Uh-Oh, Summer Reading Lists Unread!

Uh, Oh, Summer Reading: Debby Zigenis Lowery's Literate LivesWow! It is already mid August! Did your students come home in June with a list of books they needed to read over the summer? How’s that going?

I know how rapidly summer sneaks by, so I wanted to give you three tips to help get your kids reading their required material and share a link to an article on Brightly that also addresses this problem.

Ideas to Promote Summer Reading

Go on a “reading picnic,” or 10! With summer evenings so delightful, why not pack up dinner, a picnic blanket or folding chairs, and copies of the kids’ required reading. (Bring your own book too!) Eat dinner, read for a while–everyone–including you, then enjoy a treat like playing in the playground together, a bike ride, a favorite dessert, or a trip out for ice cream. (P.S. Reading picnics can take place any time of day, even in your own back yard!)

Enjoy some audible literature–the low tech way! As you drive around doing errands, on outings, and even on a final summer trip, bring along required reading and ask your kids to read to you. Stop at the end of each chapter. Discuss the story events or information, and build you children’s ability to make predictions (a genuine, academic reading skill!) by speculating together about what might happen next and why you think your predictions might turn out.

Help you child find a reading pen pal. It could be a friend who still has to read the same book, an interested relative–grandparents are often good for this, but so might be aunts and uncles, or even volunteer yourself. Agree on how often your student will write to their pen pal about what they are reading and provide them with stationery and stamps. Encourage the pen pals to write back and ask questions abut the book that your reader can respond to after additional reading. If you are going to be your child’s reading pen pal, maybe you could make a “mailbox” together by decorating a shoe or cereal box. When each of you finishes writing a letter, you can put it in the box, and you can both check the box regularly for new responses.

Still haven’t found the strategy for your family?

Check Out this Brightly Article

You can read Brightly’s article, “I Know What You Did(n’t Read) Last Summer,” here.

Your Turn

What are some strategies you’ve used in the past to complete, or help you kids complete, summer reading assignments?

What are some of you favorite locations for reading in the summertime?

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Need to make a run to the hardware or paint store this summer? Be sure to take your children along, or at least go with them in mind. Why? Because then you can have fun writing together creating paint chip poetry.

What’s paint chip poetry? Basically, its poetry written using words from a paint chip. There are several variations on the process.

 

Step 1: Gather Paint Chips

As I said, take the kids along and let them select their own paint chip cards, or, if that’s not possible, select a few paint chip cards for each child, keeping in mind their favorite colors and interests–the colors of their favorite stuffed animal, school, or team. Don’t forget to grab a few cards for yourself. Modeling your interest in writing and literacy is one of the best ways to encourage your kids to engage in literacy activities.

Step 2: Choose a Process

Since I lost the link for the article I read on this, I researched a few paint chip writing activities, and there were several variations on the process available. Here’s three to choose from:

  • You and your kids can make up similes (statements using the words “like” or “as”) for each color name on their selected card. You can even write the similes directly over the swatch of color.
  • You and your kids can write a patterned poem using a paint chip color.
  • You and your kids can select from grade/age appropriate options and write your poems accordingly.

Be sure to have plenty of paper and writing utensils on hand.

Step 3: Explain and Write

  • Give you children their paint chip cards.
  • Explain what you are going to do. Maybe even do a sample together from one of your cards.
  • Turn your kids loose to write for a set period of time. (For children not yet old enough to write, let them dictate their thoughts, and you write them down. Then read the “poem” back to your child, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one-to-one correspondence between the written and spoken word.)

Step 4: Gather and Read

Call your kids back to a central area and have fun reading your poems to each other.

Step 5: Celebrate!

Maybe afterwards you can have a colorful snack, like rainbow sherbert, cupcakes with multi-colored sprinkles, or 9 layer bean dip and multi-colored tortilla chips.

Try using your color words in conversation over the next few days. Have fun with these words.

For Teachers

The links above were written with the classroom in mind. Also, if you search “Paint Chip Poetry” you will find still more options to take with you back to school in September.

Your Turn

How did your paint chip poetry session go? Please use the comments section to share some of the poems you or your children created. Now’s your chance to brag on those little ones!

Did you find some interesting color words on your paint chips? Share the color names that caught your fancy. It would be so cool to end up with a list of delightful names.

 

Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.

Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.

Read

Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.

Respond

When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.

Closure

Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?

Teacher’s File Drawer: Name Research Project

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, from “Romeo and Juliet” (II,ii,1-2)

In honor of International Celebrate Your Name Week, I want to share my favorite research project–a Name Research Paper.

The Name Research Paper

Every person has a name—some two, three, or even four names.  And all names have some kind of story behind it.  What I asked the students to do was research their own name. It could be their first name, middle name or both.

Questions to consider were:

  • How did their parents choose their names?  Why?
  • What traditions were in their families for choosing names?
  • Why did their parents decide to spell their names the way they do?
  • What does their name mean?
  • What is their names’ histories—in their family? In the world?
  • Are there other versions of their names?  Where do they come from? What do they mean?

Page 2 of the assignment sheet provided a section for parents’ signatures, so that my students parents would know what we were working on and what was required.

Name Research Sources

The students were required to interview a family member as one of their resources for the project. Other resources can include baby name books and baby name websites, and if they were named after a fictional character or famous person, research into the story of that individual. At least 5 different types of sources should be used.

