“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author, Gretchen McLellan

“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author Gretchen, McLellan https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
I’m Done by Gretchen McLellan

Today I would like to introduce you to my friend, Gretchen McLellan, author of I’m Done, as well as Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3  and, coming soon, Button and Bundle. Gretchen has been a friend of mine through SCBWI (that’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Oregon Chapter for many years. I hope you’ll enjoy her and her writing as much as I do.

LL: What was your inspiration for I’m Done?

Gretchen: Kids! In my former life I was a reading specialist in elementary schools. I heard, “I’m Done!” over and over and over again, but the children making this very public announcement rarely understood what being done meant.

I knew that I wanted to write a book with that title, and one day after work I decided to give it a try. I still only had a title, or so I thought. I said to myself, I’ll try this out as an animal story. (I usually write human characters.) Pick an animal, any animal. It was no stroke of genius that a beaver popped into my mind. Then my pen started moving, and this story poured out of me like water breaking through a proverbial dam.

But the unconscious inspiration for this story is much deeper. “I’m Done” is a deceptively simple phrase. Said with joy, frustration, or despair it takes on many meanings, all that resonate with me in the process of writing and in the journey toward publication and beyond.

LL: Describe I’m Done in 5 words:

Gretchen: a joyful celebration of perseverance

LL: What theme/s play an important role in I’m Done?

Gretchen: Perseverance. I am the poster child of perseverance. My journey to publication was as lengthy and arduous as an epic tale. At one point, I thought I was done. Finished. I was quitting writing, abandoning my dream. I knew I could not show up at another conference or retreat unpublished, ever again. I didn’t want to be an object of pity. But at the eleventh hour, I signed up for an SCBWI retreat for the last time, partially lured by the last-day-of-the-early-bird-discount email and the news that there was still a critique slot left with an agent, and partly because I wanted to see my friends.

It turns out I wasn’t done yet.

In that critique slot, I met my wonderful agent. I have two published picture books with three more on the calendar.

I didn’t give up and neither does Little Beaver.

LL: What is it about I’m Done that has turned out to be the most meaningful to you?

Gretchen: Definitely the relationships I’ve made in the making of the book, first with my editor, second with my illustrator.

Working with my editor was a joy. We had several rounds of written revisions that made the story better and better. Finally, the story was ready for the art. Then the f&gs (the folded and gathered pages of the printed but unbound book) arrived, and we had a phone meeting to discuss them. Sometime during the nearly two hours we spent on the phone together, I stopped and said, “Can you believe that we get to do this for work! This is so much fun!” Revising with her was a peak experience.

Next, the unexpected relationship with my illustrator, Catherine Lazar Odell, has been meaningful as well. Authors and illustrators rarely communicate. I have never written or spoken directly with any of my four illustrators during the process of making our books. If I’m invited to comment on the illustrations, my comments are filtered by the editor and art director, and rightfully so. I respect this process. Maybe it’s because Catherine’s and my editor realized how close we lived to each other that she broke protocol. But after the book had gone to press, she asked us if we’d like to exchange emails. We both did. What came next was up to us. Now I have the pleasure of gushing in person about how wonderful her artwork is and doing events together.

LL: What is the most fun you’ve had with I’m Done  since its release?

Gretchen: Doing story times at bookstores with an audience of families. I love creating all the adjunct activities that go with my books for story times. My story times involve puppets, fingerplays, chants and crafts, and are always under revision as I try to improve each time.  Sharing the stage doing Little Beaver’s voice and not only reading aloud with Catherine but watching her draw Little Beaver with kids is fantastic.

LL: Which of your picture books was easiest to write? Why?

Gretchen: I think I’m Done!, probably because it had been incubating, unbeknownst to me, for a long time. When I sat down to write, it came to me whole with a nibble, nibble, snap. Naturally, I made lots of changes to the first draft, and after the book sold (to Holiday House) made a lot more, before and after the art was in. But the story was there from the beginning.

But being “done” with a manuscript is often defined by the deadline to get the book to print so it can make its release date😊. I’d still like to make a change or two.

LL: Which of your picture books is your favorite?

Gretchen: I’m working with one of my editors on a picture book named I Hate Favorites! Does that answer your question?

LL: Funny! …on to the next question– How does your training as a reading specialist influence your writing?

