Thursday, August 27, 2015

How To Read A Story

Title: How To Read A Story 
Author: Kate Messner 
Illustrator: Mark Siegel 
Publisher: Chronicle Books 
Publication Date: May 5th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Step One: Find a story. (A good one.)
Step Two: Find a reading buddy. (Someone nice.)
Step Three: Find a reading spot. (Couches are cozy.)
Now: Begin.
Accomplished storytellers Kate Messner and Mark Siegel chronicle the process of becoming a reader: from pulling a book off the shelf and finding someone with whom to share a story, to reading aloud, predicting what will happen, and—finally—coming to The End. This picture book playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning. 
What I Think: This is hands-down at the top of my list for must-have books for teachers! I blogged about it earlier this month during the August PB 10 for 10. It's obvious that Kate Messner is a parent and a former teacher because she completely understands how we should be talking to kids about reading. How To Read a Story is an amazing book to start talking to kids about reading, reading aloud, and sharing books.
     I read How To Read a Story with Peanut's 2nd grade class last school year and they loved it! We first talked about what good readers do when they read a story and we talked about what we love about being read aloud to. Then we read the book to see what ideas were similar or different from the list we came up with. The kids loved finding things that were similar. My favorite part of the book is when it talks about reading in different voices. It wasn't until I had kids of my own and we went to a few different story times that I realized how possible it is for read alouds to vary in effectiveness based on how much energy, emotion, excitement, and fluency the reader brings to the text. When I read to Peanut and Little Bean we have the most fun with voices.
     I have so many great things to say about this book...but one thing I want to make sure I mention is that while it's a book about reading and celebrating how we read a story, I've found that it's also a great idea starter or writing prompt as well. When I talk to students about writing, I share how we have to turn our writer's eyes on and look for stories all around us. In How To Read a Story, there is a part where the reader is asked to wonder if the robot will marry the princess and it's a perfect story idea. After I read it to Peanut's class, they all were asking me if the robot married the princess. I was excited to tell them that it's not in the story but they can write that story. How cool is that? When a book leaves you wanting to know more or inspired to write your own stories...that's magic.
     This is a great example of how to write some fun non-fiction text. Students could think about their own How-To pieces that they might want to write. Have them think about what they are experts in or know a lot about and invite them to outline steps and take or draw pictures. This could be a great opportunity to do some digital writing and include multimedia. OR invite students to write and illustrate their own versions of how they like to read a story that they can share with their parents or caregivers. OR share this at a family reading night or curriculum night and give parents the opportunity to think about how to make reading aloud at home as fun as possible. OR invite parents to brainstorm and share how they read stories at home. There are just so many possibilities!!!
     One more thing I would like to mention is that I'm a huge fan of Mark Siegel's illustrations and love how he brings this story to life. I believe the choice to do colorful illustrations on the white background really makes a difference and the color palette in general is perfect.
Read Together: Grades K - 5 
Read Alone: Grades K - 5 
Read With: If I Had a Dragon by Tom and Amanda Ellery, How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills, Wild About Books by Judy Sierra with illustrations by Marc Brown
Snatch of Text:  

A good one. 
It can have princesses and castles,
if you like that sort of thing,
or witches and trolls.
(As long as they're not too scary.)"
Writing Prompts: Write about what you love most about reading aloud or what you would love someone to do when they read aloud to you. Take one of the characters in How To Read a Story and write your own story about them. 
Topics Covered: Reading, Family, Friendship, Relationships, Caring, Compassion, Teamwork 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The One For 2015 Pitch Wars Mentees #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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Last year, on a complete whim, I entered and was selected for Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars. Applicants share query letters and first chapters of their manuscripts and mentors choose one person and one alternate. Mentors work with mentees to polish up their manuscripts and get them ready for the agent round where fabulous agents come and make requests. It's an amazing opportunity! 

Now a new batch of Pitch Wars mentees are waiting to find out if they were picked by a mentor and I'm sharing my best advice for the 2015 Pitch Wars mentees...but this advice is also relevant to all my writer friends out there!

