May 29, 2013

Creating Picture Books with Kids: Requesting Outside Feedback and Creating the Final Product

Today I return to the topic of "Writing Fraction Stories for First Graders," a project I originally introduced in March. This week I will summarize the final feedback loop the students participated in, as well as the process for creating the final product. 

For the final feedback loop, the student authors requested outside feedback from classroom peers who were not involved in the picture book-writing project. To prepare for this process, all of the students received a "mini" revision workshop. This workshop summarized the key points the student authors learned about revision during the project (this was a review for the student authors, but it was new information for some of their peers who would be giving them feedback). It was emphasized that it would likely be difficult to receive feedback on something that had been so long in the making, but than an outside perspective was an important part of the writing process. 

After the revision workshop, each student author met with a small group of classroom peers to receive feedback about their draft picture books. It was very impressive to see how mature the students were about listening, asking questions and considering alternatives. 

One of the student discoveries was that it can also be difficult to give feedback. The students in this role took their jobs seriously and made excellent suggestions. Student authors received feedback about words/sentences that were confusing or too long, pictures that did fully align with the words, and ideas that could be added or cut. It was a great learning experience for all involved. 

The next step in the process was for student authors to consider and incorporate the feedback they'd received, and then create the final product. Each student received a blank, bound book (lined or unlined, their preference), that was purchased through a teachers' supply store. Their task was to transfer their final, revised text and illustrations to their blank books. 

Here are the instructions students received: 

*Plan how you're going to use the pages available BEFORE writing anything in the book.

*The first page should be the title page. (NOTE: Many students had fun with this, and also created a copyright page and dedications, etc).  

*If your story is short enough, the first page spread after the title page can just be pictures (but this really has to be planned out, because for longer stories, all of the available pages will be needed).

*If you bungle up a page, you can re-do that page on the immediate next page (and an adult will later help you remove the bad page with an exacto knife or scissors…), however, an important note is that if your goof is on the left side of a page spread, you will also need to redo the "back" side of that page (i.e. the right side of the immediately preceding page spread). (NOTE: Many of the students had at least one "oops" that had to be corrected in this manner).  

*It's okay that the last few pages of each book will be blank. Those pages can be used to write 'The End' or to do an ending illustration, or those pages can be cut out before the books are shared with buddies, or just left blank. (NOTE: Some students had fun with the ending pages of their books, too, creating "guest logs" for their readers to write in their names and/or "author notes" and other backmatter. Students were very clever and creative). 

Here are some "action shots" of students busy at work on their books: 

Stay tuned. In my final post for this series, I'll share the final products and share the experience of the young authors participating in an "author visit" to their first grade buddy class.  

May 23, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm usually pretty low key about my own birthday, but the past week has been full of celebratory moments, and I find myself being more into the birthday groove this year! 

Over the weekend I attended the SCBWI-Oregon Conference, and it was FABULOUS on so many levels! I learned a ton, and happily, the sessions I attended drilled down into the exact things I needed to hear and learn RIGHT NOW. How lucky is that? I received helpful and encouraging feedback on two different works-in-progress, I laughed and socialized with other creative peeps, and I met my dream agent. That's exciting and scary all in the same breath because it means that I need to forge forward and share my work . . . and wait for a response . . . But first, more about my week.

On Sunday, I got my birthday present from my family, which was an Apple TV device. I'm not usually into TV-related things, but this device enables me to quickly and easily show my digital pictures on my television screen. My family and I watched "re-runs" of the glorious trip we took to Greece this past summer. It was heavenly.

On Monday, a friend spoiled me (and another birthday girl) with a finger food birthday feast. I would have taken a picture of all of the yumminess, but I was too busy EATING! On Tuesday, the YES! results came in for the school funding measure I've been busy advocating for over the past several months. It was very rewarding and encouraging to see ordinary people work together for a common cause and be able to achieve the desired outcome.

On Wednesday, I did an author visit at a local elementary school. I met with all the students in grades K-5. For the 4th and 5th graders, I taught one of my young writers' workshops (Gotcha! How to Find and Capture Great Writing Ideas). I was so excited to hear from one of the teachers that her students returned to her classroom (after their visit with me in the library) ENTHUSIASTIC about WRITING! Some of the students wanted to immediately get to work on the stories they started in my workshop. YAY!

Next came  the kindergarteners. I taught them the signs for the alphabet, featuring my book, "A to Z Sign with Me"). After that I got a quick lunch break. (I sat with some of the kindy kids who had just been in my session. Favorite quote from a kinder at the next table, talking to a student he was sitting next to: "Hey look, the author is eating!").