Gretchen: I have shared a lot of books with a lot of children. I know the spell a good story can cast. Those that speak beautifully to children’s curiosity and hearts and honor who they are and their current developmental challenges are received with a quiet, active listening that is magic during a read-aloud. I try to write so that magic can occur. That involves knowing where kids are in their development as readers and as little human beings.

When I use repetition, rhyme, assonance and word play, I know I am writing in a way that is both pleasing to the ear, but also developing phonemic awareness, a necessary skill in becoming a reader. The nibble nibble snap, scoop scoop pat repetition and onomatopoeia of flish flish swish and wing wing zing in I’m Done! are examples.

“I’m Done”—A Visit with Author Gretchen, McLellan, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3 by Gretchen McLellan

When I use an unfamiliar word (for the picture book set) I know I am adding to their vocabulary, sometimes giving children a word at the center of an experience that they don’t yet have a name for. For example, in Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3, I explore the word bittersweet. The story is about the bittersweet of saying good-bye to a beloved teacher at the end of the school year. In the story Mrs. McBee explains the word to her class with a simile. “It’s like a swirly ice-cream cone with sad and happy twisted together.”

I am intentional about my word choice, aware of the role of picture books in building vocabulary. I don’t write down to the picture book audience, but I also try not to overload them with too many new vocabulary words either. In the reading field we talk about concept load. I can remember having too many new vocabulary terms loaded on me in school. It made me feel both ignorant and like screaming. I don’t want to make this mistake with my readers.

I am very aware that children’s background knowledge, or schema, influences their comprehension of a text. I ask myself what I can reasonably assume that a child knows about the topic (including vocabulary) and this influences what I state directly and what I can leave to the reader to infer. This is important in fiction and nonfiction texts. Reading builds schema, which improves future comprehension.  Furthermore, illustrations in picture books do lots of heavy lifting in providing visual information that aids comprehension. I write with the illustrations in mind too.

LL: Describe your early life as a reader/writer.

Gretchen: One of my most precious memories of school is my teacher reading Charlotte’s Web aloud. I couldn’t wait to go to school every day to hear more of that book. I can’t separate my early life as a reader/writer from my life as a listener. I still love the spoken word and listen regularly to books on CD.

I became a letter writer early, because I moved so much. Back in the days before instant communication, if I didn’t write the friends I had to leave behind, these friendships would die. I lived overseas and making international calls was too expensive. So I wrote letters.

My dreams of being a writer came much later when I discovered picture books as a mom.

LL: Describe your “literate lifestyle” now.

Gretchen: On the back flap of I’m Done! is the following:

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan writes everywhere she can–in barns and bookstores, bathtubs and beds, cars and coffeehouses. She has yet to write in a beaver lodge.

That about says it all. I write where ever I can with whatever time I have, and I try to write every day. I have several projects going at once, setting one aside to gain the perspective of distance and shifting to another. Since publication, I have been doing a lot of business and promotional writing. This kind of writing doesn’t exactly feed my soul. But it is an unanticipated necessity in the life of an author. I need to write fiction to feel balanced.

LL: What are you presently working on, and what’s next for you?

Gretchen: I am revising several picture books and a couple middle-grade novels. I’m always open to the rush of a new idea and honor ideas when they come, because they come with their tanks full. I’ve got a lot of projects stuck in a long line at the pumps.

LL: How can Literate Lives readers help you get the word out about I’m Done?

Gretchen: If readers are willing, requesting the book at their local library is always helpful. Libraries usually honor patrons’ requests, and it’s easy to make one from the comfort of your favorite chair and computer.

Reviewing books on Amazon and Goodreads is helpful as well. This can be as simple as rating the book with the number of stars it deserves for you or writing a quick review that could guide readers to the book.

I think I’m Done! is right for many audiences for many reasons.

  • For children it’s an entertaining and humorous story about the value of perseverance/persistence and the joy of completing a task that you are proud of.
  • For parents and teachers, it’s a story that can lead to discussions about what it means to be done and what it takes to stick with something.

It’s a story that promotes social and emotional development. How many of us were criticized for not doing something well when no one ever defined what the job at hand entailed in the first place? I’m hoping that at home and at school, the story will help adults help children understand expectations more clearly and experience success more regularly.

If Literate Lives readers have Preschool-2nd grade teachers in their lives, a recommendation would be fantastic. Every teacher has heard “I’m Done!” and every teacher is looking for texts that promote emotional intelligence, reading development, community, and the value of perseverance.