Dear 2015 Pitch Wars Mentees (And All My Writer Friends),

I've snuck out of my house super early in the morning and super late at night to write. I've tucked myself into my closet and snuggled into my laundry room to write. I have playlists and white noise soundtracks loaded onto my phone so I can focus while I write. I've read all sorts of books blog posts and websites about writing. But meeting wonderful people who are on this writing adventure too and embracing the writing community and has helped me the most as a writer. They help me stay sane, help keep going, and help me know that living a writing life is more than sitting in front of a computer like Mr. Incredible here.

Last year, I was mentored by an amazing, two-person, Pitch Wars team Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie. They were supportive when I didn't know what I was doing, when I asked a million questions, and when I e-mailed them at all sorts of crazy hours. I was lucky enough to meet them in person last fall and they were as great in person as I imagined they would be. Pitch Wars helped me connect with Trisha, Lindsay, their alternate Kelly Calabrese, and writers they mentored previously. It was fun to be part of a team and to feel supported by them. Be kind to your mentors and their friends - they'll be your allies way beyond Pitch Wars!
Lindsay, Me, and Trisha at The Book Cellar for the release of their book Creed.
The best advice I can give to any writer 
is to find others who are writing too. 

Find people who are in the same headspace as you when it comes to writing - maybe they are working on their first draft, maybe they are revising, maybe they are querying, maybe they are on submission. But at the same time, connect with people who aren't in the same place as you when it comes to writing. I believe it's important to surround yourself with others who get it and can cheer you along. But make sure to help others who might be inspired by you at the same time. Share your journey, seek out mentors, buoy others up, nudge people along with you. I feel so so so lucky that people have believed in me along the way and shared their stories with me. It's inspiring and makes my heart want to burst when I think about it. 

The other day, I was writing at Starbucks. It happens quite often, I love to write at Starbucks. I took a picture to share - partly to document my life as a writer and partly to celebrate writing with others. Here's the picture:
When I tagged the post with #amwriting on Instagram, it told me that there are 13,797,530 other posts with the #amwriting hashtag. That's pretty cool! That's a lot of people who are writing and talking about writing. While not everyone in the world can say they've written a book, there are a lots of people on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook talking about writing. There's no excuse to not be connected.
Follow #amwriting, #writing, and #pitchwars. Other hashtags I love are #teacherswrite, #tcwrp, #pubtalktv, #mswl. I love the quotes @advicetowriters shares and recently found this awesome list of Authors Every Aspiring Writer Should Follow On Twitter from Quirk Books.

Whether you have a Pitch Wars mentor or other mentors in your life, be kind to them, appreciate them, thank them by adding to the amazing community of writers on social media. We're all one big writing family waiting to add you to our group hug!

And speaking of my Pitch Wars family...Lindsay and Trisha have a new book coming out on September 15th! (It's actually already available on Amazon and in some bookstores.) SWEET MADNESS is "a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan". How creepy and cool does that sound? Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/24/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I'm about halfway through Because Digital Writing Matters and am finding a lot of great ideas that support what I was thinking about when it comes to digital writing. Peanut and I read Kate Messner's 2nd Ranger In Time book and then even made it through Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid. It's so fun that he's really into reading longer texts now.

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm still trying to listen to Revolution by Deborah Wiles...but I'm barely in the car so it's taking me forever. I'm still getting used to my shorter commute. Peanut and I will keep reading Stink and I'm finishing up Cold War on Maplewood Street and Because Digital Writing Matters. I'm hoping to dive into some others when I'm done!
This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

