Vacation Pictures

July 10, 2009

My eye was drawn to the title during this summer break, Pictures from Our Vacation.  Pictures are so fun to take, and vacations are packed with memories.  Lynne Rae Perkins creates a seasonal sensation that you can use with your kids at any time of the year.  The story begins with a family getting ready to go on vacation.  The mother hands her two kids a notebook and small camera to record their memories.

They will be souvenirs of our vacation,” she said.

Pictures from Our Vacation [PICT FROM OUR VACATION]Throughout the book, you will notice a small notebook with a quick record of the kids’ thoughts and memories.

I also love the way she creates mental pictures of their thought-shots.  This visualization could be used during a reading lesson to show how the kids have a movie in their head of what they are thinking, just like readers have thoughts in their head during a text.

The other unique skill that I have not found in many books is map reading.  Lynne sprinkles in maps of the journey with a map key.  What a fun way to build background when teaching map skills to kids!  Plus, kids could make their own maps based on the ones illustrated in this narrative.

Savorings for reading and writing for Pictures from Our Vacation:

  • Thought-shots – front page begins the visualizing from each person as they enter the family car
  • Life-like feelings – Lynne captures a person’s feelings of anticipation, boredom, day dreaming
  • Perspective – “Our dad saw happy memories everywhere he looked.  All we could see was old furniture and dust.”
  • Where writing ideas come from – “And it’s hard to take a picture of a story someone tells or what it feels like when you’re rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts.  There are a lot of things like that.  But those kinds of pictures I can keep in my mind.”

The Library: My Friend

July 8, 2009

I love coming to the library.  Books appeal to me like chocolate, soothing!  I am in New York at a teen nationals competition with my children and have found some quiet time to write. I directly went to the library, a quiet and welcoming place.  Sitting down here at the computer, I notice a new book next to it, a title I have not read.  Wow!  It’s awesome.  I’ll be blogging on it in the near future.  It’s called Sneezeby Alexandra Siy and Dennis Kunkel.

The library can become a good friend to you.  On my journey of “learning” books, the library is my source.  I challenge you to go to the children’s section in the library and look for some books.  Our local library has a special section for the new books.  I usually look there first.  Then, find a spot to savor the book.  Meaning, read the book to enjoy.  Then, begin to look at the text with a writerly eye.  What words do you notice?  What did you like about the text?  And then, why did you like that specific part – was it the words, craft, font, humor, emotion?  Carry sticky notes so that you can tab the pages.  I love getting small ones to note the specific writing you like.  Many times I cannot name what I like.  I just like the way the words have been used.  I usually write those in my notebook (with quotes and author’s name) to remember the sound.  After a while of savoring the words, a craft will come to me – or I’ll name it my own unique trait.  What matters is that I notice the technique.  Do the same.  You’ll begin to notice more and more craft by doing this practice.  Which by the way, this practice is “savoring a book”, just like a life savor’s flavor lingers in your mouth.

Katie Wood Ray explains more in her book, Wondrous Words.

Now, since I cannot buy all the books that I savor, I will copy the cover with a sticky note on the front, listing the craft/skills that will help my teaching.  I also note where to find the book. This step is very important! Eventually, I hope to purchase the book, but at least I have a written memory of the book.   I then place the copy in a file that has a craft that I have named so that I can find it again.

Try it and let me know how it goes.


New Postings

June 1, 2009

It has been a while since I have blogged.  Family life has taken precedence.  I’m still learning to juggle family, church, teaching, coaching, and writing.  I have been writing though. 

At the Michigan Reading Conference, I attended a workshop called Reading vs. the Wii.  The gist of the conference was finding literature that spark boys to read.  Having two boys myself, this idea has become a mission on mine.  The presenter mentioned that we need to focus on books that have male characters.  Now, when I’m looking at new books in the library or bookstore, I notice if  the main character is a male.  I will be featuring several throughout the summer.

Please remember to comment on postings that you find helpful.  Feedback helps me become a better writer.  Also, the books posted can be used in so many ways.  I will only show a few possible teaching points.  Fall in love with the text and the teaching will be simple.


