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Gary Hanna
The Space Rock

What would you do if a rock worth $7 million landed in your yard?

By Roland Smith
From the March / April 2019 Issue
Lexiles: 590L, 540L
Guided Reading Level: N
DRA Level: 28
Other Key Skills: similes, cause and effect, inference, key detail, drawing conclusions, main idea, interpreting text
Think and Read: Similes

As you read, look for phrases that compare two unlike things using the words like or as.

We live on a farm near the town of Rock Creek. My daddy grew up on the farm. So did his daddy and his daddy’s daddy.

We’ve been here just about forever, tryin’ to make a go of it. It’s hard,  though. Lots of folks have given up and moved away. They say Rock Creek will be a ghost town soon.

Daddy isn’t leaving. “All I ever wanted was this farm and a good family. I’m staying put,” he said.

The day the rock fell from outer space, I was feelin’ sorta blue. It was the Thanksgiving holiday but we couldn’t go nowhere. The truck was busted. We couldn’t fix it because Mama and Daddy were having money troubles.

I was outside when I heard it.

Boom! Then whump-whump-whump like a flat tire, but louder.

Something passed overhead. It was like a thundercloud moving a million miles an hour.

Bam! Thunk-thunk-thunk!

Then it was quiet, like the Earth and everything on it was holdin’ its breath.

The Rock Arrives

I heard Mama and Daddy yellin’ for me. I was too tongue-tied to yell back.

Mama was the first to reach me. “What happened?”

I still couldn’t talk. I pointed at the brown gash covering the back field.

Daddy showed up, huffin’ and puffin’. He looked at me. “You OK?” I was still pointing. Daddy walked over to the gash layin’ across the field and followed it. We were a few steps behind. The gash ended at what looked like a large black rock. It was half buried in the dirt.

“Airplane must have broke up,” Daddy said. “Lucky it didn’t hit the house.”

“Lucky it didn’t hit Karl,” Mama said. She and Daddy stared at me with an odd look. Suddenly, Daddy picked me up and held me tight. He hadn’t done that since I was a little boy.

“Space rock,” my twin brother said. We hadn’t even seen him walk up. He pulled a magnet out of his pocket.

He stuck the magnet on the rock. The magnet stood up like a soldier at attention. “Meteorite,” he said.

“A meteor?” Daddy asked.

“Meteor-ite,” Brother corrected him. “Meteors are what you see shooting across the sky. When they hit Earth’s atmosphere, they break up and become meteorites. There was a meteor shower last night. I bet I saw a thousand of them.”

“What are you going to do with it?” Mama asked Daddy.

“I’ll have to pull it out,” Daddy said. “I hope it don’t break the tractor.”

Brother laughed. “I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about the tractor anymore. That meteorite is probably worth a million dollars.”

Daddy stared at Brother as if he had lost his mind.

Gary Hanna

All About Money

The rock weighed 937 pounds. People came by every day to see it. Reporters, scientists, people from town. Some people traveled from other states.

Daddy would just smile and take them to the barn, where we had put the big rock.

Pretty much everybody wanted to buy it. We did make money selling tiny meteorites. But people wanted the whole rock. Someone offered Daddy 2 million dollars for it. Then someone else offered 3 million. A man in a big black limousine said he’d pay 5 million. Daddy just smiled. “That’s a lot of money, sir, but I think I’ll pass.”

Two Choices 

About three months after the rock fell, Daddy called us into the barn. Sittin’ on the rock was a little white wooden box with a small slit in the top. Brother picked it up and shook it. “It’s empty. And the lid’s nailed shut.”

“That’s right,” Daddy said. Then he turned to us all. “Let’s go for a walk.”

We followed him to the back field. Then he looked at us. “A museum wants to pay us 7 million dollars for the rock.”

None of us said a word.

“We got two choices,” Daddy said. “We can sell it, or we can keep it.”

Daddy’s Idea

“We can’t keep it,” Mama said. “We can’t have people here all the time.”

Daddy smiled. “I agree. But if we decide to keep it, I suggest we move the meteorite into town. This rock is bringin’ lots of visitors to Rock Creek. The mayor said the hotel and the stores are makin’ money from all the guests. She said they’ll build a little museum around our rock.”

“But we would get nothing?” Brother asked.

“Rock Creek is broke,” Daddy said. “They can’t afford to pay us.” He looked at Brother. “How many of those little meteorites have we sold?”

“Close to 600,” Brother answered. “And we have at least that many left.”

Daddy looked at Mama. “You got yourself a new kitchen?”

“I sure did,” Mama answered.

Daddy looked at Brother. “You got yourself that telescope?”

Brother nodded. Then Daddy looked at me. “And as soon as summer comes, we’ll put an addition on the house?”

“A room of my own,” I said.

“We’ve saved money for college,” Daddy said. “My truck is fixed. My point is that the meteorite has done us a lot of good. I believe that getting what you need out of something is better than getting all that you can out of something.

“But it’s not just up to me,” he continued. “Here’s what we’ll do.” He handed each of us a tiny meteorite and kept one for himself. “Go to the barn one at a time. If you want to keep the rock in town, put your meteorite in the box. I’ll go last. If there aren’t four meteorites in there, we’ll sell the rock.”

Gary Hanna

The Choice Is Made

Brother went first, then me, then Mama. Then we waited in the kitchen. Finally, Daddy came in. He set the box down and pulled the lid off. Then without lookin’ he reached inside and pulled out the first meteorite.

“One,” we said. He reached in again.

“Two . . . three . . .”

Daddy felt around inside the box. He pulled his hand out and opened it.

“Four,” he said quietly.

I wrote a poem about our rock.

There’s a space rock in our barn

that fell to Earth upon our farm.

People came from near and far

to see our piece of shooting star.

