Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Picture Book is Oodles of Fun!

I just got to preview a wonderful new book by Donna Shepherd. With its delightful language and charming illustrations, Poodle and Doodle is a picture book that can be read and enjoyed again and again. The story of how Angel, the "perfect" poodle, adjusts to the intrusion of Scruffy, the Labradoodle, will make both children and adults laugh. (Check out Angel's blog!) Donna Shepherd's clever rhymes bring Angel's personality to life, and Jack Foster's artwork adds to the humor. Hidden bones in many of the illustrations keep things fun for multiple readings. The story entertains while teaching good lessons about friendship and change. Great for both home and school libraries! You can get the book from Guardian Angel Publishing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New on the Web

This has been a fun week for me thanks to Pauline Books and Media, the publisher of several of my books. First, an interview with me was posted on their website. I had a great time talking to Sister Christine about writing for kids, and it's exciting to see the interview in print. You can check it out here.

Next, a video about one of my books appeared on Pauline's youtube page. How cool is that? It's cute, colorful, and peppy! (Thanks, Sally!) View the video here.

Happy holidays, everyone, and thanks for all your support!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

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!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

7 Things I've Learned So Far

Even after years of trying to make it as a writer, there's still a lot I don't know about writing. I have learned a few things, however, and I've written about them on Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog. You can check out my article and get lots of good information from Chuck and other writers, too, while you're there.