Join us on Tuesday, November 4th at 3 PM Eastern Standard Time as we discuss ways to keep libraries relevant. We will discuss the importance of informational text and technology to improve literacy. Each guest will receive a code to claim 500 points for Rourke’s Frequent Buyer Program. Register here.
What activities have you done National Bullying Prevention Month? Were they successful? Will you use the same ones next year? Pacer offers several activities for students of all ages. Stomp Out Bullying has several campaigns to implement in your school each week. Consider not only using these activities next year but also throughout the school year. Teach students social skills and positive social interactions with Rourke’s Little World Social Skills for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade or Social Skills for students in 3rd grade through 5th grade. We should stomp out bullying all year long and Rourke can help.
I can still remember the excitement I felt as a young girl learning to read and write. Both reading and writing turned into lifelong loves and key skills I use every day in my job: I’ve been editing children’s books for 21 years and writing them since 1997.
As an author, I’ve written a little bit of everything, including picture books, early readers, graphic novels, middle grade fiction, and nonfiction for older kids. It’s hard to play favorites, but I am particularly fond of writing historical fiction. And I really enjoy writing children’s nonfiction— especially when I can share interesting or unexpected facts about whatever topic I’m covering. That’s one reason I’m excited about the two U.S. Regions books I recently wrote for Rourke Publishing.
Sometimes I’m asked what inspires me to write, and to that I have to say, “Writing.” The more I write, the more I want to write! It also inspires me to know that kids who love books as much as I do might just read my work. There’s nothing better than knowing that your words have landed in such good hands.
I came across an interesting article the other day and thought it was worth sharing. Mia Hood, an assistant professor and doctoral student, was observing a classroom to reconnect with students when she had an epiphany of sorts. She realized that the students in the middle school she was observing were doing what was required of Common Core or evidenced based learning but are missing all the feelings that reading evokes from the reader. At Rourke we support reading: reading for pleasure or reading for information or reading to obtain evidence for your claims. Balance is essential to create college and career ready students and lifelong readers.
As a writer I am familiar with the many things that can sabotage my efforts to start on a new piece of writing. Just when I think I am ready to begin, I think about the closet that needs cleaning, the compost pile that needs turning, or hair that needs coloring. Once I sweep those thoughts from my mind and self-talk my way back to the page, negative thoughts regarding my ability as a writer begin their assault. Will the audience like this piece? Who exactly is my audience? Should I really express my true opinion or should I dance around the issue? Even the most experienced writer finds a reason to procrastinate before beginning a new piece, but eventually we get through the stall and onto the page by using a strategy we’ve collected over time.
But what about the young, inexperienced writers in our classrooms? What strategies do they have to help them get started? Students don’t have compost piles to distract them from their writing, but they do have a bathroom down the hall urgently beckoning them, invisible wounds that suddenly require ice packs, and pencils that mysteriously break. Once I came to the realization that the blank page is as intimidating to my students as it is to me, I came up with some ways to help them jump start their writing.
One practice I use to help my students begin with less hesitation is walking. Julia Cameron, an author of several books for adult writers, writes about the power of walking and how the rhythm of walking can help us collect our thoughts. Once my students have decided on what they are writing about, I pair them up and we go outside to walk around the playground track. As they walk, they tell their partner how they are going to compose their piece and how they think they might begin. When students get back to the classroom, they are eager to put their pencils to the page.
Another approach in helping student writers begin a new piece is providing them with butcher paper and markers. Something about writing large and free helps some students be more creative and less fearful. For those students who like a tamer approach, I provide sticky notes for them to write on. I don’t know if the sticky notes are such a big hit because the space to write on is limited, and therefore less threatening, or if it’s the novelty of writing on a sticky note itself. What I do know is that sticky notes offer slow starters a fast break, and that’s what really matters.
If you don’t already practice some form of writing, I invite you to start your own writer’s notebook. Until you share the experience of an empty sheet of paper staring back at you, you will not fully understand the reasons your students have for stalling. Once you have your own stare down with the notebook page, you will begin to realize that the resistance you see during writing workshop usually has nothing at all to do with your students not wanting to write, but everything to do with conquering the blank page.