Saturday, April 23, 2011

Author Steve Sheinkin's Visit and Advice for Writers

     Recently, author Steve Sheinkin visited Matthew Whaley to talk to grades 3-5 about his nonfiction books. Sheinkin discussed how he was formerly a social studies textbook author. He explained how he grew frustrated by being limited in what he could write about when it came to history. From this experience, he evolved into an independent writer of a narrative style of nonfiction that gives a more interesting "storyteller voice" to talking about historical events. In particular, Sheinkin is intrigued by the more human aspects of events and people in history. He explained how he wants the reader to care about the characters they are reading about in order to build a connection to them and understand their motivations in life. His writing is meant to make both famous and every day people from the past real and tangible. Sheinkin is also passionate about giving overlooked, small stories a voice and finding a niche to explore that is not necessarily a huge part of American history.  

    Sheinkin had particular advice for the students which was valuable to hear from a published author. He spoke about the impact that a strong lead has for a book. As you can see in excerpts through Macmillan Children's Books, the sample introductions certainly are attention grabbing! It's important to note that Sheinkin's books are for an older audience. I could see history buffs in fifth grade and middle school enjoying his texts with interesting takes on historical events.  Sheinkin asked the audience of students for suggestions for new topics to consider writing about next. The students enjoyed being an active part of his impromptu brainstorming!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Links for National Poetry Month - Part 2: Teacher Instructional Inspiration and Student Interactives!

     It's hard to believe that April is flying by so quick! Here is a "Part 2" to the collection of poetry links. Remember that poetry is a great, quick jolt of reading and writing during this busy time of year! Enjoy!


The Miss Rumphius Effect Blog - This well known blog is featuring all current posts as well as previous posts related to "poetry in the classroom."

The Poetry Foundation - This link leads you to their children's portion of their site, although it's all interesting! A special feature is former poet laureate Jack Prelutsky's tips to hear!

PBS for Teachers - Explore the offerings of instructional ideas this portion of the PBS website has to offer in the realm of poetry. This particular link takes you to a fun haiku interactive that can easily be used to launch a lesson as well as let students do independently. On PBS's site for the book character Arthur, his buddy Fern has a section of the site that is kid friendly regarding poetry.
Fern, Arthur's friend, has her own
poetry site on PBS for Kids.
ReadWriteThink - National Poetry Month is highlighted through a variety of lesson plans that span various grade levels. This site is co-sponsored by the premier literacy associations: The International Reading Association and the National Council of the Teachers of English. Check out some of the student interactives that they have available:

ETTC's Poetry Forms - The Educational Technology Training Center of New Jersey has created fill in templates that can help hold the hands of students as they create various poems with particular themes and topics. This is great if you are having students in the lab or laptop, as well as a language arts work station in the class.

Follow "wmsbg301" on Twitter for Fresh Literacy News!

     Follow the best on Twitter in the world of literacy! You can find my collection of sites that I follow by finding "wmsbg301" on Twitter. I only post links when I update my Matthew Whaley Reading and Writing Blog, and occasionally I retweet a link that is of particular interest in literacy. You can look at who I am following here, from the best in professional book authors, literacy blogs, and associations. You will also find that I am following children's authors and illustrators, as well as the best in publishers for children's trade book literature. This is a great way to keep up with the freshest news being shared on the Internet, all collected in one place! There will only ever be literacy links associated with this site. I have the account set for me to grant permission for anyone to follow "wmsbg 301." So, once I do that, you can see the whole collection. :) Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

D.E.A.R. Day is April 12th! Time to Celebrate with Beverly Cleary!


      If you would like to highlight your daily love of reading in your class in another special way, Drop Everything and Read Day will occur on April 12th! You can check out the official D.E.A.R. website and learn more about the program's featured author, Beverly Cleary. This particular day also marks author Beverly Cleary's 95th birthday! Wow! What a prolific life she has led.  I have a DVD from the D.E.A.R. program that is available for anyone to borrow. On it, author Beverly Clearly is interviewed. You can also check out interview Q & A on the Beverly Cleary page on the official D.E.A.R. website.

      Reading Rockets, one of my favorite sites that supports literacy in the school and home, features a page on D.E.A.R. and Beverly Cleary. Also available from HarperCollins Children's Books is an excerpt from the book Ramona and Beezus, which was the inspiration for a great movie version that came out last summer.


      Despite being officially retired from writing, Beverly Cleary has a wonderful author website. A cute ultimate fan quiz for kids that takes you right to Ramona's world on Klickitat Street. :) Teachers can find some resources on the educator page of Cleary's site. Excerpts from a print interview and World of Ramona guide can be referred to while sharing parts from one of her Ramona chapter books. For older students,The Girl from Yamhill is a memoir from her childhood, and On My Own Two Feet chronicles her days from college to when she had her first book published entitled Henry Huggins.

     This video clip is from an interview done from before the movie version of Ramona and Beezus came out last year. Enjoy reconnecting with the classic Ramona series and all of Cleary's books!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Book Alert - First Garden: The White House Garden

    I'm always on the lookout for fresh trade books to suggest and share which tie in content area studies. As a former second grade teacher, I truly loved coordinating the extensive Roots and Shoots program for the second grade for many years. I've been at the school since the garden's inception by the generous work of the Williamsburg Master Gardeners, parents, and community volunteers. It's amazing how much learning can occur in science and all subject areas in this outdoor lab. Reading and writing are obviously a passion for me, but nature appreciation and gardening has always been a favorite aspect of my teaching career, too. There are so many nature appreciating teachers at our school that it makes me quite happy to know the love of gardening lives on!   Our retired music teacher and master gardener Mrs. Genrose Lashinger leads the care and volunteerism of the garden, and we couldn't do it without her!

