Monday, April 9, 2018

Get Your D.E.A.R. On!!

D.E.A.R. is an educational acronym that stands for Drop Everything and Read.  It’s much frothier than the dated S.S.R. – Silent Sustained Reading, which sounds a bit torturous to even the most avid reader.



April 12th is the official National D.E.A.R Day.  It is the birthday of the beloved author Beverly Cleary who created one of my all-time favorite childhood characters – Ramona Quimby.  On National D.E.A.R. Day, families are encouraged to read together while promoting books as an integral part of daily life.

So how will you be celebrating D.E.A.R. Day?  Fun activities to do with family, friends, or an impassioned book club include making bookmarks, reading favorite passages, and acting out scenes.  Character charades, anyone?  While April 12th is official D.E.A.R. day, every day is a great day to Drop Everything and Read!  So – drop those agonizing bills, take a break from Facebook, and get your read on!

For classroom activities and lessons corresponding to D.E.A.R., visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:


Monday, April 2, 2018

Celebrate National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world.

Why should we devote an entire month to honor words written in verse?  Because poetry is the language of the soul.  When life drowns us with its dark moments, poetry throws us a raft – a verbal sanctuary of healing and beauty.

So I urge you to release your inner poet and succumb to the sensory language, rhythm, flavor, call and response of poetry.  Feel the human spirit and universality of life's shared stories in a stanza.  Read or write a poem this month.  Restore your spirit.  Restore your soul.





Ten Favorite Poems

  1. “Sick” – Shel Silverstein
  2. “Phenomenal Woman” – Maya Angelou
  3. “Annabel Lee” – Edgar Allan Poe
  4. “Oranges” – Gary Soto
  5. “The Road Not Taken” – Robert Frost
  6. Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare
  7. “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” – Robert Herrick
  8. “The Kiss” – Sara Teasdale
  9. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas 
  10. Fragment 31 – Sappho




April Challenge:  Write a Cinquain

A cinquain is five line poem that follows this lyrical pattern:

1) a word for the title
2) two adjectives
3) three verbs
4) a phrase
5) the title again – or synonym


Example:

Chocolate
Dark or milk
Smooth, silky, sweet
Best thing ever
Yum! 


Eyes
Large, mysterious
Watching, rolling, blinking
Tell more than words
Soul-windows


Cinquain
Short, sweet
Five, simple steps
Maybe not so easy…
Voila!


Teaching poetry?
Kick start your poetry unit with my Poetry Jumbo Bundle for everything you need!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cheekwood in Bloom Grows Young Readers!

Nothing says springtime in Nashville like Cheekwood! Thanks to Chuck Beard who spotlights local authors and Cheekwood, a 55-acre botanical garden that features art galleries, seasonal festivities, and breathtaking views, story time was in full bloom this Saturday as I read Pretty Dolls to eager young readers.  





Monday, March 19, 2018

Help Them Do Their Best on the Test

Standardized Testing is:

A) Stressful
B) Necessary
C) Something students can succeed on
D) All of the above

Correct Answer - D!



It's that time of year again!  Standardized testing is just around the corner, meaning the anxiety at most educational institutions is off-the-charts!  Never before has there been so much pressure to perform well, as standardized testing determines school ratings, student funding, and a child's classroom placement.  To offset test-taking anxiety, it is paramount we prepare our students with knowledge, skills, and guaranteed-to-succeed test-taking strategies.

For classroom activities and lessons that use humor and positive reinforcement for maximum buy-in, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Want to Publish? Know Your Audience...

When authors sit down to write, they often ponder the title, setting, or inciting incident. The first question they should actually be asking is, For whom am I writing this story?  To be successful, it is imperative authors understand the genres and formats associated with books for children and young adults.  I am the first one to admit it can be overwhelmingly confusing, as one can find a host of definitions for what constitutes a picture book.  Alas, I have compiled quick and dirty guidelines for those ambiguous children’s/YA publishing genres.

Quick and Dirty Guidelines for Children’s Publishing Genres 

Picture Books
Age 2-8
Word Count – 500-800
Pages 24-36

Description – Picture books are large in physical size and combine words with captivating illustrations.  Picture books center around a child’s world - usually home, school, or neighborhood.  The illustrations play a significant role in telling the story with some picture books have no words at all.  The plots are simple with one main character/animal who embodies the child’s emotions, concerns and viewpoint. 
Examples: Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, Heart and Soul, The Polar Express, Fancy Nancy 


Early Readers/Easy Readers
Age 5-9
Word Count – 500-1,500 Words
Pages 32-64

Description: Early or Easy Reader Books are written for children to read on their own.  They have short sentences, limited vocabulary, and center around a child’s world - school, neighborhood, or home.  Early/Easy Readers have more words and fewer pictures than a picture book, with some stories broken up into very short chapters.  The plot is told mainly through action and dialogue, with books averaging 2-5 sentences per page.  Genres can be fiction or nonfiction.  
Examples: Madeline’s Tea Party, Marley: The Dog Who Ate My Homework, Amelia Bedelia, Nate the Great, “I Can Read” Series 


Chapter Books
Age 7-10
Word Count – 4,000-12,000 Words
Pages 45-60

Description: Chapter books are a child’s first “real” book written for children who are becoming fluent, independent readers.  The main character is usually 8 or 9 years old and includes real-life and fantasy settings.  Stories contain a lot of action with short paragraphs and 3-4 page chapters.  Humor, mystery, and adventure are popular genres. 
Examples: Captain Underpants, Clementine, Magic Tree House, The Time Warp Trio, Amber Brown


