Tag Archives: writing with kids

Peril and Perseverance

22 Jul

As most of you know, I will be moving to a new school in the Fall, teaching 6th grade in a program for the highly gifted. This is quite a shift from teaching 4th grade at a Title I school, but I am excited about the challenge and adventure this new job presents.

In two weeks, I will go to the first of 3 workshops I need to attend before school begins. Although this will be my first official foray back into middle school  I have been thinking about it. As with any grade change, it is important to know what to expect in terms of curriculum, but also in terms of what kids should be able to do.

A friend of mine has a daughter who was in 6th grade last year at Jackson Middle School.. She told me throughout the year about the longterm Biomes project her daughter was doing in class. It was complex and multifaceted, culminating in fiction and non-fiction writing. Her teacher was so impressed with the student’s results, he got in touch with a local publisher and had his students’ work published. Alive and Well. Mostly. is a collection of the fiction that these 6th graders wrote.


From the Publisher: Alive and Well. Mostly. Animal Tales of Peril and Perseverance for Young Readers by Young Writers, illustrated by Colin Adams and edited by David A. Wierth is a collection of imaginative short stories about animals in their native biomes. Migrate through the ocean with an adventurous narwhal, defeat a badger army with the king of the owls, befriend a firefly with a vengeful howler monkey, or navigate complex social dynamics with an arctic wolf. Each story is sure to draw you in: friendship, family, predators, betrayal–this book has it all.

As I read the first story, I laughed, because I could picture the writer. And this feeling continued throughout the book. These are excellent stories, written by 11 and 12 year olds. Their stories reflect their age, but they also reflect a lot of research and editing. The result is an excellent volume that I will add to my classroom library once I get around to setting it up.

You can find out a little more about it on the publisher’s website. If you have a young person who loves to write, they might enjoy reading this delightful collection, and it might inspire them to write their own stories.

The Death of the Hat

22 Jun


The Death of the Hat  is the 4th collaborative anthology by Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka. The book’s title comes from the Billy Collins poem within, which is one of the poems in the final chapter “Contemporary”. For this is a collection of poetry spanning 2000 years. In fact, the full title of the book is The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50  Objects.

All of the poems focus on objects, earthly and celestial. Chris Raschka’s light watercolors give each of them life and help us see what lies beneath the surface of the poets’ words.  The poems come from Rumi, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pablo Neruda, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and others less well-known in the West like Cui Tu, Bai Juyi and Basho. Although these poems were not written for children, they are a great way to expose children to the “canon” of poetry.

The book would be useful in any classroom. Kids could write about an object, or create a history of themselves through objects, whether in poetry or in prose.

However you decide to use it, this is an excellent tool for the classroom.

From A to Z

12 Jun

Today is the last day of school for kids. Teachers have to go back on Monday, but, this is really the last day.

Today the building will be full of noise and excitement. Tomorrow, and for the next two and a half months, it will be mostly quiet and empty.



We have an assembly at 9, where awards will be given out. Before we go, I will give my ids my gift to them. It is a tradition I had when I last taught fourth grade and I revived it this year. I have written an alphabet book for the class entitled , F is for Fourth Grade.  The kids always think it will be their names in alphabetical order, but it isn’t. Each letter describes a personal quality, then I say which kid best described that quality. Having only 23 kids this year, I had a few letters left over, so I gave them some advice. Here are the first and last pages of my A to Z book.


is for Articulate 

Articulate means “using language easily and fluidly”.

Vincent is an articulate student. He thinks before he speaks and uses interesting words in his sentences. Vincent has a good vocabulary.


is for


 A zealous person is eager and passionate about something.

Endeavour to be a zealous student and friend. Give 100% to all you do. Be eager about your learning and faithful in your friendships.


To Dare Mighty Things

12 Feb

Our 4th graders have pretty much wrapped up the research for their biographies. Before the storm I co-taught a lesson on introductions. We’ve taught this before, but it never hurts to review it , and put it in the context of writing a biography. I used several books to show examples of how other authors began their biographies. The kids loved my Elvis impersonation as I read the opening paragraph of Who was Elvis Presley by Geoff Edgers.


Here it is:

“He was called “The King”. That’s because Elvis Presley ruled rock and roll. There were other         singers in the 1950’s. But nobody like Elvis. He Looked different. He greased up his black hair and grew long sideburns. He wore whatever he wanted. Even pink pants with black stripes looked cool on Elvis. And, boy, could he dance.”

It’s hard to read that aloud without doing an Elvis lip curl, let me tell you. So I did one.

Another thing we talked about was using a quote. Some kids have found a few. The boy researching Robert Oppenheimer found Oppenheimer’s most famous quote, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” He’s using it as his opening line.

A new book about Teddy Roosevelt, To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt written by Doreen  Rappaport, and illustrated by C. F. Payne is filled with TR quotes.


The book opens with this quote of the front flyleaf, “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”

One ting we’ve found in teaching the 4th graders to research  the impact a person has, they don’t always understand what type of evidence to look for. This is a great book to read to them to give them examples of impact. The mixture of informational text, quotes from TR, and the excellent illustrations by Payne, help the reader and researcher discover and understand TR.


It gives us insight into TR as a boy, a father, a presidents and an environmentalist.


All around, an excellent book for beginning researchers.

Visual Learners

2 Jun

I am many things, but I am not a visual learner. I’m a verbal/linguistic learner. I find visuals helpful at times, but I prefer to listen and read . It helped me be a successful student way back in the dark ages when the only visuals we had were those  roll up wall maps and films.

As a teacher, I’ve had to develop my visual side, because most of my kids benefit when they see what I mean. I taught an Arts 4 Learning unit that had kids creating statues before they wrote. it was wonderfully empowering for my beginning ELL students who don’t yet have the vocabulary for the ideas in their heads.

This year, when I was teaching a friend to knit, she asked if she could take a little video on her phone so she would;t forget how to do things when she got home.

So, when I came across how to, written and illustrated by Julie Morstad, I was excited and impressed, and my mind celebrated the possibilities the book presented for my students.


They could write the “how to” of one of the pages. They could use the book to help them find subjects to write about. They could use the pattern of the book to draw before writing. Gone are the boring days of writing “how to make a peanut butter sandwich”, although I never went that route to begin with. From here, kids can be inspired about things they really know how to do.

Each page begins with the simple text “how to” and then tells you what the page shows you how to do. Here is “how to go fast”


The illustrations have an old-fashioned feel to them, although they are perfectly modern.  The multiracial  characters demonstrate how to do things on single and double page spreads where the visual is the focus.There are no initial capitals and no punctuation so it feels as thought there is time to think and discuss.

I have 8 days of kinder ELD to teach and this book will be part of those 8 days.

how to feels like a Caldecott contender.

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