In addition, I have resources available on gretchenmclellan.com for teachers to download e.g. a Readers’ Theatre adaptation of the story, chants, and blackline masters for crafts.

It wasn’t until I held the f&gs for I’m Done!  that I realized the story is a metaphor for writing—and so much more. How do you know when you’re done with a novel? How do you develop the internal guide that tells you to stop writing or painting or carving before it’s too late? I think this book speaks to young and old alike in so many ways. It speaks about the support we need in our creative work, how comradery can be so important to completing a project (and a distraction too!) and how we must develop an inner sense of quality, form, and beauty to know when we are done. So this book is for you too!

LL: Thank you, Gretchen! It is so interesting to learn about I’m Done!  in particular, and how you craft your books to help build early literacy skills in young readers. Little Beaver’s story, and your own, are both so encouraging.

I don’t know about my readers, but I most definitely have a little one on my Christmas list who I think might be receiving a copy of I’m Done!  this December.

Your Turn:

Gretchen’s story about her first book sale continues to inspire me as I seek publication for my own novels.

Have you ever felt, after a lot of hard work, that you were “done” before life surprised you with a wonderful opportunity? Please use the comment box below to share your story.

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Reading Response Questions: Comprehend, Connect, and Predict

Reading Response Questions: Comprehend, Connect, and Predicthttps://literatelives.wordpress.com/I love reading response questions and exercises. As a teacher, they served as a means for building my students’ reading skills with self-selected reading; as a parent, they provide valuable conversations starters and opportunities to nurture my kids’ literacy skills (whether reading is done together or side by side); and as a reader, I enjoy how they propel deeper thought about what I am reading, and their usefulness when thinking about writing a review—which helps both authors and fellow readers.

What follows are six reading response questions/exercises to prompt writing or conversations. Before you or your student uses them, however, be sure to read either a whole picture book or for 15 to 20 minutes in a novel

Comprehend

  • Put on your newspaper reporters hat. Answer the 5 W’s (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) You can even throw in #6—How? Support your answer to each question by including a detail for each from the text.
  • Play teacher. Write three questions about what was just read: 1) A factual question, a question someone can find written in the text, 2) An inferential question, a question that can only be answered using clues within the text, 3) A critical question, a question that asks for an opinion or conclusion based on evidence in the text. Have fun sharing your questions and answers.

Connect

  • Compare and contrast. How does what was just read compare to a previous book read or movie/TV show viewed? How are they similar? How are they different? Was one enjoyed more than the other? Why?
  • Be the judge. Pick a character and list three things he or she has done. Pick one of these actions and explain why you think it was a good or bad thing to do.

Predict

  • Make a simple prediction. What do you think will happen next or result from a plan made in your reading? What in the text makes you think this? What do you think will be the consequences of this action or event?
  • Be a time tripper. How would being set in a different time period effect what you are reading. For example, if the story is set in the past, how would happening now change it. You can choose to jump forward or backward in time. Explain how the change in time period would effect what has happened so far in your reading and might impact the outcome.

Your Turn

There you have it—6 ways to have fun with your and your kids’ reading and improve reading/thinking skills.

Which exercise did you like best? Did you or your student/s write one you’d like to share (be sure to let us know the title and author of the book it’s based on, in case we are intrigued and want to read it.

Or, do you have particular reading response exercise you enjoy using? How about sharing it here? Just use the comment box below.

*Background for graphic: Depositphotos_135562_original

A New Season, A New Year, A New Life


A New Season, A New Year, A New Life; literatelives.wordpress.com
Having lived most of my life aligned with the academic schedule (as a student, mother of students, and educator), the start of September and school have always felt like my true “new year.”

A New Season

Here where I live, September signals the end of summer, even if it does not yet hold the gold-leaved glory of fall. It has already rained, three times since the start of the month and people were glad to see it! Although it is not yet officially arrived, that won’t happen until the equinox, September 23, autumn is definitely coming.

A New Year

As stated above, the beginning of the academic calendar is my true new year. It is a time to re-evaluate routines, maybe drop some old practices, incorporate some new…

One of the practices I am really excited about this year is that of using a planner. I never used a planner until I was in grad school and tracking assignments became too difficult to do in my head. That practice carried over into teaching with the necessity of a lesson plan book. One of my principals wanted it sitting open on our desks at all times. Through years of tracking lessons and the preparation and gathering of materials for lessons, my planning skills (and planner dependency) grew.

