Tag Archives: Authentic Writing

Fostering Makers

The last few weeks I’ve been working in kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms trying to foster “makers”-book makers to be more precise.  Based on the work of Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland*, we are encouraging our youngest writers to think about what they notice in the books they read and inviting them to use what they know to create their own books. Simple, right? And yet so powerfulScreen Shot 2020-01-19 at 5.39.11 PM.

*About the Authors was my first inspiration for making books years ago. Getting Started with Beginning Writers  is their latest.



First of all, the kids are excited to be making actual books, and by actual I mean two pieces of copy paper folded in half and stapled together, voilà…a book! They suddenly are filled with ideas that they want to turn into a book. Second, we get incredible insights into what they notice and know about print concepts and how books work. With no lines we can see how they choose to use space and if they have a solid grasp on directionality,

IMG_6572return sweep, and book layout. They get to make ALL the choices, not limited by lines or predetermined space for pictures on every page. (We created a space on the cover for now as a scaffold for determining fronts and backs.) Also, our writers are connecting ideas to one another in a way that they didn’t do with a single piece of lined paper. Some have miraculously moved from one to multiple sentences during workshop. IMG_6573

Because we work on a book for more than one day, they are being introduced to the concept of revision in a natural way. Going back the next day to add details in pictures or words is just how we roll. When they ‘fill up’ a page they don’t say, “I’m done!” because there are 6 to 8 more pages waiting for them to dive right in.

Is this anything new? No. Is this radical? No. Is it meaningful and effective? YES! It gives students a sense of agency as they create authentic texts for real audiences. We are putting some finished books into the classroom libraries, some kiddos want to give their books to someone as a gift, and we are curating a collection of amazing mentor texts from these real-life mentors that we can share with future students. How empowering. IMG_6575So do yourselves a favor and check out the books by Katie and Lisa (see above) and give book making a try as an option for your students. You’ll learn so much about those youngest writers, much of which isn’t linked to any standards!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Image result for tracking pythons kate messnerTRACKING PYTHONS by Kate Messner
This is Kate Messner’s first middle grade nonfiction book and it is fantastic. She takes us on a quest to control the population of invasive Burmese Pythons that have overrun south Florida, and the unique approach scientists are using to track them. She uses both a narrative and expository structure to tell the story and inform the reader. She includes QR codes that allow us to see scientists and pythons in action. She includes dozens of fascinating photos, sidebar facts, and a timeline of the invasion that help give a complete picture of the challenge. I was sent a copy of this text by the publisher but I would definitely seek out any book by Messner, because I know how much research and work goes into her books. Kids who are mesmerized by snakes or are interested in scientists and their work will be captivated by this book. I’m always on the lookout for good nonfiction-and this hits the mark

Just “To Do” It

I am a list maker. I have been for years. I have “To Do” lists for work, home, and travel that have helped keep me organized and sane as I juggle day to day responsibilities. I’ve tried a more creative and visually enticing  bullet journal, but already have sketchnote books and a personal journal that consume a bit of time. I may try it again one day, as I love the look of them, but I didn’t want it to become one more “To Do” on my to do list.

Also, I often create lists when I first wake up in the morning (or even when I wake during the night) and a chicken-scratched-grab-a-pen-without-turning-on-the-light-scribble-list is often the preferred method of writing. So I keep an open notebook and pen on my bedstand to keep the process easy. I need to get thoughts/tasks/shopping lists out of my brain and onto the paper to free up more dream bandwidth.

But I discovered it is kind of fun to look back through old lists that have documented times in my life. It gives me a snapshot into what was going on and what I had for priorities. Rather than ripping out pages and tossing them, I decided to keep those notebooks intact. Gives me a chance to reflect and remember in a way my journal doesn’t. These seemingly unimportant items would never make it into my daily diary and yet they convey aspects of my life that conjure memories as easily as my narratives.

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I am on a mission to expand our definition of writing with teachers and students. Here is yet one more example of authentic writing that probably deserves more respect and recognition.  It can be used for in-the-moment and short term organizing, or a fun way to document our daily lives, or for whatever works for you.

Do you keep lists? I’d love to hear about your process.

WRITING IS WRITING! Let’s celebrate it all.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-06-30 at 9.50.06 AMBORN A CRIME  by Trevor Noah

Continuing my love of audiobooks this summer… Reading the memoir of someone so young, I wondered what lessons I could learn or how I might be enlightened from this narrative. It was eye opening. Living under Apartheid in South Africa was something I’d read briefly in headlines while in college, what I did not know was that being Black and being Coloured were two very different things, and that the system of oppression and discrimination varied depending on someone else’s (often random)interpretation of your color. If you are looking for a bio on how Trevor became a comedy star in America, you’ll probably have to wait for the sequel. This is a fascinating look at his young life overcoming tremendous obstacles even as Apartheid officially ended. Loved the audiobook since it was read by Trevor Noah himself. Check it out!