Thursday, October 14, 2021

Three for Your Library: Trust & Step

In the last few years, I've become familiar with this saying: trust and step. Anytime I've been up against a big problem, tried something new, or made a big change, I have found myself repeating the words trust and step. The phrase came up in a conversation with a friend and it seemed to stick for me. It reminds me there are tough situations and risks we take, but if we just take a step we are on our way. It's a one-step-at-a-time mantra that helps me to begin to find a way forward. 

In our classrooms, learners come across challenges as well. There are times we have to solve problems, take risks, or make changes. This trio of picture books can remind us it's okay to just trust and step. The answers aren't always clear, but if we step forward we will find our way through. 

The Starkeeper by Faith Pray

In this picture book, a child finds a fallen star. She works hard to take care of it, but she isn't sure what she needs to do. Through trial, error, and a bit of perseverance, she discovers exactly what the star needs to shine brightly. 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  Each of us carry a little light within. How can students shine their light to make the learning community bright? This book also lends itself to conversations about not giving up when the solution doesn't come immediately. Sometimes if we take little steps, we can figure it out. 

Anchor Text:  This book lends itself to problem-solution conversations. 

Mentor Text:  The story begins with a world that is lonely and dark. It ends with a world that is different. The pages in between are how we got to the change. Young writers can use this framework to think through a story of their own. Additionally, the author often changes of the length of her sentences which slows the story down and speeds it up. This would be a good book to show this crafting technique to writers. 

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella finds herself unsure of how to a handle a tricky situation when her school hosts a Mother's Day visit. Stella doesn't have a mother to bring, but she has two dads she loves very much. Stella worries about the best solution. Finally, she decides to just trust and step. She makes a plan that she hopes will be the perfect solution. It turns out it is - and it also opens doors for others. 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  Family can mean a lot of different things and this book is perfect for this conversation. As a teacher, I'm reminded of the things we do with good intentions but can impact our students. We can all think of times we felt like we didn't fit in, but our tendency can be to just walk away from those situations. Stella, however, finds a way to a solution. 

Anchor Text:  This picture book also lends itself to problem-solution conversations. There is also plenty to talk about in relation to Stella as a character: her complexity, her perseverance, the way her world is impacted by social constructs. There's plenty to discuss about this character through what she says and does. 

Mentor Text:  In it's simplest form, this mentor text is perfect for talking about problem-solution. It also has some great examples for letter writing with our youngest writers. However, what stood out to me the most was the authors use of transitions to move the reader through time. 

Areli is a Dreamer by Areli Morales and illustrated by Luisa Uribe. 

Areli's mom and dad are in America trying to make a better life for their family. Areli's brother is soon able to join them as he was born in America. He is able to move between Mexico and America with greater ease because of his citizenship. Areli, on the other hand, was born in Mexico. She stays behind with her grandma while her family finds a way to get her to New York. When she finally gets the call to go, she's not sure how to move forward. Areli decides to trust and step into this new situation. 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  This book illustrates how we have to be strong in hard times. Areli is strong and works to find her way through difficult situations that are not in her control. It also could open a conversation about the challenges of learning to live in a new country. For older readers, it might be a good early entry into conversations around immigration and DACA. 

Anchor Text:  Areli is a strong character. We learn a lot about her through conversations she has and situations she experiences. 

Mentor Text:  Writers can write about their experiences. This is a true story and the author's note certainly enhances the reader experience. It also talks about a big change that happens across a lot of time. It can be hard for younger writers to determine the most important details to give a big idea succinctly. This book could help with those conversations. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Three for Your Library: Books to Spark Creativity

"In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?" 
- Katey Howes

Sometimes I need some help getting my creative juices flowing. Recently a friend suggested Courageous Creativity: Advice and Encouragement for the Creative Life by Sara Zarr which was a perfect complement to the book I had just finished: The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. 

Of course, this made me start to think about books that might spark some creativity in students. 

Here are three picture books to inspire your young creatives:

Be a Maker by Katey Howes and Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

This is one of my newer favorites for inspiring creativity. I mean how can you go wrong with a book that starts with the question: "In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?" As you turn the pages possibilities abound. The book encourages imagination, play, creativity and collaboration. 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  This picture book is perfect for opening up a conversation about risk-taking and the many ways what we learn across the day can be applied as we try to create and make. 

Anchor Text:  This book will allow for conversations around author's message.

Mentor Text:  In an effort to introduce readers to the possibilities of all you can make, the author has carefully selected details to show possibilities big and small. This list-like structure can be an easy way for younger writers to begin to explore an idea. It also is a good one for discussing the way text and illustrations work together to build meaning. 

The Dreamer by Il Sung Na

Talk about perseverance. In this story, a pig loves to sit and admire birds. One day he decides there has to be a way to join them so he gets busy on a plan. The work, however, isn't easy and never goes as planned. He runs into all kinds of challenges and works to find solutions. Will he ever fly with the birds? 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  This book lends itself to conversations about perseverance and trying hard things. Things don't always come easily and sometimes we have to find new solutions and reach out for help. 

Anchor Text:  For me, this book screams character study. How can a characters actions tell us what they are like? After reading this book, it might be interesting to find other books with characters that are similar to pig as well as those that are quite different. 

Mentor Text:  There are a few ways the author has crafted this story that would make for good conversation with writers. Its problem and solution structure is very apparent and would be good for those first conversations around this structure. It also has a circular beginning and ending. It might be interesting to compare this book to others that have used a repetitive first and last page. When does it seem to work best? 

With My Hands by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson

What would a book list be without a little poetry? One of the great things about using this collection of poems is there are so many possibilities to use different poems at different times for different reasons. This poetry book would pair nicely with "Be a Maker" and offer more possibilities for students to find their inner maker. It acknowledges so many different ways we can make things. Best of all, all of the possibilities are things kids can try right away. 

The Way You Might Use It:
Community Conversations:  When it comes to creativity we are all so different. We have different strengths, different interests, and different challenges. This books would certainly open the door to beginning conversations for children to find what they love to create. 

Anchor Text:  There are a variety of kinds of poetry collections. In this collection all of the poems are tied by a common idea. If you're digging into an author's message, it would be interesting to compare this with "Be a Maker." Each author uses a different genre to help readers to see new possibilities. What works well about each? 

Mentor Text:  These poems, along with a conversation about the ways students like to create, might lend themselves to a bit of poetry writing. A closer look at the poems in this collection can open many new possibilities for crafting poetry. 

These are just some of the possibilities you'll find for brining out the creativity in the children in your classroom.

Just a side note:  I've been playing around on Canva so I changed the "Three for Your Library" graphic (just an FYI). This is the old one:

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Getting Back to the Habit of Writing

A little over a year ago I started j-alking (my word for jog-walking...and there's no way you could call this a run). I have a two mile course I jalk several times a week. I'll be honest, staying consistent isn't my thing. I've learned - the hard way - if I don't jalk regularly, however, there's a price to be paid. If I take a few weeks off from this routine, the first several jalks are not easy. For this reason, I've tried to push myself to be more consistent in this part of my routine. It's honestly easier to be consistent than to start over and over again.

Writing is much the same. This month is October so I've made the commitment to improve my writing game (read about my Blogtober commitment here). I want to get back to the regular writing habit I had in place some time ago.

However, just like running, getting back to writing isn't easy. I feel like I'm starting again. Finding topics takes more work than it used to take. Deciding the best way to craft pieces feels like an uphill climb. The sentences don't come easily. I'm also reminded when I stop by blogs to read the writing of others that time and practice matter as their writing shines from their commitment. 

This challenge to get back to writing has me thinking about the learners in our classrooms. What's it like to come back in the fall and get back to writing? How hard is it to write if there isn't time carved out each day to stay in the habit? 

Here are a few steps that are supporting my steps back into writing. As I have reflected on these days back, I can't help but think these steps might matter for the young writers in our classrooms too. 

Getting Back to Writing 

Build a Community: As soon as I planned to reset the habit of writing, I went back to my favorite writing communities. These communities not only help me with the commitment to write, but I also learn so much reading their writing. 

Build strong writing communities within our classroom. (Of course, it's a bonus to build some connections for writers beyond our classroom.) 

Increase Time to Read: When It's time to go back to writing, I find I really push to also pick up my reading. By increasing the amount of reading I am doing, I seem to find the writing easier. It seems when I am trying to write, I pay more attention to the moves the author makes as well as the words selected. Additionally, I find it helpful to read about writing and the process. 

Share videos and snippets from authors who share their writing process. Amp up read aloud and time for independent reading. 

Find Mentors: Anytime I've taken a bit of a break from writing, the first weeks of getting back into the habit are hard. Really hard. I'd like to quit hard. I find searching for mentors for the type of writing I'm trying to do and collecting examples of craft moves I aspire to consider help me get back into the groove.

Select read alouds which can serve as mentors. Find picture books, short snippets, articles and types of text that are within reach for young writers. Read them first and then look closely at the moves the authors have made.

Grab a Notebook: Yep, I can't imagine jumping back in without getting back to my writer's notebook. This is the perfect place for play, mess, and terrible writing - and a lot of it is terrible right now. 

Help young writers start a writing notebook. There's a lot less stress writing in a notebook than on a piece of paper headed to an audience or working toward publication.