In the end we had to free it

because our family didn’t need it.

There’s a space rock in our town—

it stopped the ghosts from coming around.

People come from miles away

to see the rock that will always stay. 

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Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Check It Out

To learn more about Roland Smith, the author of our story, share this Q&A from his website. Take a look at his impressive roster of his picture books

Watch This

Help your students understand what farm life is like with this insightful video interviewing kids who live on family farms in Vermont. It’s more than 45 minutes long, but we recommend watching the youngest kids’ stories, which are at the following points: 5:30, 17:32, 23:57, 28:15, and 36:00. 

Check It Out

This story provides a great science connection! This infographic walks students through a simple 4-step process of making their own rock tumblers. 

Watch This

Let your students know that there is a real-life space rock hunter! Share this 2-minute video from “Meteorite Man” Naveen Jain and pause to talk with your students as you watch.

More About the Article

Content-Area Connections

Science: Astronomy

Social-emotional learning: Relationship skills (communication, teamwork); responsible decision-making (analyzing situations, ethical responsibility)

Key Skills

Similes, character, cause and effect, inference, key detail, drawing conclusions, main idea, interpreting text

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. PREPARING TO READ

Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to look at pages 14 and 15. Direct their attention to the title, subtitle, and illustration. Ask how the picture connects to the title and subtitle of the story. What might a giant space rock landing on Earth look like and sound like?
  • Have students look at the subheads that introduce each section on pages 16-19 and the pictures. Ask students to predict how the space rock might change the lives of the family that lives on the farm. Remind them to think about their predictions as they read.

Introduce Vocabulary (10 minutes)

  • We have highlighted in bold six vocabulary words and phrases that may be challenging and defined them on the page. Discuss the meanings of the terms, focusing on how they are used in the story.
  • Preview these words by projecting or distributing our vocabulary activity and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow.
  • Highlighted words: ghost town, gash, meteorite, meteor, atmosphere, meteor shower

Set a Purpose for Reading (15 minutes)

  • Call on volunteers to read aloud the Think and Read and Think and Write boxes on pages 14 and 19. These features and the fiction package support the story’s featured skill, similes.
  • Remind students to look for the words like and as to help identify a simile.

2. CLOSE READING

Reading and Unpacking the Text

  • First read: Read the story as a class. Ask students to identify story details or vocabulary they don’t understand in each section. Have them think about how the illustrations connect to the story.
  • Second read: Distribute the Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions to the class. Preview them together. Ask students to read the story again and answer the questions as a class or in small groups. (These questions are now also available in Google Forms on our site so students can type in their answers and email them to you.)

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes) 

  • Read the first section. What does Karl mean when he says “I was feelin’ sorta blue”? (character) He was feeling sad. Why was he feeling this way? (cause and effect) His parents were having money problems.
  • What does Karl compare in the simile “Then whump-whump-whump like a flat tire”? (similes) He compares the loud sound he hears to the sound made by a flat tire.
  • Read “The Rock Arrives.” Why does Daddy pick up Karl and hold him tight? (inference) Daddy realizes that Karl could have been killed if the huge rock had hit his son. This scares him. 
  • What does Karl compare in the simile “The magnet stood up like a soldier at attention”? (similes) He compares the magnet to the way a soldier stands very straight.
  • What does Brother say created the meteorite? (key detail) When a meteor hits Earth’s atmosphere, it breaks up and forms meteorites. Brother said there had been a meteor shower the night before. Why does Daddy stare at Brother “as if he had lost his mind”? (drawing conclusions) He doesn’t believe the meteorite is worth a million dollars. He thinks that idea is crazy.
  • Read “Daddy’s Idea.” What does Daddy’s idea to move the meteorite to a new museum in town show about his character? (character) Daddy wants to help the people of Rock Creek overcome their financial problems. This shows how thoughtful and generous he is.
  • What does Daddy mean by “I believe that getting what you need out of something is better than getting all that you can out of something”? (main idea) He believes in using what you have only for what you truly need, rather than being greedy and selfish.
  • Read “The Choice Is Made.” What does Karl mean when he writes in his poem that the space rock “stopped the ghosts from coming around”? (interpreting text) Because so many visitors came to Rock Creek to see the meteorite, the town was no longer in danger of becoming a ghost town.

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)

  • On page 15, Karl says that something passed overhead “like a thundercloud moving a million miles an hour.” After the space rock lands, he says that “it was quiet, like the Earth and everything on it was holdin’ its breath.” What do these similes mean? How do they help you understand what Karl saw and heard? (similes) In the first simile, Karl compares the speed of the space rock to a rapidly moving thundercloud. In the second simile, he describes the total quiet and stillness he experienced after the space rock landed. These similes help readers understand how fast the space rock looked to Karl and how quiet it was after the space rock hit the ground.

3. SKILL BUILDING

  • Distribute our Similes Activity. Have students work in pairs to complete it.
  • Discuss the writing assignment in the Think and Write box with students. Have students complete the task in class or as homework and discuss their paragraphs in small groups.
Differentiate and Customize
For Independent Readers

Ask students to read the story silently. Have them write a scene in which a reporter for the Rock Creek newspaper interviews visitors who have come to the farm to see the famous meteorite. Students can read their work aloud.

For Small Groups

Have students take turns reading the story aloud. As they read, ask them to underline the similes. Then ask students to discuss the meaning of each simile they identified.

For Second- Graders

Write tryin’ and trying on the board. Explain that the apostrophe in tryin’ replaces the letter g in trying. Have students point to tryin’ in column 1, page 15 as you read the sentence aloud. Ask students to repeat the sentence. Explain that Karl uses this form of the word because it sounds more natural when he talks. Help students identify other words ending in in’ in the story and read them aloud.