Minds in Bloom is excited to present Heather Earley with her inspiring guest post on making kids WANT to write. She's got lots of great book suggestions. You're bound to find a new favorite!
My addiction to books has been a long and expensive habit! However, I was never much of a writer in school and dreaded “creative” writing assignments. I was missing the connection between the tons of reading I was doing and my own ability to use these texts to inspire my own writing. Not until I started teaching did I realize the power books had to inspire great writing, and I so badly wanted writing to be a pleasant and fun way for my students to develop this connection for themselves. This is a small selection (in no particular order) of some of the inspirational books I have used with my students- some well known and a few a little more obscure, but each with a special place on my shelf for each year’s new group of writers.
new group of writers.
1 1. MagpieMagic by April Wilson
Yes, it’s a picture book! I love using picture books with my fourth and fifth graders because they learn to dig deeper and tell the story themselves. Analyzing the pictures and making connections between the pages becomes that much more of a challenge and your students will LOVE this one! A mischievous magpie discovers a set of colored pencils that bring to life anything they draw. The bird causes a bit of trouble, and the pencils fight back! The illustrations are as wonderful as the conversations that will emerge!
We used this book later in the school year as an opportunity to practice using all of the figurative language techniques we had discovered in other stories through a retelling. Using multiple copies of the book, students worked in small groups with sticky notes to tag the illustrations with figurative phrases. In pairs, students practiced retelling their stories as they worked through a story plan. And finally, they completed the writing process combining the descriptive language they had brainstormed with their own plans. The results were fantastic!
2. Grown-Ups Get to Do All the Driving by William Steig
If you take yourself seriously, “Grown-Ups Get to Do All the Driving” is not for you! Short phrases from a child’s perspective that describe grown-ups brings back a few memories. Some are positive (grown-ups like children to be happy) and some not so much (grown-ups are mean), but they have all rung true in your head at some point in childhood.
I find this to be a perfect book for brainstorming all of the things kids wish they could do and wish their parents wouldn’t do. We also picked specific pages to brainstorm when building our writer’s notebooks idea sections, like “Grown-Ups make you go to the dentist.” From this small statement, we found dozens of ideas for things we didn’t want to do but have to do, all of which offer potential personal narratives. A great idea builder!
3 3. The Book of Bad Ideas by Laura Huliska-Beith
Another great brainstorming book! There isn’t a story- just a ton of really funny illustrations with short phrases uttering perfectly bad ideas with disastrous effects entertainingly illustrated. Kids can really dig into their silly with this one! My favorite…Asking your best friend to give you a quick haircut on class picture day. Ha!
We used this in two ways. First, kids love to tell about the things they have done that were just bad ideas for personal narratives. Second, using the bad ideas presented in the book, students had a whole set of potential fictional narrative ideas. As I displayed the pages and shared the captions, students had to collect a minimum of 5 new ideas that they could write about that they had never experienced. We kept this book in our writing center all year as a potential reference for ideas when writer’s block occurred.
4. Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski
These books are as good as it gets in my opinion. This is my number one go to book for the beginning of each school year now. Wisniewski masterfully takes ordinary expectations like “eat your vegetables” and creates wild and exaggerated “truths” he has secured from various locations in clever disguises. (Vegetables are eaten to keep them under control as they have devolved from giant man-eating creatures.) Each book contains 8 or so stories which are filled with high-level vocabulary, strong voice, text features (the Newbery award winner by the way), and humor.
We used both of these stories to introduce plot analysis, one-sentence summaries, and vocabulary in context. During the first few weeks of school, I also introduce the writing process through a daily think aloud modeling my own truth behind a rule. By the end of the third week, students have completed each step in the writing process and created their own twisted rule which we publish for parents- a perfect parent night project to share! The freebie includes the plan, rubric, and suggestions for completing the writing process.
These books made poetry fun for me. I love figurative language but always taught it within the context of traditional text and avoided poetry as much as possible. These books actually made me (and the kids) LOVE playing with poetry! Both books contain 26 different types of poems, one for each letter of the alphabet. My favorites were abecedarian (a poem that contains 26 lines starting with each letter of the alphabet) and list poems. All of Harley’s poems relate to insects.
Over the years, my classes have published five or six different editions of poetry books, but my favorite was two years ago. I introduced one letter a week with its poem, and the students decided to focus on topics specific to our classroom like field trips, recess, funny moments, etc. We did it as a “Fun Friday” activity- it was a nice break from the monotony, and it was a great opportunity to challenge the kids in a comfortable way. I usually struggled through writing my own example as well. For each letter, I selected two student poems and made sure to include everyone at last once in the book. They typed their poems, if applicable, and illustrated during a special author’s lunch each week. I made copies, bound the books, and celebrated at our fifth grade graduation by giving each student a copy. They signed each other’s books, shared with their parents, and just loved them. This was really one of those “golden moments” for me!
If you like these books, find five more books that will inspire your kids to write with suggestions at http://wildaboutwords.blogspot.com/2014/10/5-more-books-that-will-make-your-kids.html. Happy reading and writing!