Monday, February 23, 2015

Childhood Writing


I loved writing, even as a kid. Here's the earliest written piece I still have. I wrote this poem for my grandmother the summer after third grade. I know this because I wrote her a letter about it on the other side and I dated that letter. I guess they did a good job of teaching us about proper letter formatting in third grade -- as well as cursive handwriting!



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Kids' Book About Martin Luther King, Jr.

             



What was Your Dream, Dr. King? and Other Questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. (by award-winning author Mary Kay Carson) is a wonderful book for young readers age 7 and up. The kid-friendly question-and-answer format allows readers to explore the book at their own pace and learn about the man and his times in meaningful chunks. As usual, Carson's writing is clear, accessible, and informative. Beautiful illustrations bring Dr. King to life.

Check out Mary Kay Carson's blog post about using this book here.

Get the book here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tips for Writing Kids' Plays


If you write for children, don't limit yourself to traditional fiction. Use your story-telling skills to create plays kids will love. Here are a few suggestions about how to do it:


                         1)     Be realistic. Your script probably won't be performed on Broadway or turned into a blockbuster movie. Avoid special effects, amazing stunts, or anything else that can't be accomplished by ordinary kids. Keep costumes, sets, and props to a minimum. Writing in the readers theatre format is one of the best ways to create a play that's simple to stage but exciting in content.

2)     Use an adjustable cast.  Of course, you want to follow publishers' guidelines about size of cast and number of female/male roles. But you can make your play adaptable to various situations by building in some casting flexibility. When possible, include group characters like "Other Students" or "Rest of Student Council." Use some unisex names for characters or double up on titles, such as "Aunt/Uncle" or "Mr./Ms." Adding a narrator provides a large  and handy gender neutral part.

3)     Spread the glory around. Not only is it difficult for one kid to carry most of a play, it's just no fun. All the actors want to have their moment – and their parents expect to see it. Instead of letting your main character do all the talking, distribute lines among a number of roles. If you use group characters (see #2), give them lines that allow for adlibs so everyone gets to say something. For example:
             Other Students: What? Are you kidding? I don't believe it! (Etc.)
           And most importantly, give secondary characters interesting personalities and some problems of their own – that makes them fun to play and entertaining to watch.

4)     Make sure your dialogue rings true. Some characters need to sound pompous, old-fashioned, affected, formal, or otherwise theatrical. Those parts are usually easy to write! Creating realistic dialogue for contemporary young characters can be much more challenging. Real kids don't speak lyrically, reciting over-their-heads vocabulary with perfect grammar. They use contractions and slang, start new sentences without finishing old ones, and interrupt each other. Listen to kids talk to get an idea of how to recreate their conversations, read your dialogue out loud with a critical ear, and polish, polish, polish. Nothing is more essential to a good play than well-written dialogue!  

5)     Step outside the box. Today's kids are used to media that breaks boundaries. They've experienced actors who speak directly to the camera, characters who "know" they're in a television program, and games that allow almost-real interaction. So don’t be afraid to experiment a little with your play! Let the narrator express personal opinions about what's happening onstage. Allow your main character to argue with the narrator. Place a heckler in the audience or bring an audience member on stage. This kind of creativity works especially well in humorous scripts, but it can also add emotional impact to serious plays.

6)     Tell a story. Despite its different format, a play is still a story – and you want to make it a good one! Create a relatable main character, give him/her a problem worth caring about, go through a complete story arc, end up with a good lesson that's not too heavy-handed, etc., etc., just as you would when writing a kids' story or book. This doesn't just apply to serious drama – funny plays need to be well-written, too! Skits constructed of nothing but jokes, gags, and one-liners can be fun, but they're not really satisfying to audiences, young performers, or the adults who work with kids. Make your script meaningful, as well as entertaining. That's the kind of play that gets published and performed!

Want to sell your plays? Here are some possible markets.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Aaaaw....How Nice!



 I received the One Lovely Blog Award! 


Here are the rules for accepting this award: 

• Thank the person who nominated you for the award. 

Thank you, Donna Shepherd, for blessing me today. 

• Add the One Lovely Blog logo to your post. 

 • Share 7 things about yourself.
 • Nominate up to 15 bloggers you admire and inform the nominees by commenting on their blog. 

7 things people might not know about me: 

1. I don't believe in broccoli on pizza. It's just wrong.
2. I took dancing lessons as a kid.
3, But they haven't helped with Zumba at all!
4. I taught myself to read music.
5. I can sing the alphabet backwards.
6. My best yoga position is savasana (corpse pose).
7. I love Indian food!

