to identify character roles, e.g. parent, museum employee, etc. or ask students to name characters while you list responses on whiteboard. Then ask class which is their favorite character and if there is a character which they identify with or share similar personality traits. This leads to a text message activity where students are each provided with an index card. Ask them to write their name on the top line of the card. On the next line, students should note the name of their favorite character which they are texting about for this activity. Then ask students to create an imaginary text message to send to a friend about this character. They must spell out each word and avoid text style abbreviations for this writing exercise. Students should include at least one example describing a creativity attribute of their selected character. They may reveal any creative flair with which they share with this character. Students should use back of card if additional texting space is needed. After individuals have completed their texting activity, have them keep the cards to use as part of a group activity described next. Devote no more than five minutes to texting portion of activity. Note: Inspired by Text Message activity found at

  3. Launch a Four Virtues class discussion related to honesty, trustworthiness, respect, etc. This could facilitate a full class period discussion or only a brief, few-minutes side bar utilizing a Jeopardy-style answer and question approach shown below. Instructor might ask students what were the given names for the stolen paintings in Masterpiece? After all four names (Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude) are listed; tie these attributes to the theme virtue which is utilized for characters in many stories from books, movies, and television shows. Associate the values of honesty and truthfulness to the Four Virtues. See Creative Thinking Lesson One: Plagiarism Awareness for additional information about ethics and trustworthiness.

  4. Complete activities listed above and refer to Creative Thinking Lesson One for a very brief overview of plagiarism, paraphrasing, and attributing sources before assigning this book review creation group activity. Divide class into 4 or 5 groups. Within 10 minutes, each group must create a mini-book review about Masterpiece derived from the content from each group’s text messages and referenced quotes from a real, published book review provided to students to create a new, original book review. (See list of possible book review article citations at the end of this lesson plan.) This provides each group practical experience in utilizing their texting messages mashed-up with quotes or paraphrased passages from another writer’s published review. Inform student how this is similar to the way in which book publishers and movie advertisers create reviews to promote their products. Student are encouraged to be creative and write their book review as popular media such as a magazine style article, broadcast news script, or weblog review. The reviews need only be 3 to 5 sentences and could be posted on colorful construction paper or small poster board. Remind class to summarize their text messages and referenced real book review into their group’s own shared words; paraphrasing or summarizing any important points referenced; and to use quotation marks for any direct quotes and cite the source of the book review referenced. The group must select one person as a scribe to write the group’s final shared work. Then they may appoint one spokesperson to read the group’s new, original review aloud when called upon by instructor.

  5. Create Jeopardy-style interactive game with PowerPoint slides or oversized index cards utilizing Masterpiece trivia, plagiarism (and if discussed, copyright) facts. These slides could be interspersed between various activities or utilized as a single activity for one class period. Remember to format each question as an answer or a clue, while the students’ replies should be in the form of a question. Prizes could be awarded to winners. Examples of Jeopardy-style slides content:

    A1: James (human) Marvin (beetle)

    Q1: Who are the two main characters in Masterpiece by Elise Broach?

    A2: Prudence; Temperance; Justice; Fortitude

    Q2: What are the given names for the stolen paintings in Masterpiece by Elise Broach?

    A3: Summarizing an author’s main points in your own words for your essay or book report.

    Q3: What is paraphrasing?

    A4: To steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own without crediting source.

    Q4: What is plagiarism?

    Note: Jeopardy-style question content for Masterpiece inspired by online quizzes located at

  6. Here are a list of short book reviews for students to utilize as part of their original Book Review creation exercise above:

    Barthelmess, Thom. Booklist, February 1, 2009, Vol. 105, Issue 11, page 62.

    Isaac, Megan Lynn. Horn Book Magazine, November/December 2008, Vol. 84 Issue 6, page 697.

    Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2008, Vol. 76 Issue 15, page 247.

    Meister, Beth L. School Library Journal, October 2008, Vol. 54, Issue 10, page 140.

    Publishers Weekly, August 25, 2008, Vol. 255 Issue 34, page 74.

