Miss Nelson is Missing Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
School Rules
by Harry G. Allard Jr. and James Marshall - A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others. Spanish Version Attached.

This is a hilarious tale of deserved punishment for misbehaving students in a classroom setting. Underlying the funny situation is the important lesson about following rules and showing respect to others. Whether a teacher (or parent) is quiet and kind or loud and firm, it is important to follow the rules and show respect no matter what style you prefer. To the delight of many students the adults in this book are not terribly bright. This helps us focus on the perspective of the students and their efforts to get their teacher back. The story ends happily with the students behaving as they should and everyone feeling proud of their own cleverness. Your family will enjoy many creative explorations stemming from this story.

Before Reading

ASK: Do you know what a mystery story is? This book is a mystery in which a teacher is missing and the students seek to find her. I wonder why she is gone?

SHOW: Look at the picture on the cover. Can you find three clues that tell you what state the children live in (flag, Alamo, map of Texas).

CONNECT: Have you ever had a substitute teacher? What was it like? Were you eager to have your regular teacher back? Why?

During Reading

ASK: Why do you think Miss Nelson is missing? What did she think of the way the children were behaving? What should she do about their behavior? How does the behavior of the students affect the students themselves?

SHOW: Where do the children think Miss Nelson is? Why do they want her back?

CONNECT: What makes a good teacher: someone who is nice or someone who helps you learn? Who is a better teacher Miss Nelson or Miss Swamp? Why?

After Reading

ASK: Now that Miss Nelson is back, how will the children behave? Why?

SHOW: Look at the picture on the second to the last page with Miss Nelson in her bedroom. What clues help you solve the mystery?

CONNECT: Miss Nelson’s class may need a new list of rules. Why are rules good for everyone?


  1. What rules do you think Miss Nelson’s class should have to help them all learn and get along?
  2. Rules are important for the common good. Talk about the difference between rules and laws. Discuss rules that you have at school, in the community, and in all dealings with people. What happens if people don’t follow those rules?
  3. Respect is an important part of getting along with all people. It is important to respect people in authority, but it is also important to show respect for the interests, needs, and space of all people. Write an acrostic poem using the letters in the word respect. Write the word RESPECT in capital letters down the left side of a piece of paper. Write a word, phrase, or sentence beginning with each letter. The words should tell about how respect looks, feels, and sounds.
  4. Play a game with the whole family. Follow the rules of the game (outdoor game or board game) and focus on sharing, being a good sport, and showing respect for the other players.
  5. Talk about rules that you already follow at home. Choose three important rules for your home that will help you all get along and show respect for each others’ needs. (Or, if you already have rules, use the following guidelines to improve them.)
    • Brainstorm several rules, but choose just a few rules that are most important to everyone and reduce the most common conflicts in the family.
    • Rules should be stated in positive terms. Instead of “no hitting,” try the words “use only kind touches.”
    • Not following rules should have consequences. Every time you break a rule, there should be a consequence.  Discuss consequences ahead of time.
    • Write your rules down and make sure everyone in the family knows the rules.
  6. Miss Nelson dresses up in a costume with a wig and makeup. Use old clothes, some wigs, and makeup to have fun dressing up. Once you are all dressed up, pretend you are a different person and role-play some silly situations.
  7. The children come up with some pretty crazy ideas (carried off by butterflies) for what happened to Miss Nelson. Write and illustrate your own silly ideas about where she could have gone.
  8. With your family, think of some other cases for Detective McSmogg to solve. Use ideas from the story or think of some mysteries around your home, such as finding a lost stuffed animal. Write a list of clues and descriptions for the detective to help him get started.