Mary Quattlebaum's Blog

January 26, 2015

by Jacqueline Jules
“El barrio is a shimmering cold hydrant spray on a hot summer day, vegetable gardens instead of lawns, and bright colored houses that look like villages.”
In Debbi Chocolate’s El Barrio a little boy describes the people and sights of his vibrant city neighborhood accompanied by colorful illustrations by David Diaz.
“El barrio is silver-streaked tenements, neon city streets, storefront churches, and bodegas that never sleep.”
Read El Barrio to your students. Admire the lyrical language and all the culturally rich details. The discussion could naturally lead to a conversation about different kinds of communities and the fun of learning words from other countries, such as the ones listed in the glossary at the back of El Barrio.
Using El Barrio as a model, ask your students to write about the beauty in their own neighborhoods. If time, let them illustrate their work, too.
This exercise provides a great opportunity to celebrate the diversity in your classroom and gives students the chance to share something about their lives.
Multicultural Children’s BookDay will be celebrated this week on January 27th. 


This national event was created to raise awareness for the kids’ books that celebrate diversity and to get more of these books into classrooms and libraries. To read about this exciting endeavor and how you can help, please visit their website.

If you'd like some book recommendations, visit this link for a list of resources to use on Multicultural Children’s Book Day 
Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day!
www.jacquelinejules.com
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Published on January 26, 2015 14:00 • 1 view

January 19, 2015

by Joan Waites
It’s that time of year when librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators and picture book lovers feel the excitement building for the “Oscars” of the children’s book world; the announcement of the winners of this year’s many prestigious children’s book awards from the American LibraryAssociation:
For the following classroom activity, we’ll focus on the Caldecott medal, awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children, although a similar activity could be done for any/all of the medals awarded. The Randolph Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, and awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children.
One way to engage your students in the excitement of book award season is to host a mock Caldecott award contest in the classroom. Depending on time, resources, and the age level of your students, pick 5-20 picture book titles that were released in 2014 to read with the class. Some of the top contenders for the award this year, (but by no means an all-inclusive list):

The Farmer and the ClownNana in the CityMama Built a Little NestEmily's Blue PeriodSam and Dave Dig a HoleIridescence of BirdsDance Like StarlightThe Right Word: Roget and His ThesaurusHave You Seen My Dragon?Bad Bye, Good Bye
Specific judging criteria used by the ALA committee can be found on the ALA website:
To simplify the judging criteria for students, discuss the illustrations in each of the chosen books focusing on the illustration style, medium used, how the pictures work with the text (or don’t), and the overall reaction to each picture book. What makes the art unique from other picture books? Students can be placed into committees to discuss titles and cast mock votes, or each individual student can cast their own. Pick one winner and two-three honorable mentions. Prior to the announcements, reveal the winner of the class vote. If possible for your time zone and start of the school day, you can then tune in to the official announcement via the ALA website.
The announcement of the 2015 Youth Media Awards will take place at 8:00 a.m. Central time on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Chicago.
Join us for a live webcast of the press conference or follow I Love Libraries on Twitter and Facebook to be among the first to know the 2015 winners. The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is  #ALAyma


If possible, host a small celebration in the class with refreshments to conclude the award announcements, presenting a handmade Caldecott medal to the group or individual coming closest with their predictions. Who will this year’s winners be? 

www.joanwaites.com
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Published on January 19, 2015 14:00 • 2 views