After lunch I met with the 2nd graders. We focused on signs for animals, featuring my books, "Famous Fenton Has a Farm" and "The Nest Where I Like to Rest." Yep, I wore the chicken hat for that one.

Next came the third graders. Since they are currently working on verbs in class, I featured my book, "Silly Sue," so they could learn some signs for action words. My favorite part of their visit: When someone asked why the girl in the story ate dog food (and my revelation that it was because "the author" used to eat dog food when she was a girl" . . .), and then the kids' reaction when they "remembered" that "I" was "the author." I suspect there will be some kibble exploration going on in some area homes as a result. Nothing like inspiring our youth!

The day wrapped up with the first graders. In class they are working on seasons, weather and plant and animal changes, so I shared with them my stories, "SEE THE COLORS," (which explores the lifecycle of the garden) and Four Seasons! Five Senses! And then it was 3:00 PM. I was very tired, but FULL of JOY. I love working directly with young readers.

And, now, it's today. My actual birthday. Both of my kids have special events going on in their schools. My son "is" Andrew Jackson for his "Influential People" project, and my daughter is an array of mis-matched colors and patterns for her school's "Spirit Week: Clash Day."

Here is a fun note I just received from my daughter's friends from school:

And this weekend: Family Time and Writing Time in my favorite writing space. But first, I will get my agent submission SENT. And then I will wait (and of course, write some more).

May 22, 2013

Boo's Bad Day Blog Tour Stops Here

A writing colleague, Penny Lockwood, recently released a new, softcover picture book called, "Boo's Bad Day." Boo has been  busily making his rounds on his book release blog tour, and today is the day for his stop at my blog.

Over the past few months, I've written several posts about how to plan story times that incorporate sign language. In those posts I've typically focused on the books in my Story Time with Signs & Rhymes series, because the books in this series were designed to be signed along with. However, Boo's visit to my blog provides a great opportunity to share ideas for signing along with any book that you and your child enjoy together.

The first step is to start with a book that you and your child both enjoy and that you are confident reading. By this I mean, choose books that you are familiar with and that fit your child's interests and attention span. Start with stories that have shorter sentences and familiar vocabulary. It's also helpful if the pictures include images of words you already know the signs for (or are motivated to learn).

Classics like Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and The Cat and the Hat are examples of books that are fun to read and easy to sign along with. Once you learn the sign for moon, bear, and cat, you will have an opportunity to use these signs over and over again as you read (and re-read) these books.  

Likewise, as you explore a new story, like "Boo's Bad Day," you can learn the signs for some of the familiar words in the story, such as outside, tree, and scared, and incorporate these words as you read. Another option is to learn the sign for the word where, and use that sign to tell your own story through the pictures in the book (i.e. "Where is Boo? There is Boo!  Where is Boo, now? Uh oh, Boo is outside."). You can also use the signs cat, dog and tree, and invite your child to "find the cat . . . find the dog . . . find the tree" when those images appear in the illustrations.

I hope you have fun signing along with your favorite books (and I hope Boo finds his way into the hands of young readers).

NOTE: If you're interested in learning more about Penny Lockwood's work, click here to link to yesterday's stop on Boo's blog tour (and Boo will be here tomorrow). As a fun extra, at the end of Boo's blog tour, author Penny Lockwood will be sending an autographed copy of Boo's Bad Day to one blog commenter (US Addresses only. If the name selected is outside of the US, a PDF copy of the book will be sent instead). I'd love to hear  some of your favorite books to sign along with. Share your ideas in the comment section below, and you will have the added bonus of being entered into Penny's drawing.

May 3, 2013

Summary Post: Book Trailers Made by Students

I'm starting to receive examples of book trailers that students have made for my books in the "Story Time with Signs & Rhymes" series using the student-directed learning project I outlined in earlier posts.

I thought it might be fun to have a consistent spot to post these as they come in. Here goes:

The Nest Where I Like to Rest (Book Trailer by Carli H., Julia T., and Josie B.)  I absolutely LOVE the clucking sound effects in this one!!

The Big Blue Bowl (Book Trailer by two fifth grade boys). I think this is such a clever use of props!

Shape Detective (Book Trailer by Mrs. Hembree, who has recently started a "Book Trailer Club" for her students). She created this using iMovie and her iPhone . . . over winter break! That's Dedication!

Keep them coming, folks! I will add more as I receive them and am able to upload them.