This last year I started using a planner at home to establish routines and make sure none of my “to-do” items dropped off into the abyss of forgetfulness, and this summer I’ve been reading a lot about planners and bullet-journaling and enjoying incorporating some of those principles into my own efforts at personal organization.

A New Life

The biggest change of all for me is that this September, I am not returning to the classroom. (Fear not, however, my husband is also an educator, so the academic year shall still rule supreme on our calendar.)

I am very excited at the prospect of having more time for writing (and a little less excited for having more time to care for our long-neglected home).

However, what I looked forward to with joy, also carries its own sorrows. I miss my colleagues at the DTLC; I miss the high privilege of being entrusted to diagnose students’ individual learning needs and make plans and design lessons to address them; and I miss the opportunities to see my students learn, mature, and achieve.

(This will be to your benefit, however, as the drive to nurture readers and writers will be channeled into this blog and my upcoming Facebook page.)

New/Old Challenges

Back in June I was so excited to “hit the ground running” with both my fiction projects and this blog when my husband returned to work. But September finds me weary, recovering from two July colds and the culminating three weeks of sinus and ear infection that gobbled up the end of August.

In addition, these past eighteen months has seen our family knocked about with numerous blows that included death, traumatic brain injury, near loss of eyesight, and serious chronic illness. Both my husband and I did what we needed to at the time and just kept going. However, now I feel like these rough waters have washed me, sorrowful and exhausted, into a still pool and it is time to reflect on the impact of these life changers. (If I were to write a memoir, I think I might call it When Lightning Strikes, & Strikes, & Strikes…)

Therefore, I am looking forward, a little more quietly, to a season of learning, reflecting, and writing, and, of course, sharing my love of reading, writing, and teaching with you.

Your Turn

What are you looking forward to this new season? Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

Remember

New blog posts will now be available the first, third, and occasional fifth Thursday of each month.

Stay tuned for the launch of my Facebook page.

Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives


Fall 2018: A New Schedule for Literate Lives; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/
This month’s theme, “A New Season, A New Year, A New Life” will manifest itself the most obviously in a new blog schedule and strategy.

The Biggest Change

Starting this week, I will be posting on Thursdays.

Why Thursdays? I make this change (back to what was, initially, part of my blog schedule) out of consideration of my audience: individuals (including writers), parents, and teachers interested in nurturing literacy both for themselves and their kids.

As we move back into the school year, it occurs to me that many of the nurturing literacy ideas I share need some lead time in order to be incorporated into lesson plans and family activities (which will now mostly occur on the weekend).

Thursday is a good day to introduce ideas for the weekend and following work week.

Additional Changes

Blog posts will now be scheduled for the first, third, and (when it occurs) fifth Thursday of each month.

Why?

The reason for this change is my desire to share more from my daily reading, and quote, reading response, and writing prompt collections. I have been doing this in the form of “omnibus” posts, which I enjoy creating, but which also keep me from creating more, meatier posts.

Therefore, I am starting an author’s Facebook Page.

What You Will Find Here on Debby Zigenis-Lowery’s Literate Lives?

Here on the blog I want to delve deeply into the reading, writing, teaching and learning life, share more complex Language Arts lesson ideas, and interview writers and possibly even host some guest bloggers.

I will continue to update my reading log.

I will also strive to do a better job updating my Teacher’s File Drawer, Reading Response Exercises, Play With Your Words: Writing Prompts, and The Literate Family’s Fun pages.

What You Will Find on My Facebook Page

This is where the recommendations from my daily reading , quotes, and writing and reading response prompts will now appear.

Also, you will find occasional updates about my writing, publication, and writing goals or activities.

My vision is that the page will facilitate more daily interactions and opportunities for us to encourage one another.

Your Turn

As I am rethinking this blog, are there any ideas or feedback you would like me to consider? Please use the comment box to respond. I value your feedback and encouragement.

Celebrate Summer 2018: Best of Summer Brainstorm

Celebrate Summer 2018: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/; Best of Summer BrainstormIt is hard to believe summer is nearly at an end. Of course, the season lasts until September 21, but the start of school makes it seem like the start of fall. So before summer of 2018 yields to autumn, let’s pause to appreciate this season.

