April 10, 2013

Creating Picture Books with Kids: Summarizing Our Research

Today I return to the topic of, "Writing Fractions Stories for First Graders," a project that I originally mentioned in my March 22nd and April 2nd posts. In these earlier posts, I described the project and the initial research that the students conducted. In this week's post, I summarize students collective feedback of the books they had read during their research the prior week.  As a reminder, each student read at least three different picture books from the books available (noted in this post). While they read, students took notes about the following: 

1) What we liked

2) What we didn't like, and

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

Here are the notes from our discussion--with apologies for the messy writing on the easels!:

Based on this discussion, students summarized the things they thought would be particularly important for their own stories for their target audience of first graders:

*Start with a fun character, and then build a plot around that character
*Incorporate a problem that needs to be resolved by the character
*Keep the target audience (first graders) in mind
   -Use shorter sentences
   -Don't try to be too fancy/complex with the plot or with the fractions that are incorporated
   -Keep it simple (but don't be so simple that it's boring)   
   -Stick to the topic (and be sure that the details included are important to the story line vs. random 'extras') 
   -Beware of negative messages or scary plot lines
*The books should be fun to look at visually 
*Illustrations that incorporate fractions can help first graders understand fractions (these can be on side bars, or in the back of the book, or incorporated into the main illustrations)

With these general guidelines in mind, students got busy working on their own stories. We discussed that each writer/illustrator may have a different way of  getting started, (i.e. some may start with a title or character or plot ideas, some may start with pictures, some may start with an outline, and some may start writing a rough draft), but we agreed that everyone would make progress in one or more of the areas listed below during their in-class work time: 

...and they did! By the end of this class meeting, most students made impressive progress on an outline and/or rough draft, and some had a good start on illustrations. In a future post, I will provide a summary of the story ideas that came from this process.  

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