    Also, see publisher site for Reading Guide to supplement your lessons related to Elise Broach’s Masterpiece at


Teaching Intellectual Property through the novel Scumble by Ingrid Law

Scumble is the companion novel to Savvy, a Newberry Honor book, that introduced readers to the Beaumont family and their special supernatural talents. Intellectual Property is a topic raised in Scumble. The main characters all have a supernatural talent, or savvy. These special savvies provide a great opportunity to talk about different types of intellectual property with language arts students. A thesis building activity is also included to support students’ synthesizing research skills in reflective writing assignments.

Assignment for fourth through sixth grade audiences: Have students read Law’s Scumble. The following activities could be combined into a single lesson or multiple lessons while students read or complete the book.


  1. Ask students to brainstorm about the savvies for the various characters mentioned in the novel. Students may need a little prompting to come up with all the characters’ names. Have the students write the characters’ names and savvies on a whiteboard.

  2. Ask the students if they have special talents. Remind the students how much time and effort they invest in developing these talents, and their end results, such as paintings, new music, or poetry. Intellectual property laws allow us to protect the results of creativity (these protection devices are known as intellectual property). Discuss the concepts of a copyright, trademark, and patent, and how each protects an individual’s intellectual property.

  3. Once the students are familiar with the idea of intellectual property, ask them to find examples of intellectual property in the novel. Have the students write these examples on a whiteboard.

  4. Focus on the concept of trademarks, particularly on examples of slogans as trademarks. Remind students of the characters’ savvies, and ask them to work together to create trademark slogans for each of the characters. The slogans should be related to the characters’ savvies, and should clearly depict the specific character. Have students select a person to read each group’s best slogan. Discuss how the slogan relates to the savvy.

  5. Ledger helps put the Knucklehead motorcycle back together after his savvy growing pains cause all the pieces to fly apart. Discuss the idea of reverse engineering, and why a company or individual might want to reverse engineer an item. Explain that to get a patent, the inventor must disclose the best method for making his or her invention. How would this enable reverse engineering of products?

  6. OPTIONAL: If time permits or based on the needs of the class, the following thesis builder activity is also ideal for a separate lesson. Discuss how copyright protects creative expression, but not the facts within the books, music lyrics, movies, etc. Compare this to student essays or papers, where the students’ creative expression is their intellectual copyrighted work. See Lesson Two: Respecting Copyright for additional background.

    Write the word SCUMBLING on a white board and ask if they remember this term from the book Scumble on pages 250-51. Scumbling is a technique painters use to tone down brighter colors to blend better with the other colors in a painting. In some instances, Scumbling can transform the original expression of the work, similar to mash-ups of electronic media as people borrow or use portions of others’ intellectual property such as books, music, and art. When we write essays or stories for class assignments or for ourselves, we may copy a portion of others’ ideas or expression to create new intellectual property. Often this is fair use and not a violation of copyright laws. However, only copying small portions of others’ works for school or personal use, with attribution credits, is fair use.

    Explain that when we write essays or news articles for magazines or blogs, we often create an introduction which usually contains a thesis statement. Thesis statements are like Scumbling, where we might share our opinion or belief about a news issue or about some creative work such as a book, music, art, etc. Show students examples of well-prepared versus poorly prepared Character Analysis thesis statements from commonly known characters of classic young adults’ books and/or an example from Scumble. Refer to the honesty theme presented in Plagiarism Lesson One of this site. Explain how their thesis should be original and tied to their curiosity and creativity of their own original research and writing.

    Have students return to their small groups which created a trademark slogan about a character in Scumble. Tell them their charge is to create an outline for a book review blog or magazine article tied to their character slogan created earlier. Ask each group to spend 5-10 minutes to brainstorm and come up with a simple title, specific thesis statement, and three point outline of what they hypothetically propose to write. The thesis should focus on the three points of the outline. When finished, one representative of each group will write their title, thesis, and outline on the white board. The instructor should moderate a class discussion for other groups to critique one another’s thesis statements and offer suggestions if needed.

    Also, see:Scumble Teacher's Guide from publisher for additional ideas.