Thursday, September 11, 2014

Better Writing with Hook Books!

I saw a dog. He was brown. He was cute. I liked him.

Do your students write simple sentences like these? As a special education teacher, I had trouble getting my kids to write more complex and interesting sentences…until a teacher friend told me about hook books. (Thanks, Carol!) I don’t know where the method originated. I’d love to give credit to whoever thought it up as it was quite effective! (And I'd like to know why they're called "hook books." Were the originals hung from hooks? Did they get the name because they "hook" kids on better writing?) Here’s how it works:

Day One: Write a simple and boring sentence on the board or overhead. Then have students come up with adjectives to add to the sentence. (You may have to explain what adjectives are and adjust the number to the ability of your students) Encourage a variety of adjectives. (“We already have a color word. Can you think of another word to describe _______?” After the list of adjectives is finished, choose one and rewrite the sentence. You’ll end up with something like this:
I saw a dog. (original sentence)
1. brown
2. spotted
3. gigantic
4. scary
I saw a spotted dog.
Have each student copy the above in a notebook designated as a “hook book.” For the sentence, have them choose a different adjective from the list than the one you chose.

Day Two: Put yesterday’s transformed sentence back on the board. Now have students think of more interesting verbs to replace the one in the sentence. (Explain/model as needed.) Choose a verb to further transform the sentence. Students copy it all into their “hook books,” except they transform their own sentences from yesterday. (Again, encourage variety. “’Brushed’ is a good verb, but since we already have ‘combed’ on the list, can you think of another word?”) You’ll have something like this:
I saw a spotted dog.
1. chased
2. combed
3. walked
4. rescued
I rescued a spotted dog.
Day Three: Now you move on to prepositional phrases. If your students don’t know prepositions, post a list, and give examples of prepositional phrases to get them going. As before, students copy from the board but transform their own sentences from yesterday.
I rescued a spotted dog.
Prepositional phrases:
1. from the pound
2. with my grandfather’s help
3. on my birthday
4. in a terrible storm
I rescued a spotted dog from the pound.

Day Four: Each student goes to a fresh page in his/her hook book, indents, copies over his/her last, transformed sentence, and uses it as the first sentence of a paragraph or longer story. (You adjust according to students’ needs.)

Day Five: Students help each other edit their stories. (Or on Day Four, you can check and mark their stories or conference with them individually.) Then each makes a good copy of his/her story with an illustration if desired.

This activity only takes a few minutes each day, especially after you’ve done it several times. Kids begin to understand parts of speech and sentence structure, and you can refer to this activity to get them to write better sentences at other times. (“How about adding an adjective?" "Can you come up with a more interesting verb?" "Please add a prepositional phrase.”) Gradually you can require students to do more of the activity on their own. Eventually you can just supply the stimulus sentence, and the hook book can be a daily, independent activity!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's that time again!

It's time for school to start! Here's a handy resource for teachers to use throughout the school year. (Yes, it's one of mine from ABC-CLIO!)  All Year Long! Funny Readers Theatre for Life's Special Times  offers easy-to-use plays themed to different times of the year -- first day of school, Labor Day, Columbus Day, St. Valentine's Day, a snow day, etc., etc. Check out this video about the book. (It's the first one I ever made using Movie Maker, a program that, unbeknowst to me for quite some time, was lurking on my computer!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Great New Ebook for Teens!


True Colors is a fun read with a good message. Author Krysten Lindsay Hager understands what it means to be a teen today, and she writes with an authentic voice. Landry, the main character, is funny, lively, and very real. Readers will relate to her struggles with friends and family, self-esteem and self-discovery, boys and school and life in general. It's fun to read about Landry's blossoming modeling career and the changes it brings. I'm hoping for a True Colors sequel so I can find out what happens next for Landry!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Amazing new book!

I really enjoyed Reporting Under Fire – 16 Daring Women War Correspondents and Photojournalists by my talented author friend Kerrie Logan HollihanThe extensive research behind the book is impressive, but Kerrie does more than just lay out the facts about these female journalists. She places each woman in historical context and helps readers relate to the culture, the events, and the issues of her times. With skillful storytelling, entertaining anecdotes, powerful quotes, and intriguing photos, Kerrie brings these sixteen inspiring women to life for both young and adult readers. I highly recommend this fascinating book! Get it here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Press Release for My New Book!

New Faith-based Book Helps Teachers and Parents Communicate With Tweens and Teens

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction, a resource book, by Diana R. Jenkins, helps adults discuss sensitive subjects with kids and guide them as they face the moral challenges of the tween and teen years.

Today's young teens will face many challenges before they reach adulthood, and they'll need guidance. But it's not easy for adults to open up discussion on uncomfortable subjects....

Read more here!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Can't Wait to Read This Book!

Kerrie Logan Hollihan, author of  Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids: His Life and Ideas; Elizabeth I, the People's Queen: Her Life and Times; Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times; and other great biographies for young readers has a new book out! (Isn't the cover great?) 
Reporting Under Fire: 16 Daring Women War Correspondents and Photojournalists profiles courageous female journalists who risked their lives to share the reality of war. I'm hearing great things about this book, and I'm starting it now!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour Continues!

Keila Dawson, author of the delightful picture book The King Cake Baby, invited me to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour. When I met Keila at our local SCBWI, I knew she'd be a writing success! Be sure to check out her responses to the writing process questions on her blog.

And here are mine:

What am I currently working on?

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction just came out so I'm working on promoting the book. It's funny how much time that kind of thing takes!

I'm also working on a middle grade novel about a spunky girl nobody wants. Progress is slow because I work on it sporadically, and I'm experimenting with writing without an outline.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There are lots of great faith-based values education materials, but Tackling Tough Topics is different in that it uses fiction. Kids connect with stories in a different way than they do with nonfiction. They get emotionally involved, relate to the characters, and wonder how things are going to come out in the end. All that opens them up to receiving the good message you're trying to get across.

Why do I write what I write?

I was a special education teacher for many years, and I view writing as another way to teach. I hope to help kids lead better lives, make good moral decisions, and grow up to be the people they want to be.

How does my individual writing process work?

It's a torturous process of writing then deleting then rewriting then rephrasing then moving along a while then realizing what I'm doing is not going to work and deleting then rewriting and so on and so on until I "rassle" the story into submission and feel really good until I start the next project! It's not pretty.

To continue the Writing Process Blog Tour, I'm tagging writer and illustrator Virginia Wright. (She is a fascinating person. Read about her below!) Virginia's answers to the writing process questions will appear on her blog on June 9.

Besides writing and illustrating, Virginia loves taking photographs of everything that catches her eye -- oddities, nature, and food. (Yup, she's a foodie, too, and has a recipe blog). She stated that she had hundreds upon hundreds, no, into the thousands now, of photographs and illustrations on her computer files. One of her favorite hobbies is creating artwork from her photographic images--combining real life photographs with digital painting. (She calls this "digital artistry.") Her current WIP, writing and illustrating, is a book for toddlers titled: Wild Animal Sounds.

Follow and friend her here: Facebook: