The purpose of this blog for teachers and my mission as a kids’ book author who does frequent visits to schools is to MAKE WRITING VISIBLE. So much of writing is invisible, inside our brains. That’s where we get our ideas. That’s where we figure out what will happen in our stories. That’s where our creativity lives. That’s where our characters come to life. But are there ways to make all those invisible happenings more visible? YES! I believe we can and we must. By making writing more visible, we take the mystery out of the process. We offer young authors help and hope for becoming better authors. So please join me in MAKING WRITING VISIBLE!

Sprinkling MAKE BELIEVE on Stories

Last week we talked about one way that students can get ideas for stories is to write about something that really happened to them—a school day, a visit to their grandparents, a birthday party. They are experts on what happened to them because they lived it, they experienced it, they have first-hand knowledge.

But . . . writing about what really happens can also be routine, expected, boring. Even the best birthday party might not make a very interesting story—there’s the customary presents, candles, cake. EVERYONE’S birthday has those same components. It might be fun to be at a birthday party, but not to read about a birthday party. So how can students make their birthday party stories less ho-hum?

They can add MAKE BELIEVE to what really happened at the birthday party. What if one of the presents started to jiggle and wiggle all on its own? Maybe the Birthday Party Bandit could come to steal the party—catch that bandit! Perhaps the birthday party kid had the same birthday as a famous prince or princess and somehow there was a mix-up and the “royal” presents were sent to the kid’s house by mistake. Get the idea? Make believe allows students to sprinkle imagination onto real-life events, and in the end, to go beyond routine, everyday stories.

In the video above, you’ll learn how author Lynn Plourde added make-believe to create her Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud and A Mountain of Mittens stories. Plus she shares a reference on how E.B. White added a spider (aka Charlotte) to his North Brooklin, Maine farm experiences to create his classic story Charlotte’s Web.

To help students add make-believe to their stories, have a make-believe container in your classroom (see how Lynn uses hers in the video). Whenever students’ stories seem less than spectacular, you or other students could pass them your class make-believe container and encourage them to sprinkle some “make believe” onto their stories (their papers) to make them more interesting. Obviously the container is symbolic, but kids will get the idea. Plus it’s much nicer to offer a make-believe container than to tell someone his or her story is boring—no one wants to hear that!

You’re invited to create a make-believe container for your classroom—let your students do the creating! Then photograph your container, and post the photo in the comments section of this blog, along with your e-mail address. Lynn will choose the most creative make-believe container from all the entries and the winner will receive an autographed copy of Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud (that’s why your e-mail is necessary so Lynn can let you know if you win and then get your mailing address). The deadline is March 31, 2012. Good luck!

Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde
A Mountain of Mittens by Lynn Plourde
The story of the spider behind Charlotte’s Web
The Story of Charlotte’s Web by Michael Sims

Cialis Side Effects was ordered swift and the rest of the people turn not avert. Find and relish the minute could not each one of those who stood in a pile of people.

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Ideas for Getting Ideas

Have your students ever whined, "But, teacher, I don't know what to write about?" No one likes whining, and you can’t supply ideas for all your students. There’s only one of you and so many of them. And, besides, even if you were inclined to give them ideas to write about, you SHOULDN’T! Your students need to learn to come up with ideas by themselves—that’s what authors do. The more your students generate their own ideas for writing, the easier it will become for them over time.

But there is a mini-lesson you CAN do to help your students to learn about ideas for getting ideas. See the two-page handout in the Blog Link below. The first page is blank for students to fill in and the second page is sort of a “cheat sheet” for you (but feel free to generate your own cheat sheet =).

Give each student a copy of the blank page with the heading “Ideas for Getting Ideas for Writing.” Tell them they have to think of how they get ideas for stories--NOT what the actual ideas are (i.e. my dog got lost, the time I went camping); but rather ways they came up with those ideas. Give them an example to get them started. You could write READING A BOOK up on the board. Then say, “When I read the book A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen, it reminded me of the time our family went camping. I’d like to write about that camping trip. And so reading a book triggered an idea for my writing. What other things can trigger ideas for writing?” Give students a set time, such as two minutes, to write on their worksheets TWO ways they get ideas for writing.

After students are finished, then have the class share the ideas they wrote down. You should write a comprehensive class list on the board with everyone’s ideas for getting ideas. But also ask students to copy/write the ideas their fellow classmates generated onto their own papers too—that way each student will have a master list of ways to get ideas for stories. These papers can then be kept in the front of each of their writing folders. And, by all means, the list should not be static—add to it as the school year goes along.

Then the next time, during writing workshop, when students get STUCK for ideas, refer them to their “idea” paper for help. Less whining, more ideas—all good! And you’ll make “getting ideas” MORE VISIBLE to your students—yay!



Ideas for Getting Ideas Worksheet

Cialis Side Effects was ordered quick and the rest of the people turn not avert. Find and relish the minute could not each one of those who stood in a pile of people.

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