Cynthia Cotten, Virginia Childrens Author, fiction and poetry

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cover art
2008 Javaka Steptoe

Rain Play is a picture book about children caught in the park by a rainstorm, imagining the things they do until thunder and lightning send them scurrying for shelter.

Background: Cynthia Cotten is a full-time writer living in Northern Virginia. She loved to play in the rain when she was younger, but now she'd rather stay inside and keep dry.

(Reading and Language):

Discuss rhyme. Find the rhyme scheme in the story.

Discuss alliteration. Find examples in the story.

Discuss any words that might be unfamiliar to the students, such as splatter, romping or snug. Come up with synonyms for these words and read them in the sentences they appear in. Why did the author choose the words she did instead of one of these synonyms?

Wh-word questions: Talk about wh-words: who, what, when, where, why. "Who" questions are answered by people; "why" questions are reasons, etc. have students formulate "wh-" questions related to the story.

Writing Activities:

Imagine the story is fact. Write a newspaper article telling about it.

Write a paragraph or a story about a time when you were caught in the rain.

What might the children in the story say to each other while they're playing in the rain?

Write a story in the voice of one of the children as he or she tries to convince the others to go home.

Write a poem or a story about a rainstorm.

Write a weather story about something that might happen in another place, such as the jungle, the desert, or the far north.

Turn this story into a snow story and have the characters play in the snow. What might they do?


Discuss rain. What is it? Why does it fall? What makes it stop? Look at closeup pictures of raindrops.

Discuss thunder and lightning. What are they?

Discuss different kinds of clouds. What do they look like? What do they mean?

Discuss the water cycle.

Discuss rainbows. Where do they come from?

Oral Skills:

Discuss rhythm and rhyme.

Find other books in rhyme. Read them out loud. Compare different kinds of rhyme scheme.

Read some other stories about weather. Discuss the ways the authors portray different kinds of weather and what happens.

Social Studies/Economics:

Discuss where you think the children in the story live. Why? it rains?

Discuss rain in different parts of the world. Is it the same everywhere? Does it happen at the same time everywhere (northern and southern hemisphere)?

Discuss what kinds of things people do when it rains (work, play). What do you like to do when it rains?


Make a picture of a rainstorm.

Using different kinds of paper, cut out raindrops. Decorate them with glitter.

Study artists who have painted storms.

Javaka Steptoe's illustrations for Rain Play are done in paper collage. Learn about collage, then make one of your own.

Bulletin Board Ideas:

Create a mural of the story.

Create a mural of a park in other seasons


How is the story of Rain Play similar to your own life? To people you know? How are they different?

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