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A Teacher's Guide

Something for Nothing


A common warning is that you can never get something for nothing. What does this phrase mean? How do you think it will apply to this story? What do you think the main characters want?

Comprehension Guide / Quiz Questions


1. Why does Dog leave the city? What city does he leave?
2. What does he find in the country?


1. Why does Dog pay the cats to come make a ruckus?
2. Describe how he tricks the cats.


1. Predict what the cats do after their third long night at Dog's house.
2. Paint a picture using the same bright palette as the artist in Something for Nothing (though it does not have to be a scene from the book).


1. Why did Dog decide to handle the problem the way he did instead of some other way?
2. Make an outline or timeline of the events of the story.


1. How would you handle a similar situation?
2. Invent a way to trick a bully on a bus.


1. What happens after the story closes? What makes you think so?
2. Which illustration is your favorite in the book? Why?

Multiple Intelligence Projects

Verbal / Linguistic

In the author's note Ms. Stampler tells us that this story was one that her grandmother told when she was younger. Ask a grandparent or older adult about the stories they heard when they were children. Write down a version to keep for your own kids (or even better make a recording to keep forever!). It can be a typical story (like Rumpelstilskin) that may have been changed or embellished by local words and traditions.

Logical / Mathematical

Fill out the chart below based on the book.

Visual / Spatial

Study the illustrations in Something for Nothing and notice how the author creates a sense of movement in each piece. Using what you've learned from this careful observation, create an original piece of artwork for another folk tale that you know well. You can even duplicate the palette if you please, or use her Chagall-inspired designs for inspiration.

Body / Kinesthetic

Create a reader's theater presentation based on the book. Assign roles and memorize lines, then present to another class.

Musical / Rhythmic

The reason that Dog leaves the city is to take refuge from all the noise. Create a poem that captures a noise that you dislike, or capture the sound on an electronic device. Then, add musical instruments (even homemade ones) to add rhythm.


Something for Nothing solves the problem of bullies for one wise dog. As a class, brainstorm ways that bullies can be handled at school. Create posters to remind students that bullies on campus will not be tolerated.


Dog never acts out in violence. This type of self-control takes a great deal of courage and planning. Make a list of all the things you can do to prevent yourself from acting out violently against others. For example, maybe you can sit on your hands instead of striking out. Or write a letter you never plan to send to people who are picking on you. Keep the list in a handy reference spot (your locker? a folder?) and refer to it when needed.

Comprehension Chart

Main Character




Villians' goal



Copyright © 2004 Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. All rights reserved. Visit www.TracieVaughnZimmer.com

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