I used these criteria when scoring for the number of sources used:

  • 1 Source—0% of points possible
  • 2 Sources—35% of points possible
  • 3 Sources—70% of points possible
  • 4 Sources—85% of points possible
  • 5 Sources or more—100% of points possible and higher

Notecards

Students were expected to use note cards and part of their final scores were determined by how many notes they took. For full credit they needed at least 25 note cards.

One day of the project started with a lesson on how to create note cards.Here is an example of a source card:

Here is an example of a note card:

I used these criteria when scoring for notecards:

  • None-5 Cards—0% of points possible
  • 6-10 Cards—50% of points possible
  • 10-11 Cards—60% of points possible
  • 12-13 Cards—65% of points possible
  • 14-17 Cards—70% of points possible
  • 19-21 Cards—80% of points possible
  • 22-24 Cards—90% of points possible
  • 25 Cards and up—100% of points possible and higher

Remainder of Name Research Paper Project

When it came  time to write the paper, I required my students to use the complete writing process: pre-write, rough draft, revise and edit to MLA format for citations, participate in peer evaluation, do a final revision and edit, and produce a final copy complete with bibliography.

Scoring the Name Research Paper

This is the scoring page for the name research papers:

At the time I was teaching this lesson, my state, Oregon, was using their own writing scoring guide whose traits you see listed in the middle section. You can easily adapt this section to include your own writing scoring guide.

At the bottom, you see writing reflection questions the students were required to fill out and turn in with their research papers. I found using reflection questions at the end of long projects like this helped the students cement into memory what they learned while working on the project.

Why Did I Love This Project?

Because the paper is all about something that relates to them personally, I found it was easier to generate student buy-in.

It was a good assignment for practicing research skills and, because of the personal aspect, for establishing the student’s unique writing voices.

I usually did this near the beginning of the school year, and it provided both me and the students’ a good opportunity to get acquainted, and nearly all the papers were enjoyable to read.

Your Turn

What kinds of assignments do you like to use to help you get acquainted with your students? What topics have you found to be useful for generating student enthusiasm?

What’s Your Mission (Statement)?

Mission StatementYears ago, one of the workshops I attended at a writing conference was on the topic of crafting a mission statement. The premise was, with a mission statement, a writer can be more focussed and effective. The instructor was a retired businessman, and he prefaced the hands-on part of the workshop by discussing how businesses and organizations use mission statements to help themselves function more effectively. And he sold me on the idea that any person, any lifestyle can benefit from a mission statement.

I have since served as part of a team crafting a mission statement for a nonprofit organization, and I loved teaching my students how to write a mission statement for where they were in their lives. It’s a different form of writing from the compare and contrast or analytical essay, and for most of them, probably a much more practical skill for life.

Why a Mission Statement Now?

As those of you who follow this blog know, I have been ill for a solid month–lie down and don’t do much of anything ill. As mentioned in my previous post (view Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain! here) I’ve learned some things from this experience and want to apply them to my life. Thus, I have written a new mission statement.

My Mission Statement

My mission is to:

  1. teach and nurture literacy
  2. celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder
  3. serves as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ.

How I Am Implementing or Will Implement this Mission in My Life

Here are some of the ways I plan to “fulfill my mission.” To teach and nurture literacy I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others in building a literate lifestyle through this blog
  • nurture a love of reading and writing in my grandchildren
  • joyfully serve as my husband’s personal librarian (I love that he lets me/counts on me to do this for him!)

To celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder, I will:

  • again continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • read
  • write fiction and poetry
  • participate in my writers’ groups
  • serve in the writing organizations to which I belong.

To serve as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • continue to write fiction and poetry
  • read the Bible as close to daily as I can get (I confess I am not a get up before the sun and do it before anything else kind of woman. I’m pretty groggy in the early part of my day. I can learn and absorb more if I get a chance to wake up a bit)
  • participate within my church family
  • love the people I have been blessed with in my life–my husband, children, grandchildren, parents (I am so blessed they are still alive), friends, colleagues
  • strive to love my neighbor (and remember all humanity is my neighbor) as I love myself

What Stays and What Goes?

Having established this understanding with myself, I am now better equipped to evaluate  opportunities that come my way and make wise choices that will serve my mission and prevent burn-out.

Your Turn

Use the comment box below to share what you would put on your mission statement.

 

A Book Lover’s Valentine–International Book Giving Day

Purple WritingHappy Valentine’s Day!

Greetings my book-loving friends! While most of the world is busy celebrating (or mourning) Valentine’s Day, here is an international holiday that I think should get a lot more promotion. Today is International Book Giving Day!

While I like sweet cards from my hubby, chocolate, and roses, if you really want to give me something I’ll love, give me a book. Don’t you agree?

International Book Giving Day

I love that the emphasis on this holiday is not on getting, but giving. (I know, Valentine’s involve giving, too. However, so many people get so fixated on the receiving).

So who do you know that would be delighted by the gift of a book?

My List

  • my four adorable grandchildren who I love to encourage to read, write, and draw
  • a sci-fi writing friend (I reread Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book over Christmas and thought over and over as I read that I needed to pass it on to her. However, I felt conflicted, and as I didn’t see her, loved the book, and didn’t want to part with it, I did nothing. The solution: give her a copy of her own!)
  • my hubby: it is my great joy that he looks to me to be his personal librarian!
  • the teen parents who attend my school–I and several other staff members use Scholastic Reading Clubs‘ $1 and $2 deals to keep a box stocked with picture books that our students can take home for their kids. I frequently remind them that one of the best things they can do to help their children succeed is read to them.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, tell us who you would give a book to. Even better, tell what book and why. After all, as book lovers ourselves, aren’t we all looking for the next great read?