Prepare

You will need: a bowl or jar, slips of paper, pens, pencils, or crayons.

Place these in an easily accessible spot in your home.

Tell your family that you want to celebrate this summer and ask them to use the slips of paper to write down favorite activities and memories, then fold them up and drop them in the bowl or jar. (For toddlers and preschoolers ask them what they enjoyed and write it down for them on the slips. Before you drop the slips into the bowl or jar, read back to your child what you have written, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one to one connection between the spoken and written word.)

Set a date for your celebration and encourage everyone to drop in at least one memory/favorite activity per day up until that date.

Plan Your Celebration

Maybe you want to plan a picnic. Maybe you want to plan a bar-b-que. However, you choose to celebrate solicit your family for suggestions of favorite summer foods to create a proper summer feast.

Celebrate Summer 2018

To celebrate, eat together and play together, and make time to read and discuss the slips of paper that have been placed in the bowl/jar.

Consider:

  • reflecting on which activities/memories the family liked best
  • making note of things you want to repeat next year or try in a new way. (For example, if you visited one national park this year and enjoyed it, consider visiting a new one next year.)
  • listing things you would like to do more often.

Enjoy each other.

Bonus

If you are a scrap booker or photo album maker, you can use these slips in your layouts to better characterize this time in your family’s life.

Your Turn

What do you do to celebrate and memorialize summer?

If you embark on this particular practice, let us know how it went, what fun twists you might have introduced, how you might do this next year. Just use the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Individualized Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids

Road Trip Travel Folders for Kids, https://literatelives.wordpress.com/This week my daughter, son-in-law, and grands left on a road trip. To help keep the kids entertained on the way I prepared a travel pack with items for the whole family and for each individual child. (I know; they have tablets with movies and video games, but even those can get old after a few hours)

Travel Folder Contents

For the family:

  • hidden picture books
  • decks of cards

For each child (in a sturdy report folder with brads and pockets):

  • a bag of stickers to decorate their folders, or in the case of the younger grands, themselves
  • 4 coloring pages each
  • 2 scavenger hunt / paper games each
  • 2 Mad Libs
  • a book
  • a pen
  • a mechanical pencil

A Little About Some of the Items

Stickers:  1) to be used to individualize each folder (and exercise their creativity),  2) as I said, the younger kids enjoy putting them on like Band Aids (and just manipulating them is good for developing fine motor skills),  3) all of the kids could use them to make collages on the blank sides of the papers in their folders (another exercise in creativity)

Coloring Pages:  I tailored each coloring page selection to each child’s skill levels and to the trip itself (coloring provides more fine motor skill practice, eye-hand coordination, and self soothing skills). For instance, they were traveling to my parents’ house, and my parents have hummingbird feeders outside their dining room window, so I found pictures of hummingbirds for the kids to color. Also, my mom plans to take them to see the musical Beauty and the Beast, so I found free, on-line, Beauty and the Beast coloring pages to print out for them. (Note, I did not pack crayons. The grands already have plenty of those, so I did not want to burden my daughter with still more.)

Scavenger Hunts:  For the older kids, I created a grid of boxes lettered A-Z. The objective? While riding, hunt out the window for objects that start with each letter and write the name of the object in the boxes (providing observation and spelling/guess-and-go practice). For our pre-kindergartner, the scavenger hunt was similar, except it was for items that fit the basic shapes and colors (thus sharpening her skills at identifying basic shapes and colors). Alas, no scavenger hunt for our little guy.

Paper Games: For the older kids, I printed out a sheet with “supercalafragilisticexpialadocious” written across the top and instructions to make as many words as possible using only the letter in the feature word. These can be made with any word or phrase, for instance, at first they were going to travel the coastal route through the redwood forest, and I planned on making the word “Redwood National Park.” (Note: this activity builds vocabulary, and spelling skills.) Our pre-kindergartner loves mazes so I found a free one on the internet for her (another good builder of eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills).

Mad Libs:  I photocopied six fill in the sheets out ofVacation Fun Mad Libs and put two in everyone but the toddler’s folder. (As a Language Arts teacher, I loved Mad Libs for building student knowledge of the basic parts of speech, and my students loved hearing the crazy results of their word lists.) I figured one of the older kids could whisper what type of word was needed in our pre-kindergartner’s ear, so she could still ask the family for each word, and likewise her helper could help her write down the response.

