“Master of all Masters” is a very simple story in its essence. A new servant is told by her master to call various things by new and special names. The cat is to be “white-faced siminy,” the fire is to be called “hot cockalorum,” and so on.
The climax of the story is when a fire breaks out and the maid has to call the master, saying, “Master of all masters, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers. For white-faced simminy has got a spark of hot cockalorum on its tail, and unless you get some pondalorum, high topper mountain will be all on hot cockalorum.”
We have not found any picture books of this story currently in print. Maybe your class will be inspired to make one!
The fun of this story is in the telling, which makes it a good choice for fluency and choral reading practice. Here are some ideas for involving students in the story:
- Prepare a pocket chart with a picture of each object and a word card with its new name, and have students call out the name at the right point in the story during retellings.
- Divide students into groups and have each group memorize one segment of the exchange. Let them recite their sections in order, to retell the story.
- Try using the special names for a week in your classroom, giving sticker “fines” for every slip, to see who can make the fewest slips into normal speech.
- The master asks the maid, “What would you call this?” and she answers in this pattern, “Why, cat or kit or whatever you please, sir.” This is a good rhythmic line, and another nice opportunity for choral reading. It’s also a great start for a study of synonyms. Just as the maid calls the master’s pants “breeches or trousers, or whatever you please, sir,” have students come up with alternate names for items. This can be a game. Hold up a picture of a familiar item and point to a student. The student must say two names for the item, in the pattern from the story, in order to get to keep the card. If the student cannot come up with synonyms, he or she comes up to be “it” until someone else is caught out. The one with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner.
- This story has no magical elements, and so is properly called a folktale rather than a fairy tale. Use it, and other tales that you have studied this year, to compare the two genres and define them.
- Challenge students to write a prequel to the story which explains how the master came to give the new names to all the items.
- Biology4Kids explains the system for Latin names of living things, which are the ones used internationally. Compare these rules with other kinds of prefixes and suffices, and note how knowing these rules can help with spellings of words we use in ordinary English.
- Latin was the language most people in different countries could be expected to know, back when Linnaeus came up with his system. Nowadays, it might be English. Discuss what languages might be useful to know, now that we are used to communicating with people from different countries so frequently.
- Let the story be a fun hook for a lesson on taxonomy. The maid is very accepting of the master’s nomenclature, while he feels very strongly about it and won’t accept other suggestions. Learn about the system for naming plants and animals, and the reason a system was needed. Here is Palomar’s thorough review of the classifications of living things. It is worth pointing out that there had been many attempts, over the centuries, to come up with a good way of classifying and naming living things so that scientists could discuss creatures with confidence that they were talking about the same things, but that it wasn’t until Carl Linnaeus, in the 18th century, that anyone succeeded with the task. Once you’ve explored the idea, you can go back to the story and see whether it is possible to discern any system in the master’s namings.
- Take off with fire safety lessons. Use fire safety pictographs to discuss the topic. Review fire safety rules, and then consider these questions: Did the master’s rules create a fire safety hazard? Did the maid’s way of alerting the master fit the best practices for fire safety?
- Compare the length of time involved in using the special names for things with the time involved in using ordinary words. Use a stopwatch and compare the two, using whatever math concepts you are working with right now, from greater than/ less than to percentages. Timing and then calculating percentages can also provide a nice object lesson on bases.
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