Now to nominate SOME of the other bloggers deserving of this award. Check out these lovely blogs: 

Congratulations, fellow bloggers! Now pass it on!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Using Readers Theatre with Small Groups

Do you hesitate to use plays with your students because you’re dealing with such a small group? Whether you’re a special education teacher, homeschooler, religious educator, or involved parent, readers theatre can work for you and your kids! Here are some suggestions to help you modify theatre activities for your situation:

1. Cut! Mark out minor characters’ lines and eliminate nonessential scenes.

2. Take turns. Just round robin read instead of assigning parts. Everybody gets to read about the same amount and try out different roles.

3. There are no small parts…. Assign the big roles to the kids, then do all the small roles yourself. Or let one kid do all the small roles. (This is great for practicing different voices.)

4. Make do with two. If you only have two students – or just yourself and one student – then divide and conquer. Have one person do all the male roles while another does all the female roles. Or assign one large role and a few small roles to each actor. Or split up the adults’ and children’s roles. (It’s fun and funny for you to play the kids!)

5. Take a chance. Have everyone randomly draw characters’ names until all parts are assigned.

6. Put the narrator on a “soundtrack.” Record someone – yourself, a student, or a special “guest star” – reading the narrator’s part ahead of time. Then play the tape between the “live” reading of other parts.

For other theatre suggestions, go to my website and click on the theatre tab.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Advent and Christmas are Just Around the Corner!

If you're looking for a kids' book about this special time of year, consider Celebrate the Season! Twelve Short Stories for Advent and Christmas available at Pauline Books. This collection (which includes some of my stories) evokes the joy and meaning of the season. Kids 8-12 years old enjoy the stories, and teachers and parents find the book useful since each story is follow by "Questions to Think and Talk About." Would it make a nice gift for someone on your Christmas list?

Friday, September 26, 2014

What is Readers Theatre Anyway?

Readers’ theater is easier theater! Actors don’t memorize their lines—they simply read from their scripts. Because memorization isn’t an issue, more students are able to handle large roles. Also, extensive rehearsal isn’t necessary. And, unlike “regular” theater, a readers’ theater production isn’t thrown into a tailspin by memory lapses or absences.

Other aspects of readers’ theater are easy, too. Sets, costumes, props, and even movement are not needed as the plays are written to work without them. The extras can be included if desired, but readers’ theater works even if the actors just sit there and read!

How Do I Get Started?
Before you use a readers’ theater play, read it yourself and make sure the content, theme, and vocabulary are appropriate for your students. Decide whether you need to preview any concepts or vocabulary. If you are thinking about staging the play for an audience, consider which students might fit which roles, but don’t set your cast just yet.

Once you decide on a play, make as many copies of the script as there are parts plus one for yourself. Highlight one character’s lines in each copy (except yours) to make it easier for kids to read. Covering or binding scripts will help them last through multiple readings.

After giving students time to read through their scripts silently, have them read the play aloud, changing roles with each scene if you wish. This kind of read-through makes a good, one-time, supplemental activity, but you can do much more with readers’ theater!

For example, you could have students read a particular script multiple times on different days. The repetition gives you several opportunities to teach comprehension skills like character traits, motivation, story structure, theme, and cause-and-effect. And rereading allows kids to relax about the reading itself and develop a deeper understanding of the characters and theme of the play.

Multiple readings also improve fluency and expression. You can help with these skills by asking questions about the characters’ feelings and motivation. If a student has difficulty with expression, “echo reading” can help. You model his lines with good expression and have him copy you. It doesn’t usually take much of this practice to get a young actor on the right track. Allowing students to record themselves as they read their lines and listen afterwards also develops better expression.

After several readings, you might want to move students from their seats to a traditional readers’ theater set-up. The actors in readers’ theater usually sit on stools or chairs throughout the play, holding and reading their scripts. Sometimes the actors sit with their backs to the audience, “entering” by facing front and reading their lines and “exiting” by turning around again. The narrator might stand to one side or read from a lectern. This kind of staging can make readers’ theater more fun for your students and motivate them to further improve their performances.


For more about theater, go to my website and click on the Theatre for Teachers tab.

And here are some readers theatre collections I wrote:

     These humorous readers theatre scripts offer real-life settings and contemporary characters. Each play pokes gentle fun at annoying traits, school-based dilemmas, or the embarrassing moments that are part of growing up. With resolutions that emphasize creative solutions, humor, or cleverness, these plays work to improve language arts skills. (Grades 4 to 8)

     This collection of humorous, contemporary plays is organized around special times of year such as holidays, the first day of school, a snow day, etc. Teachers can find an appropriate readers theatre script at almost any time with this valuable resource, and kids will have fun improving their language arts skills as they perform these plays. (Grades 6 to 8) 

     Twelve humorous readers theater scripts engage and entertain students in fourth through eighth grades. The book includes a play for every month of the year. Each script features a contemporary kid in a real-life situation—and a saint who helps him or her solve the problem! (Grades 4 to 8)