April 2, 2013

Creating Picture Books with Kids: Researching Other Authors' Books

Today I return to the topic of, "Writing Fractions Stories for First Graders," a project that I originally mentioned in my March 22nd post. In that first post I described the project and the initial research that the students conducted. In this week's post, I describe the next step in the project, which entails a more thorough research and review of other authors' books.

In advance of our class meeting, I requested a pile of picture books from the library:

For the research phase of the project, each student read at least three different picture books from the books available (noted in the list above). While they read, they each took notes about the following: 

1) What we liked

2) What we didn't like, and

3) What ideas the book gave us for our own writing project

There were very strong opinions about several of the books, and there were several themes that emerged in terms of comments and reactions. For example, the students felt some of the books were too complicated for first graders, some were too boring, some had confusing or boring stories, but the pictures were colorful and appealing, and some had illustrations that were very helpful in explaining fractions.

"Jump, Kangaroo, Jump," by Stuart J. Murphy and "Cuddly Kittens," by Megan Atwood (which, incidentally, is published by Abdo Publishing group, my publisher), were the agreed upon best examples of what we aimed to create with our own picture books. They use simple text, with a story and illustrations, and they each incorporate several examples of very simple fractions.

Other titles of mention included:

"A Fraction's Goal--Parts of the Whole," by Brian P. Cleary. Many students felt this book was as good as "Jump, Kangaroo, Jump," but it is a rhyming book, and we discussed that rhyming is more difficult to pull of effectively. We agreed that if students want to rhyme, they might create a single rhyme that repeats in several places throughout the story vs. writing an entire story that rhymes throughout. (Note: This book does not have a search inside feature via Amazon, but you can click on the title to link to a "google ebook preview"--although the layout in this view is not exactly like a picture book, you'll get the general idea).

"Give me Half," also by Stuart J. Murphy, also received good student reviews, but since it only incorporates 1/2, and it is a rhyming story, it did not rate quite as highly as the other favorites. 

"Whole-y Cow! Fractions are Fun," by Taryn Souders is an example of a story in the form of a quiz. Some of the kids had difficulty with this book because there was some confusion in how the "dots" that portrayed the fractions were incorporated, and the fact that "half a cow" is not literally "one half" (there were a lot of literal kids who were sticklers for details in this class!). 

"The Doorbell Rang," by Pat Hutchins and "Full House," by Dayle Ann Dodds are examples of stories that incorporate fractions in a subtle way, but the kids agreed that they wanted to create stories that incorporated fractions in a more explicit way.

Lastly, a book that kids found very fascinating is, "Ed Emberely's Picture Pie." This is a REALLY COOL book that shows how different illustrations can be made using "parts" of a circle. 

We wrapped up the student meeting with a plan to summarize the research findings and begin drafting our stories at the next meeting. By the end of the class, several students had ideas brewing for their own stories, which I'll share in a future post. 

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