Middle Grade Novel
Age 8-12
Word Count – 20,000-40,000 Words
Pages 100-150

Description: Middle grade novels are geared to 10-12 year olds, also known as tweens, with genres similar to those of adult fiction: mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, fantasy.  Most plot lines, characters, and settings are acceptable, although intense subjects, such as divorce, peer pressure, and drugs/alcohol should be handled skillfully.  Manuscripts are 100-150 pages with complex stories involving subplots, secondary characters, and sophisticated themes.  Protagonists should be 9-13 in age and embody the worldview and emotions of middle graders. 
Examples: Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, Loser, Holes, Hoot, Stargirl


YA Novel
Age 12 and up
Word Count – 40,000 – 75,000 Words
Pages 100-150

Description: YA books are for ages 12 and up with genres similar to those of adult fiction: mystery, adventure, humor, historical, contemporary, and fantasy.  Plots are complex involving several major characters, although a single protagonist should emerge as the focus of the book.  Themes should be relevant to a teenager’s world.  “Edgy YA” includes subjects such as sexuality, drugs/alcohol, bullying, and mental illness. 
Examples: The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games, Between Shades of Gray, Twilight, 13 Reasons Why 


To write is to know your readers.  The first step is to read as many books as you can for your target audience and then of course, write on!  

Friday, January 12, 2018

It's 2018! Time to Start a YA Book Club...

With 2018 officially here, perhaps your New Year's resolutions of losing weight, breaking that smartphone addiction, or learning a new language have fallen by the wayside.  Not to worry...

Why not resolve to start a young adult book club?  Sound daunting?  Not sure how to lead the discussion?  Below are 25 engaging questions that can be applied to any book or novel:

1) What is the title?
2) Who is the author?
3) Who is the main character or protagonist?
4) Describe their physical traits.
5) Describe their personality traits.
6) Describe the protagonist using three adjectives.
7) What is the major conflict (problem) the protagonist is facing?
8) How do they resolve their conflict?
9) What is the setting (time and place)?
10)  What is the genre?
11)  What words would you use to describe the book?
12)  What is a new word you learned?  Use it in a sentence.
13)  Give a general plot summary.
14)  Give the main character some advice on a problem they are facing.
15)  Would you want the main character as a best friend?  Why or why not?
16)  Change the title of the book to something different.
17)  What confused you about the book?
18)  What is the overall theme or author’s message?
19)  How did the main character change?
20)  What question would you ask the author if you could?
21)  Would you recommend this book to a friend?  Why or why not?
22)  Who would you cast in a movie based on the book?
23)  What will you always remember about the book?
24)  Do you like the cover art?  Why or why not?
25)  What is your favorite quotation from the book?



There are many benefits to leading a book club for young adults!  Besides creating literary luminaries and a love of reading, you will help tweens and teens voice opinions, encourage literary analysis, make predictions, solve problems, and expose them to new authors and genres.  Be a literary role model, and start a Young Adult Book Club today!


For more Book Club ideas and activities, check out my Book Club Bundle: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Book-Club-Bundle-3121010

Monday, January 1, 2018

Scene + Sequel = Story

Which is more important – plot or story?  It’s a writer’s debate as old as a scroll of papyrus.

The simple answer is both are critical to a satisfying read.  You book nerds know what I’m talking about.  The kind of read where ordinary life comes to a screeching halt.  You skip meals, stop returning phone calls, and maybe miss a hair wash or two - just so you can keep flipping those pages or swipe that screen.

So, what exactly is the difference between plot and story?  Although they are often used interchangeably, plot is the protagonist’s physical journey.  Story is the protagonist’s emotional journey. What we’re really talking about is scenes and sequels.  There are many ways you can look at this, but it really comes down to cause and effect.  Scenes are the CAUSE of a protagonist’s actions and Sequels are the EFFECT of those actions.  Put another way, scenes show and sequels tell.


SCENE

Goal + Conflict = Disaster
Goal – What the character wants.  Must be clearly definable
Conflict – Series of obstacles that keep the character from the goal
Disaster – Makes the character fail to get the goal

If a scene is truly effective, the protagonist will fail to reach his or her goal and be worse off than before.  (Again, this drives the story forward keeps those pages flipping like Grandma’s pancakes).   Side note: Time always unifies a scene!


SEQUEL

Reaction + Dilemma = Decision
Reaction – Emotional follow through of the disaster
Dilemma – A situation with no good options
Decision – Character makes a choice and sets up a new goal


If a sequel is truly effective, it will turn the disaster into a new established goal (which won’t be met, of course, until perhaps the end of the story).  It will establish the character’s motivation and force him or her to make a choice, which is the key to suspending disbelief.   This is the time for any character soul-searching or backstory.  Side note: Topic always unifies a sequel!

So to spring back to my original point, both scenes and sequels are what cause the reader to flip pages or swipe screens.  They both drive the story.  By using scenes and sequels effectively, you as the author control the pace of the story.

For instance, scenes read fast because they’re active keeping the reader engaged, whereas sequels slow down the pace of the story.  They give the reader time to breathe and contemplate as they TELL what happens rather than SHOW the events.  (The protagonist also takes five as they emote about the success or failure of their actions and think about options for Plan B, i.e. a new scene).

Writing should flow like a song.  As with anything melodious, it requires harmony and balance.  By interweaving plot and story or scenes and sequels, a writer honors both the pace of the story and the evolution of the character.

So the next time you’re sitting around with your own Algonquin round table writing pals, and the topic of plot versus story comes up, lay it on thick with the scenes and sequels argument.  I don’t know about the sequel part but you’re sure to make a scene!