January 12, 2015

by Mary Quattlebaum
Three childhood passions—drawing, origami and writing—come together for author/illustrator Tom Angleberger in his Origami Yoda series.  I had a chance to talk with Tom recently about the wildly popular seven-book series. These books make strong models for classroom writing and can jumpstart playful exercises.  Tom shared his thoughts and process, and below I offer a few writing exercises connected to the last book in the series, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (Abrams, 2014, ages 8-12).  As Origami Yoda, the wise finger puppet, might say:  “Write you must.”
*  MAKING UP WORDS:  The middle-school characters in Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus use a made-up word, “stooky,” which means “cool” or “awesome.”  Classroom Writing:  Have students separate into five or so groups.  Each group must make up three words, with one meaning “cool,” the second, “stupid,” and the third, “angry.”  How might the made-up words sound like what it means?  Or reflect something that seems representative of that word?  (For example, the made-up word “volnormous” might mean “very angry.”  Ask students to write their made-up words in a sentence or paragraph and/or use it conversation at some point during the day or at home.  What was their listeners’ reactions?   
*  PERCEPTION AND VOICE: The book is a wonderful example of multi-voiced narration.  Many young characters contribute and each voice is different.  Tom says that each book presents it own challenges and that a particular challenge for him with Origami Yoda was crafting girl voices.  “I had never worked with girl narrators before,” he said.  “I had to work hard to make their voices and thoughts seem believable.”
Classroom Discussion:  Ask students to look carefully at a few simultaneous chapters.  How does each character see a certain situation differently?  Also, what makes Tommy sound like Tommy?  Or Sara like Sara?  What makes each voice unique?  (Students might look at vocabulary, sentence structure, words frequently used by that character, character’s overall attitude towards things.)
Classroom Writing:  Have students put Harvey and Tommy (or Harvey and Sara) in a museum they have visited.  How does Harvey look at this thing (a sculpture, a dinosaur model, a historic airplane)?  Now, describe it in Harvey’s voice.  How about Tommy or Sara?
* SNACK FOOD FIGURES:  In the book, the characters make Star Wars figures from snack foods.  Students might do this for homework, take a photo, and post it on Tom’s origamiyoda.com website.  Or they might eat their creation, as Dwight does with his fruit roll-up creation Fruitigami Yoda.
* MORE “STOOKY” DETAILS ABOUT TOM:  Click here for my interview in KidsPost section of the Washington Post.
www.maryquattlebaum.com

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Published on January 12, 2015 14:00 • 2 views

January 5, 2015

by Karen Leggett Abouraya

Bundling up for an outdoor walk may be time consuming, but it can be worth the hassle, whether you take a field trip to a nearby park or refuge  or just wander the playground or school neighborhood.  Get ready for a winter observation walk by reading Amy S. Hansen’s Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter. Youngsters will learn about winter habitats for monarchs, ladybugs and dragonflies but also how Amy creates words like “bugsicles” to describe a woolly bear caterpillar in winter:


“She’s getting ready to perform an amazing trick. She will freeze in the winter, thaw out in the spring, and start all over. Woolly Bear won’t need to breathe while she’s frozen. She isn’t dead. She isn’t really asleep. She’s a bugsicle.”
Now make sure each child has a journal and a good, soft pencil and head outside. Give each child or pair of children a small area to investigate – just a few square yards, like the children in the photo outside the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, MN. (Check the link to see samples of student writing!)
Ask students to use descriptive words to write about their area – what colors do they see? Is there concrete or grass, mud or snow? What do any trees or plants look like?
Are there signs of wildlife? Ask children to imagine where an animal or insect could live in the space they are investigating. Under a log? In a frozen pond? Wrapped in a dry leaf? In the crack in the sidewalk?  
Encourage children to write just single words or phrases that can be turned into poems or prose when everyone is back indoors, where they can also add artwork or research.  There are also several ways to expand this activity:
·       Return in the spring so children can write about changes in the area they observed in the winter. This can be a good “compare and contrast” exercise.
·       Have children write poems about their observations to enter in the River of Words contest. Here is a SAMPLE from Whittlesey National Wildlife Refuge, WI.
·       Partner with a park or refuge to have children write and publish a guidebook, like Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NM) Through the Eyes of Children.

 http://childrensbookguild.org/karen-leggett-abouraya
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Published on January 05, 2015 14:00 • 2 views

December 29, 2014

guest post by Hena Khan
I never realized that writing a concept book would feel like solving a puzzle. When I sat down to write Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, I first brainstormed objects to represent each of the colors I wanted to include. Some were obvious choices, like brown dates or orange henna designs, but most of the others were not. Next I had to come up with something to say about each object using the formula I had created:
“Gold is the dome of the mosque, big and grand,Beside it two towering minarets stand
I continued with “Blue is…”, “Red is…”, “Green is…”, and so on, writing rhyming couplets. After arranging them into an order that made sense, I concluded with a summary page that tied everything together.
I’m going through the process again these days, this time working on a shape concept book. I’ve asked my own children to help me with the process of selecting objects and coming up with rhymes, and they have great ideas even as it often turns into silliness. I’ve realized that working on a concept book of poetry can make for both a fun group and individual writing exercise.
I picked Islam to introduce the topic to young kids, but your students can pick any theme that is special to them, like basketball, the backyard, the music room, or dance. They can choose to focus on colors, shapes, or numbers and use the same formula I do, starting each section with either “Red is . . .” “Square is . . .” or  “One is . . .”
For younger children, it might be enough of an activity to have them write a line about each object and illustrate their books. But it would be fun to challenge older kids to come up with rhyming couplets of their own and see what kind of puzzles they can piece together. At the end of the activity, there should be an opportunity to share a variety of creative concepts.  
Hena Khan is a picture book and middle grade author from Rockville, MD. Her most recent picture book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a 2013 ALA Notable Book and a 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year. Night Of The Moon(Chronicle, 2008) was a Booklist 2009 Top 10 Religion Book for Youth. Hena has written two middle grade choose-your-own-adventure style novels, Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure: Mars(Chronicle, 2011) and Amazon(Chronicle, 2012); Mars received the 2012 Eleanor Cameron Golden Duck Award for Middle Grade Science Fiction. www.henakhan.com