In Real Life

Title: In Real Life 
Author: Cory Doctorow 
Illustrator: Jen Wang 
Publisher: First Second 
Publication Date: October 14th, 2014 
Genre/Format: Graphic Novel/Realistic Fiction 
GoodReads Summary: Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.
From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.  
What I Think: When I saw the gorgeous cover to this book and spotted Cory Doctorow's name as a co-author, I knew I had to buy In Real Life. I absolutely adore this book and am so happy for an accessible story that I believe young adult readers will relate and adults will learn from.
     I have to admit, I still have my original AOL e-mail address from 1994. Something about it is nostalgic so I just can't let go of it. Chat rooms were fun when I was in high school and while I don't play online games or visit chat rooms any more, I love Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Vine. I have a digital presence and I know the potential and power of finding my tribe around the world thanks to technology. But as I talk to more and more teachers, the more I realize not everyone has this same perspective and understanding of the depth of what it means to be a digital citizen.
     How can parents and teachers support students as they navigate this digital world if we don't know the lay of the land? I'm so excited to share In Real Life with teachers and parents so they can think through online relationships and how they impact our IRL relationships. But I'm also thrilled to have a book to share with students who might need to find solace in the fact that others are experiencing what they might be when forging online relationships. I know it was amazing for me to read Anda's story and see how our view of the world expands thanks to technology.
     I love this as a mentor text for examining character development and giving students opportunities to make connections, imagine possibilities, and talk through the impact of the choices we make. If I was writing a digital citizenship curriculum, this would most definitely be an anchor text. This would also make a great mentor text for comparing and contrasting because we have one character who is similar yet different online versus offline and both of her personas impact each other.
Read Together: Grades 7 - 12  
Read Alone: Grades 8 - 12 
Read With: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 
Snatch of Text:  
See the book trailer here.
Writing Prompts: Think about how you interact with others through digital media - or imagine how it might be different from in person - and write about what you see might be different or the same.  
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Honesty, Advocacy, Support, Culture 
I *heart* It:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Let's Celebrate A Habit For Free Writing!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating the power of habits!

*throws confetti*

A couple of years ago I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and I blogged about it in this post where Brenda Power came to visit. Then later that same year at an awesome writing retreat with Brenda, I starting applying the ideas about building habits to my writing and now I'm lucky to share some of these ideas and how they might support students writers.
I was lucky enough to share my writer's notebook in a colleague's class this week and lead her students through a discussion about what it means to be a writer. To start, I asked the students, "What does it mean to be a writer?"
And they had some amazing ideas! One student shared how writers need to have ideas - which was perfect because writer's notebooks are all about collecting ideas. We also talked about what writers write, how often they write, how much they write. I showed pictures and shared how I have my writer's eye on all the time and on the lookout for stories or story ideas all over the place.

A Habit For Free Writing
Then I modeled free writing, explaining why writers free write and setting up the structure we would be using. Before visiting their classroom, I sat down with their teacher and discussed the idea of incorporating free writing into everyday and developing the habit of sitting down to a blank piece of paper or a blank screen and being able to make something out of nothing. 

I've developed my own habit for writing that I can take anywhere and that I always have with me. Whether I'm writing at Starbucks, in my laundry room, or at the library, I prep myself to write and then pat myself on the back when I'm done. I frame my writing with two key phrases that I taught to the class. 
To start, I asked the students to say, "Bring it on, blank page!" It was great to hear fifth graders putting emotion into their voices and challenging the blank page! Then we wrote for one minute. After time was up, I asked them all to raise their hands if they had words on the page and pointed out that they did it. They made something out of nothing. That's part of what it means to be a writer. Together we said, "I can write. I am a writer. The proof is on the page."
I love both of these phrases as free writing anchors for students because they reinforce the fact that a first draft is perfect simply because it exists. Once we have something, we can go from there. This habit celebrates going from a blank page to having words on the page - simple as can be but powerful because you can't argue with the fact that there are words are there.

As the year goes on, we'll build the writing stamina and increase the time for free writes as well as offer the option to type their free writes. I can't wait to see what these students share from their notebooks the next time I visit!

Here is the Haiku Deck I used to guide our discussion and support our free writing experience in case you might find it useful.
Writer's Notebooks - Free Write - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

I've been thinking a lot about mission statements and mantras and mottos lately. Do you have any writerly mission statements, mantras, or mottos to share? I would love to hear about them!