Slice of Life 13: Off to Michigan

March 13, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge Hosted by Two Writing Teachers

I have been planning on attending the Michigan Reading Conference since  I left last year.  So, with only a few hours away, I’m psyched.  I enjoy learning and growing and gaining new insights.

But part of my excitement is that I get to be around colleagues ,who are friends, going with the same goal in mind:  learning.  I love being able to process my learning with a friend.  It makes the information even more  memorable.  I usually am able to process a plan of action when discussing  my new learning. 

Having another perspective is also important.  Often what I hear and what my colleagues hear may be different; we’re learning from a different angle.  It’s good. It’s good to think beyond my opinion.  This process of learning also helps me connect with my students.  It gives me a glimpse into there learning.

Leaving for the conference has brought some anxiety on as well.  I was checking with my three children about what they would be wearing for a special event this weekend and also if they knew what outfit they’d wear on Monday for school.  My daughter, a sixth grader, said, “Mom, stop worrying.  You’re worrying too much.” 

“I know,” I replied.  “I just want to make sure you are prepared.”  I’m thankful for cell phones as we’ll be in touch.  A mother’s work is never done.  A teacher’s work is never done.


Slice of Life 8: Reflection

March 8, 2009

Slice of Life Challenge hosted by TwoWritingTeachers

Today, I read a SOL called Write Your Heart that Lynelle posted on her blog A Writer’s Life.  It sparked an idea for my Slice of Life today. (Thank you, Lynelle for your comment).

I have been reflecting so much more this week since I have begun the SOL Challenge.  I enjoy writing stories and my thoughts; I want to hold the moments for my family and students.  By nature, I am reflective.  I notice my surroundings and comment in my head.  This SOL challenge has pushed me to write those thoughts down more often.

Why is it that we become so busy and distracted to write?  Just like anything, planning is the key.  Making time in my day to write:   to capture my thoughts, to hold my wishes, to write what is important to me.  Isn’t that what we ask our students to do?


Saving Thanksgiving

November 6, 2008

Living in an age of super heroes – Iron Man, Batman, Fantastic Four, children sometimes forget that ordinary people can be heroes too.  Laurie Halse Anderson created a new super hero in her book, Thank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving.  She begins by talking to the reader:

You think you know everything about Thanksgiving, don’t you?

After making you think for a moment, she responds to you:

Well, listen up.  I have a newsflash…      WE ALMOST LOST…THANKSGIVING!  Didn’t know that, did you?”

The voice of Laurie Halse Anderson resonates through the story.  The reader is drawn in immediately.  When I read Thank You, Sarah, I feel like I’m having a conversation with the author.  Matt Faulkner, illustrator, adds a humorous touch to the story with his visuals.  His illustrations support the “talk” that the author has created.  Laurie then adds in some of the history of how people were forgetting about Thanksgiving and how Sarah Hale became the super hero.  A repeated line is used throughout the writing:  “She was bold, brave, stubborn, and smart.”  It supports the snapshots of Sarah Hale’s achievements in history.

Thank You, Sarahis one of the best texts to support persuasion.  Laurie writes, “And Sarah Hale had a secret weapon… a pen.”  She continues to show how Sarah Hale wrote and wrote and wrote to persuade people on issues during a time that women were considered second class to men.  She wrote to four presidents asking to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  All of them told her no … until she wrote Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.  He then said yes.  Thank You, Sarah!!  And thank you, Laurie Halse Anderson for writing such a brilliant book that will draw children into the history of the season and also to demonstrate the power of the pen.  Children need examples of writing for a purpose!

Savorings for reading and in writing for Thank You, Sarah:  The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving:

  • 2nd person – speaks to the reader
  • Voice!!!
  • Persuasion – supporting with valid points
  • Writing for a purpose – “secret weapon…a pen
  • Comma – in a series, clauses, for emphasis
  • Vivid verbs – “curdled her gravy

End note:  I discovered a teacher’s guide for Thank You, Sarahin Laurie Halse Anderson’s website.  Because I love history, I found it intriguing that the author is a distant relative to Sarah Hale.  Read it in Social Studies section on the teacher’s guide.