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Published on December 29, 2014 14:00 • 2 views
guest post by Hena Khan
I never realized that writing a concept book would feel like solving a puzzle. When I sat down to write Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, I first brainstormed objects to represent each of the colors I wanted to include. Some were obvious choices, like brown dates or orange henna designs, but most of the others were not. Next I had to come up with something to say about each object using the formula I had created:
“Gold is the dome of the mosque, big and grand,Beside it two towering minarets stand
I continued with “Blue is…”, “Red is…”, “Green is…”, and so on, writing rhyming couplets. After arranging them into an order that made sense, I concluded with a summary page that tied everything together.
I’m going through the process again these days, this time working on a shape concept book. I’ve asked my own children to help me with the process of selecting objects and coming up with rhymes, and they have great ideas even as it often turns into silliness. I’ve realized that working on a concept book of poetry can make for both a fun group and individual writing exercise.
I picked Islam to introduce the topic to young kids, but your students can pick any theme that is special to them, like basketball, the backyard, the music room, or dance. They can choose to focus on colors, shapes, or numbers and use the same formula I do, starting each section with either “Red is . . .” “Square is . . .” or  “One is . . .”
For younger children, it might be enough of an activity to have them write a line about each object and illustrate their books. But it would be fun to challenge older kids to come up with rhyming couplets of their own and see what kind of puzzles they can piece together. At the end of the activity, there should be an opportunity to share a variety of creative concepts.  
Hena Khan is a picture book and middle grade author from Rockville, MD. Her most recent picture book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns (Chronicle Books, 2012) is a 2013 ALA Notable Book and a 2013 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year. Night Of The Moon(Chronicle, 2008) was a Booklist 2009 Top 10 Religion Book for Youth. Hena has written two middle grade choose-your-own-adventure style novels, Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure: Mars(Chronicle, 2011) and Amazon(Chronicle, 2012); Mars received the 2012 Eleanor Cameron Golden Duck Award for Middle Grade Science Fiction. www.henakhan.com


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Published on December 29, 2014 14:00 • 5 views

December 22, 2014

by Alison Ashley Formento
Have you put up any holiday decorations? There are people like Story Trimming1)     Write one page about a gift you hope to receive this year.2)     Include six to ten reasons you want this item and add details why this gift is so special. Example: I want a new bicycle because I’ve grown taller and my old bike is too small for me. I want a bright yellow bicycle so it shines when I ride on a sunny day.3)   Trim your page down to half a page (about two paragraphs). Choose which reasons and details you most want to share about this special gift.4)   Finally, trim your shiny story to only one sentence. This sentence is the “star” of your story and should show the main idea or theme of what you most want to share about this gift. It may be the very first detail you thought of, or it may be something newly discovered as you’ve trimmed and revised your page about this special gift.
Whatever gifts you receive this year, Pencil Tips Writing Workshop wishes you all the happiest of holidays!
http://www.alisonashleyformento.com
                  
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Published on December 22, 2014 14:00 • 3 views

December 15, 2014

by Joan Waites
I’ve recently become acquainted with the work of sketchbook artist and author Danny Gregory. Inspired by his book Everyday Matters, a Memoir (Hyperion, 2003), I’ve started using some of his drawing and journal techniques with my students.  In his book, he describes teaching himself to draw in a sketchbook/ journal using a “slow, careful gaze” when rendering the objects or scene he is observing. Instead of drawing what you know, draw what you see.
For example, if I place an apple on the table for my young art students to draw in their sketchbooks, most will begin by quickly drawing a circle. While it’s helpful to start drawing using basic geometric shapes, by slowing down and really observing the apple carefully, we can see that it’s most likely not a perfect shape. One half may be larger; it may have bumps, scratches or even a worm hole. All of these details make that one particular apple unique. Along with the sketch, I ask that they write down five unique observations they noted while drawing.  This helps to get them to slow down and really think about what they see.
Using this exercise in the classroom with your students, begin a drawing/writing session with a few ordinary objects from around the classroom--writing instruments, scissors, tape dispensers or more complex objects based on the age of the class. Ask the students to take a full ten minutes to really observe and draw what is placed on the table. Then ask students to note five or more details they observed while looking closely at the object. Take it a step further, and have children write a short story about the object, incorporating those five noted details.
Best wishes to all our readers for a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year!
www.joanwaites.com
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Published on December 15, 2014 14:00 • 2 views

