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!


Characters in stories talk in unique ways--with words that reflect their personalities. You can't just move dialogue between characters in a story. Someone bossy says things in a different way than someone with a big ego or someone who has an over-the-top personality. In the video above, you'll see examples of how each of these types of characters talk.

Encourage your students as READERS to notice how characters in picture books talk and then discuss why their styles or ways of talking are good matches for their personalities. Next challenge your students to go one step further and generate NEW conversation for picture book characters. What would Fancy Nancy or Skippyjon Jones or Amelia Bedelia say if they were running late or were at a movie premiere or relaxing at the beach? (Note: This generating-conversation activity is modeled in the video above.)

As students notice how characters in books talk, then challenge them to improve the conversation of characters in their own stories. How can they WRITE conversation that matches their characters, that reveals their personalities?

During SHARE TIME, have students share strong "character talk" examples from books they are reading and from their own writing.

In the COMMENT section, suggest names of YOUR favorite DISTINCT CHARACTERS.

Character Talk Handout

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham & Paul O. Zelinsky
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde & John Schoenherr
You're Wearing THAT to School?! by Lynn Plourde & Sue Cornelison

Writing Speech Bubbles for Wordless Books

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One way to boost students' writing is to have them do STORY ADD-ONS, that is, add a part to published stories. Picture books are perfect for this purpose. Students should choose a picture book that has a repeating part or pattern, read the story to figure out the pattern, and then add a WHOLE NEW PART to the story--words and illustrations. They can put the add-on on a paper and tuck it into the published book so that students can share and read each other's add-ons.

In the video above--perfect for sharing with students in Gr. 3-5--I give examples of how to do Story Add-ons for three picture books: I'M BORED, PIGS IN THE MUD, and WILD CHILD. Students should try to make their add-ons fit in with the other scenes in the story, paying close attention to HOW the author told her/his story.

See the hand-out below on Story Add-Ons.

For younger students, if this activity is too difficult for them to do solo, then have them work in small groups or do the activity as a whole class.

By adding parts to published picture books, students will be looking more closely at how other authors tell their stories and will tune into how patterns are used in stories--and then be more ready to use patterns in their own stories.

Story Add-Ons Handout

I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black & Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde & John Schoenherr
Wild Child by Lynn Plourde & Greg Couch

Three Story Questions
Reading & Writing EAR CANDY

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