A Book: Again I made sure each book was the appropriate skill and interest level for the older kids (so they can work on maintaining and building their reading skills). For our pre-kindergartner, the book I picked was a folktale I had already read to her.. Therefore, she could look at the pictures and, as she turned the pages, tell herself the story (thus developing verbal and narrative skills). For our little guy, since he got cheated in terms of activity pages, I included 2 board books–one of which features cars and trucks, some of his favorite objects.

It took me way longer to prepare these things than I had anticipated, but it was a labor of love and worth the time. When done, I gave everything to my daughter to dole out along the way as necessary.

Your Turn

I really enjoyed preparing personalized entertainment folders for each of my grandkids. Furthermore, it occurred to me not everything I packed was just for kids. Next road trip with my husband, I will definitely bring along the Vacation Fun Mad Libs .

What do you pack for road trips? If you have children, or grandchildren, what do you include for skill building? What about entertainment? Please share using the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun

My husband and I have been dreaming of going on a road trip for a long time, and so, I’ve been eagerly pinning information about keeping travel journals on my “Journaling and More” board on Pinterest

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/One pin in particular, a map journal, looked like so much fun that I decided to make one for a trip taken a few years back just for the sheer pleasure of making something.

Why Keep a Travel Journal?

Keeping a travel journal is a great way to capture memories of your travel experience while they’re still fresh. It also provides a great means to look back and remember your journey.

For children, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, a travel journal provides a fun way to exercise literacy skills during the season of the infamous “summer slide.”

What Materials do You or Your Kids Need to Make a Map Journal?

  • a map–I downloaded mine on the computer, but if I were really on a trip, I know I’d want a big map that shows the complete trip from departure, to destination, to return home.
  • marking pens, a variety of colors
  • stickers
  • scissors–to cut pictures out of travel brochures for use on the map
  • glue stick, tape, paperclips, bradsm (whatever will make things stick)–to attach pictures to the map

Now What?

As you travel, after each stop along the way, take a few moments to record the experience on your map. What you note could be as pedestrian as gas prices and restaurant reviews, as lyrical as descriptions of what you experienced and saw, as imaginative as posing some “what-if” questions or dreaming of a return in the future.

My Map

My map is a memory of a trip, from the perspective of a child, that I took with my mom and her best friend to a beach town we had been visiting since me, my siblings, and her children were kids. We met up with family and friends there, then mom and I spent a few days at my aunt’s house in Carmel. The trip is a special memory because only a few years later we lost our beloved friend to cancer.

Map Journal: Travel Journal Fun: https://literatelives.wordpress.com/Your Turn:

Do you have a trip coming up? Will you or your children make a map journal of your journey? If you do, please use the box below to post a picture of your creation/s.

Have you ever kept this, or any other type of travel journal? Do you have any tips for us newbies? Please share. Let’s encourage one another.

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past

Summer Literacy and Fun: Some Blasts from the Past; https://literatelives.wordpress.comIt is nearly mid July. Are you firmly launched into a joyously literate summer?

I have enjoyed taking my grandkids out one at a time and engaging in wildly interesting conversations. We’ve also crafted together (supporting fine motor skills needed for writing, keyboarding), played cards (supporting mathematical literacy), and of courser read together. Yea Yea’s little library is a hit with our little ones.

Are you looking for ways to nurture both literacy and family fun? Here are three posts from previous seasons that are worth a second look.

Books and Hobbies; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesBooks and Hobbies

While originally a January post, Books and Hobbies  is well worth a second look in the summertime. Hobbies bring joy, pleasure, and a sense of accomplishment to life, and help to build students’ basic skills. Summer, with its long days, vacations, and more open schedules, is a perfect time to enjoy them.

 Dining Out–Family Literacy Exercise and Fun; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/dining-out-family-literacy-exercise-and-fun/Dining Out–Family Literary Exercise and Fun

This post was inspired by a Fourth of July meal at a favorite family restaurant, however the practice it presents is one that can be useful and enjoyable in any dining-out setting, and is another great way of preserving family memories.

Summer Reading: Let's Make a List; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesSummer Reading: Let’s Make a List!

This post reflects on the stunning loss of reading skill students experience every summer and proposes a list of places in which to fit reading into your student’s summer life. After you read, please insert your own ideas for great places to read with your kids.