December 8, 2014

by Jacqueline Jules
At the last NCTE conference, I had the privilege of serving as one of the roundtable leaders for a session sponsored by the Children’s Literature Assembly called “Reading Poetry Across the Curriculum.” In preparation for my discussion, I came across some terrific mentor texts that could be used in a combination of ways in your writing workshop classroom.
The Fastest Game on Two Feet and Other Poems About How Sports Began by Alice Low is a delightful combination of history, poetry, and illustration. Many people know that basketball was first played with peach baskets hung on the wall. But did you know that some say soccer began as a kicking game with a skull found on an English battlefield? Alice Low introduces the history of popular sports with a nonfiction paragraph followed by a beautifully illustrated rhyming poem. Most students have a favorite sport and should be naturally curious about its history. Read selections from The Fastest Game on Two Feet to inspire your class to research the origin of a sport. Afterwards, they can write about it in both nonfiction form and poetry, just as the book models. Students might also enjoy creating timelines, also included in this book. This would make a good class project with each student contributing an illustrated page.
A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer extols the joys of outdoor and imaginative play. Bring in a stick and ask students to brainstorm all the games it could be used for. The poem suggests using the stick as a scepter for a king or a magic wand. This book also includes poems on favorite pastimes like hopscotch, swinging, blowing bubbles, making pretend soup, hide-and-seek, and jump rope. Each poem does an amazing job of portraying the activity, making them terrific models of description.
Joy in Mudville by Bob Raczka provides a great opportunity to compare and contrast. This illustrated poem is a sequel to Ernest Thayer’s famous “Casey at the Bat” reprinted at the end of the book. After reading Joy in Mudville, your class can discuss how Raczka took a well-known story and continued it with a new character and different ending. Students can write their own story about Mudville and a sport of their choice. Or you could do it as a class writing project.
Students are interested in sports. They love playground time. Using texts that celebrate what kids enjoy doing most is a sure-fire way to provide high interest reading and inspiration for writing.

The handouts for CLA Master Class "Poetry Across the Curriculum" session at NCTE are posted online. I hope you'll check out these great resources. In addition to information about Poetry and Sports, there are poetry handouts for Science, Math, Social Studies, and Art.  
www.jacquelinejules.com

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Published on December 08, 2014 14:00 • 5 views

December 1, 2014

by Mary Quattlebaum
One of the best lessons I ever learned as a writer and a teacher was found in a slim volume entitled Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process by Peter Elbow (Oxford University Press).  One chapter is devoted to a simple strategy—freewriting—that is amazingly effective for all ages and levels, from elementary students to published authors.  Here’s how it works:

*  Freewriting means to write down what comes into your head, without stopping, editing, or censoring.  Just keep the pen or computer keys moving.
*  Proves remarkably freeing.  Instead of sitting and waiting for ideas/the right words to strike, freewriting actively starts the thinking/muscle-moving process—and words follow.  Random words often lead to greater focus and soon you’re engaged in the actual writing.
*  Write about and write through worries or writer’s blocks.  Begin by writing about these worries and fears.  This clears them from your mind and gets you into the flow/energy of writing, which often soon leads to the writing you had hoped to be doing.
*  Structure your freewriting.  You can add structure to your freewriting by focusing, at the beginning, on a particular topic (an essay you have to write, a character you wish to explore) and let it guide your opening.  You may find the writing shifting and/or new ideas emerging as you write.  That’s okay.  Just keep the pen/computer keys moving.
*  Recognize you can go back and revise.  Don’t try to make this perfect (that’s counterproductive).  You may find nuggets and shape as you write—or after putting the freewriting away for a few hours or days.
*  Maximizes use of limited time to write.  Just bring your pen and paper with you and take advantage of the five minutes here and 10 minutes there as you wait in doctor’s offices, in carpool lines, for violin lessons or sports practice (whether you’re a kid or an adult).  You’ll be surprised at how much you can actually write by harnessing that time.
*  Leads to freer writing.  Try scheduling 10-minute freewriting sessions for yourself or your students on a regular basis.  See what happens over time.  Often there’s an increase in creativity and pleasure and a greater looseness/flow to the writing.  A comment I’ve heard from kids and adults alike: “This is fun!”
Writing with Power is full of other helpful strategies.  Try them all and see which one you prefer.
www.maryquattlebaum.com

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Published on December 01, 2014 14:00 • 2 views

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