    I saw an interesting update on Reading Rocket's Facebook page about a new trade book that was just released by Clarion Books yesterday on April 4th. It is called First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew, and it is written and illustrated by Robbin Gourley. This nonfiction book gives some history of the outdoor spaces of the White House property, and then goes into the history of gardens over the years at the White House as well. The book focuses its attention on the current outdoor vegetable garden which was spearheaded by the First Lady Michelle Obama. In the blog Obama Foodorama, blogger Eddie Gehman Kohan reports about the book. She also shares that the First Lady will be penning her own book from Crown Publishers and is scheduled to be released during April of 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama has made healthy eating and active lifestyles for children her charge in her role at the White House, and the publicity generated from the various gardening activities supports her initiative. This book can be used in conjunction to learning about gardening, historical activities at the White House, and healthy eating habits.

     If you would like to know of some other nonfiction and fiction resources that can be tied into particular aspects of your garden infused studies, just come by or email me! I love giving suggestions! :)


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Links for National Poetry Month - Part 1: Favorite Poetry Authors!

     I love to share the emotions, laughter, and smiles of poetry with students during April as National Poetry Month! Poetry should certainly have a home in classrooms throughout the 
year. I have witnessed teachers using poetry for a variety of reasons, ranging from fanciful fiction to non-fiction selections which illustrate with words descriptive visuals for students to absorb. I have always enjoyed marinating in the precisely picked language. When I taught in the classroom, I enjoyed inviting students to find a poem to share or to pen one of their own to help open up our special bonding time of interactive read aloud. What a great way to practice savoring language and reading fluently, without speeding through at the speed of sound? :)

     Here are a few of the sites from favorite children's poetry authors to further gear up the children about poetry. Check them out, and have fun exploring the richness of language when presented in the petite package of a poem!

Jack Prelutsky  - Here the former National Children's Poet Laureate Prelutsky presents a super appealing website for kids.

Giggle Poetry - which includes interviews and ideas from children's poets - great to share inspirations on author's and their crafting with the students :)

Kristine O'Connell George - This author has generously posted "Poetry Aloud!" where many of her own poetry works from her published books are available for your downloading and enjoyment. As she says, "Poetry is meant to be read aloud!" Two of my many favorites from this author are featured here in the pictures: Fold Me a Poem,Toasting Marshmellows: Camping Poems, and the new Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems.

George also has a particular page that suggests 33 ways to celebrate poetry.

Brian P. Cleary - Cleary is an author of books on parts of speech, math, and, POETRY! This portion of his page is purely kid friendly, poetry playing fun.

Nikki Grimes - Author Nikki Grimes has a "Poem To Go" section on her website, where she posts things such as her inspiration behind a poem idea, or a poem started for the reader to complete.

Robert Munsch - Author Robert Munsch shares some of the poetry which he says he writes for some of the children who write him letters. How cool is that!?!

Eileen Spinelli - This author/illustrator has a portion of her website where she posts a "Poem of the Month." Perfect for shared reading activities with a whole group! I also have a signed copy of the beautifully illustrated Feathers: Poems about Birds!  

Janet Wong - Hear author Janet Wong read poetry via the audio feature by clicking on the microphone! I especially appreciate how she writes about her relationship with poetry and its power in the main text of this page.

Shel Silverstein - Classic children's poet Silverstein's clever, and often offbeat wit, is treasured by children generation after generation. Check out his website to see more of his creativeness!

Hope that these sites serve as inspiration for you! :) Enjoy!

Reading Suggestion: E-Anthology Poetry Tag Time!

     I found out about a neat new anthology that was just launched this week entitled Poetry Tag Time. Author Janet Wong and professor/blogger Sylvia Vardell compiled an collection of poetry that is only available as an "e-anthology" for e-readers. On Amazon for the Kindle it's a reasonable 99 cents. You can also download a free sample to a Kindle as well. In addition, it's available to download to other devices such as a computer or iPhone through this free Kindle app on the website. 

    The format of this collection is unique because it is a total of 30 poems from 30 various well-known children's authors. It starts with a poem from Jack Prelutsky about the moon, which then served as the inspiration for the next poem from Joyce Sidman. In the book, Sidman explains that Prelutsky's poem on the moon led her to think of eggs, which then led her to wonder about where everything is born! The following poem from Nikki Grimes is inspired by Sidman's last word in her poem "sun" which led Grimes to write about sunflowers.  The whole book is a big writing version of "Tag, You're It!" Isn't that a cool way to teach a lesson in a classroom writing community? Since April is National Poetry Month, what a perfect independent writing project that can be passed from one student to another. The feeling that you can inspire another writer would inspire children to be creative and inspire subsequent classroom authors as well. Once edited and revised, the students can publish the poems on the computer, and then the teacher can print and bind the collection for an instant favorite class book!  

    Check out Poetry Tag Time's website! You can learn a bit about each one of the authors as well as read about the concept in the words of the authors. Poetry Tag also has started a neat blog to extend and inspire poetic writing. Even though it has just recently been started, there is already a great post about using Jack Prelutsky's poem for classroom instruction. The blog states that the 30 poems will be celebrated throughout the month of April, so bookmark the page or at it to your blog roll to be reminded of new posts for inspiration! Also, you can check out the blog of Professor Sylvia Vardell for fresh information about children's poetry.