Your Turn

What are some ways you have nurtured literacy in your family’s life? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details

A Sensational, Sparkling, Savory, Fourth of July: Using Sensory Details; https://literatelives.wordpress.com/It is nearly the Fourth of July–that sizzling, sparkling, savory celebration of the birth of the U.S.A. What better holiday to stimulate writing with sensory details!

Sensory Details

Whether writing to capture your life, writing to entertain or inform, or writing for the pure pleasure of simply writing, sensory details add richness, depth, and realism to your writing.

What are sensory details? These are details that can only be detected through the use of your senses:

  • the beauty of a white frosted birthday cake topped with strawberries and blueberries
  • the vanilla scent of the frosting
  • the sweet tang of the berries on your tongue
  • the scrap of your fork on the plate
  • the silky texture as you swipe your finger through the frosting

Happy Birthday U.S.A.

Fourth of July Writing Exercise

Fourth of July celebrations are so full of sensory detail:

  • the crisp red white and blue of a flag
  • the sulfurous scent of fireworks
  • the tangy taste of bar-b-que
  • the sizzle of sparklers
  • the warmth of the sun against your skin

This exercise can be done by yourself, or done with your family. For each person participating in this exercise you will need either a pocket-sized tablet, five index cards, or a piece of paper divided into 5 sections and a pen or pencil that will fit into your pocket or purse.

Preparation: Label either one page, one card, or one section for each of the senses–sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch.

You, or each of you, will carry this with you throughout the day and evening, and pause periodically to record what you observe with your senses.

At the end of the evening, or the next day, look over your list.

  • For those who like to journal, use this list as you capture the holiday in words.
  • For those who like to write poetry, use this list as the pre-write for a poem.
  • For those who write fiction, use this list to create a scene.
  • For those who write non-fiction, use this list to write an article about July 4, 2018 as celebrated in your community.

Enjoy!

Have fun. Participating in this exercise will help you capture and savor the very specific and particular details of your Fourth of July.

Your Turn

Using the comment box below, let’s share 3 to 5 items from our lists or a bit of the writing that results from it. Again, have fun, and let’s encourage one another!

The Surprising Benefits of Writing by Hand

the surprising benefits of writing by hand, literatelives.wordpress.comLast week, as I worked endlessly on my school computer sorting files, typing out procedures, and making preparations for leaving my job (a job my boss, colleagues, and I had pretty much invented as we went along because it was an entirely new position for our building), I yearned to curl up in a cozy chair and journal by hand (instead of on the computer as I usually do).

So this week, when I had a chance to catch up on reading some articles I’d been saving for a long time to enjoy, one in particular, The New York Times’  What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades,” from June of 2014 caught my eye.

What I read impacted me powerfully, not only as a writer, but also as a grandparent and nurturer of literacy.

Some of the Findings of a Variety of Studies:

  • Writing by hand activates more regions of the brain than keyboarding.
  • Young children who learn to write at the same time they learn to read, learn to read more quickly.
  • People generating ideas in print or cursive, generate more ideas than those using a keyboard.
  • Students who take notes by hand, rather than by keyboard, are better able to understand and remember the information from lecturers and other auditory sources.

The Implications for Me

  • I have always written out the rough drafts of stories, poems, and novels  longhand and will definitely continue to do so.
  • I also print out the work I want to revise and revise in pencil on paper. I will continue to do so.
  • I will start to vary my journaling practice between computer and paper, depending on my mood and the nature of the thinking in which I want to engage. I can always scan in what was written by hand if I want to keep everything together.

The Implications for My Grandparenting Style

I had been thinking a lot about ways to have fun with my grandkids this summer. We live just fifteen minutes away, so activities like picnics and craft projects have always been high on our list. However, just because we live nearby does not mean we cannot write to each other. This summer I will write to one grandchild each week and enclose a card and self-addressed stamped envelope to encourage them to write back. (Why not write to all of them once a week? I do not want this practice to become overwhelming or a burden for them, or by familiarity, to lessen the delight in getting a hand written letter now and then.)

The Implications for This Blog

As the creator of Literate Lives , I will encourage you, my readers to sometimes put pen or pencil to paper, and to ask your children or students (come fall) to, now and then, do the same.

Your Turn

What do you think about this information on writing by hand? How do you want to incorporate this practice in your, your kids’, or your students’ lives? Please use the comment box below to share. Let’s encourage one another!