And of course, I'm always happy to know:
What are you celebrating this week?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Space Boy and His Dog

Title: Space Boy and His Dog 
Author: Dian Curtis Regan 
Illustrator: Robert Neubecker 
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press 
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Niko may live on boring old Earth with his family, but he’s always finding a new adventure. Using the spaceship that he built from a box in his backyard and a little imagination, he flies off into space with his robot, Radar, and his dog, Tag. The only one NOT invited is his sister Posh who keeps trying to insert herself into Niko’s story. In this first mission, Niko and crew (and maybe also pesky Posh) fly to the moon in search of a lost cat. Illustrated in comic–book style and featuring easy–to–read text packed with humor, Space Boy and His Dog is Niko’s first adventure, with two more books planned in the series. 
What I Think: Oh, sibling rivalry. This story is part imagination and part how to get along with your sibling. With two boys in my house, I know what it's like to have two kids with different personalities and different ideas trying to play together. Most of the time it works out well, but we had our moments. This books provides a great opportunity to talk to kids about how we get along with others. I like that it is a picture book but kind of has chapters or different parts of the story. It would make a great topic to discuss but also help kids see how we have different scenes and how we transition from one to the next in our writing.
     The snatch of text that I pulled shows how in dialogue we can use slang or words that bring our characters to life. It's kind of fun to think what the Man in the Moon might talk like! Would he have an accent!?
Read Together: Grades Pre-K - 1 
Read Alone: Grades K - 1 
Read With: Chloe, Instead by Micah Player, My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee, Emma Dilemma by Kristine O'Connell George
Snatch of Text:   
"With Radar's help, Niko and Tag search the top of the highest moon mountain. No cat.

They search the bottom of the deepest moon crater.

They ask the Man in the Moon. The Man in the Moon says, 'The cat went thataway!'"
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when something didn't go your way. How did you deal with situation? Were there other people involved? How did you resolve things with him or her?
Topics Covered: Siblings, Adventure, Problem  Solving, Getting Along 
I *heart* It:
*Thanks to Blue Slip Media for 
a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review!*

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why'd They Wear That?

Title: Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History
Author: Sarah Albee  
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books
Publication Date: February 10th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction/Expository 
GoodReads Summary: Move over Project Runway. Get ready to chuckle your way through centuries of fashion dos and don'ts! In this humorous and approachable narrative, kids will learn about outrageous, politically-perilous, funky, disgusting, regrettable, and life-threatening creations people have worn throughout the course of human history, all the way up to the present day. From spats and togas to hoop skirts and hair shirts, why people wore what they did is an illuminating way to look at the social, economic, political, and moral climates throughout history. 
What I Think: The more I learn about the world, the more fascinated I become. In the last two years, I've fallen more and more in love with science as I've been invited to classrooms discussing the impact of biodiversity. It has really opened my eyes. The same goes for history. I started listening NPR and reading more historical fiction and non-fiction that is really captivating. Why'd They Wear That? is another non-fiction text that immediately sucked me in.
     We recently watched the movie Night At The Museum and I've talked to my kids about many of the museum artifacts that come to life at night. It's neat to read Why'd They Wear That and recognize many characters from the movie in the book. More than that, it's so cool to look at different time periods, people, and places in Why'd They Wear That and think about why they wore what they did. Fashion is so much more complex than I ever paid attention to.
     At Nerdcamp this summer, I led a session on looking at non-fiction mentor texts and especially how we can develop descriptive writing in non-fiction and using non-fiction mentor texts. I grabbed an examples from Why'd They Wear That where Sarah Albee used alliteration and commas in a series. Throughout the book, you'll find great descriptive language and literary elements that help bring the time period and the fashion of that era to life. 
Read Together: Grades 3 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 12 
Read With: Any non-fiction or historical fiction text, along with other texts to build an understanding of a time period, people, and their society 
Snatch of Text: 
"Everything you're wearing has a history. There's a story in every sneaker, shirts, and stitch." (p. 9)
Writing Prompts: Use descriptive language to bring to life your fiction or non-fiction writing. How might describing what a person is wearing tell about him or her as a person/character? Especially as it relates to the time period he or she belong to?
Topics Covered: Integration - History, Descriptive, Non-Fiction
I *heart* It:
*Thanks to Media Masters Publicity for 
a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review!*