Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art by Justine Rowden

April 12, 2011

April is National Poetry Month.  If you are looking for a great book to model poetry for your child, consider:

Paint Me a Poem: Poems Inspired by Masterpieces of Art is one of my favorite books to read with my children because I like the premise of the book.  As the author walked through the National Gallery of Art one day, she was inspired by the paintings she saw, and in her head began to hear music.  The music became a poem and this book is a collection of thirteen poems inspired by famous artwork.

Activity: Read aloud this book with your child and talk about the pictures and how the author wrote the poetry.  If you have an art museum nearby, consider taking your child to it and peruse the paintings.  Determine a favorite painting and purchase a small postcard in the gift shop of that painting.  When home, encourage your child to write a poem based on the painting.  If your child can’t write yet, ask him to dictate a poem to you. If you don’t have a museum nearby, use a piece of your child’s own artwork to inspire a poem.  Or, use photographs or pictures from magazines.

It’s not the poem that matters, but the experience of relating a picture into words.  “Reading” pictures is a precursor to actual reading, so if your child isn’t reading yet, this is a fun activity to do anytime, but especially during National Poetry Month!

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Literacy Resolution #6: Take Time to Write More

January 20, 2011

Happy New Year!  I have decided that I’m going to do my best to make 2011 my best year yet, personally and professionally.  I don’t typically make New Year’s Resolutions, but in the spirit of this New Year, I have decided to make some literacy resolutions.  I will share these resolutions with you over the course of the next month.

Resolution #6  Make Time to Write More

Back in September, I had the pleasure of seeing my first book published.  Teaching Comprehension With Nonfiction Read Alouds: 12 Lessons for Using Newspapers, Magazines, and Other Nonfiction Texts to Build Key Comprehension Skills was a true pleasure to write and for all intents and purposes is my third baby.  I did not realize how much I actually enjoyed writing until I had a purpose.  All writers need purpose – this is a true lesson to take back to the classroom – write with a purpose.  Unfortunately, I have not had much time to write lately.  I have so many ideas floating around in my head as well as written down in my “digital” writer’s notebook, otherwise known as my phone!

My 6th literacy resolution for this year is to write more.  Not my normal day-to-day writing of lists and other necessary writing, but to write to share literacy strategies and ideas with you all.

My problem is reorganizing my time to take time to write.  I read a fabulous blog post by Kate Messner, author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and Sugar and Ice, a while back.  I have scoured her blog to find the specific post, but have been unable to locate it.  I loved that post because she broke down her day and explained how she finds/makes time to write and balance her family life and professional life.  In short, she basically said that if it’s important to you, you make time to write.  Same idea Donalyn Miller stated in regards to reading in her book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.  However, neither of them write/read at the sacrifice of time with their family or their work.

So, if writing is important to me (which it is!) then I shall work to reorganize my time and make time to write this year without sacrificing time with my family or for my work.

Will you join me?  What are some literacy resolutions you have made this year?

Addendum: Thank you to Kate Messner for stopping by Literacy Toolbox and providing the correct link to the blog post I was looking for.  She posted it in the comments, but here is a direct link to her guest post on Lesley Says.

©2011 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Reasons to Write: Authentic Writing Experiences for Your Child

March 25, 2010

Authors typically write for three reasons:  to persuade, to inform, or to entertain.  Your child should learn about these reasons for writing in school and should learn how to write for each purpose.  Of course, parents can also encourage their children to write for different reasons at home as well.  Here are a few ideas to encourage your budding writer to write for different purposes.

To Persuade:

  • If your child wants to go to a particular amusement park or on a specific family trip, ask him/her to write a letter (or other form of writing) to persuade you to take him/her.
  • Encourage your child to take part in your community.  Perhaps your neighborhood could use a park or maybe the neighborhood park needs sprucing up.  Encourage your child to write a letter to the editor of your local paper or a letter to the neighborhood committee persuading them to take action.  Let your child take the lead when it comes to civic support.  If he or she notices something that needs to be done, encourage him/her to do something about it.

To Inform:

  • (Procedural writing) Help your child write out the recipe for a favorite family meal.  Or, if your child creates a new meal, have him/her write out the recipe.
  • Have your children become part of the decision making process for a family trip.  Have your child research a specific place he/she may want to visit.  Encourage him/her to write down ten important facts he learned about the place.  (This could be used as a guide to help persuade you to take him/her on the trip – see above)

To Entertain:

  • Encourage your child to take a moment from a family event (or just a moment from a typical day) and use it as a seed to write a story.  Some of our favorite books were written because of a single memory/event in the life of the author.
  • If your child is in the habit of telling you funny stories verbally, begin encouraging him/her to write them down.  Often parents write down things their child says so they don’t forget them, but how fantastic would it be to have a collection of stories written by your child of the funny day-to-day events/stories he likes to share.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Writing Milestones for Children

March 23, 2010

Often times, parents wonder if their child is reaching appropriate literacy milestones in a timely manner.  Like developmental milestones in any area, literacy milestones will vary by individual child and depend on individual experiences.  Using Burns, Griffin, and Snow’s, Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success as a resource, I’ve compiled a list below of writing milestones for your child.  Use these as a guideline to help you enrich or challenge your child’s writing development.

Between Birth and 3 Years Old, Your Child May be Able to:

  • Attend to specific print (notice letters from his own name)
  • Scribble with purpose

Between 3 and 4 Years Old, Your Child May be Able to:

  • Understand that alphabet letters are a special category of visual graphics that can be individually named
  • Displays reading and writing attempts and calls attention to self
  • Can identify about 10 alphabet letters, especially those from own name
  • Writes (scribbles) a message as part of play (writes a food order, a list, a note to someone)

Your Five Year Old May Be Able To:

  • Recognizes and can name all uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Understands that the sequence of letters in a written word represents the sequence of sounds (phonemes) in a spoken word (alphabetic principle)
  • Independently writes many uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Uses phonemic awareness and letter knowledge to spell independently (invented or creative spelling)
  • Writes (unconventionally) to express own meaning
  • Builds a repertoire of some conventionally spelled words
  • Writes own name (first and last) and the first name of some friends or classmates
  • Can write most letters and some words when they are dictated

These lists are not comprehensive and are simply meant to guide you through your child’s literacy development.  If at any point, you are concerned about your child’s literacy development, contact your pediatrician or his/her teacher.

Resource:  Burns, M.S., Griffin, P., & Snow, C.E. (Eds.).  (1999).  Starting out right:  A guide to promoting children’s reading success. Washington D.C.:  National Academy Press.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Authentic Family Writing Experiences

March 18, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about ways to make writing part of your family traditions.  Today, I have a few ways you can authentically add writing to your family’s daily life.

  1. Have each family member make a list of things to do for the day/week.
  2. Write notes to slip into lunch boxes.  End the note with a question. Ask your child to respond to the note in writing when he returns from school.
  3. Make a Top Ten List of. . . birthday gifts, games to play, chores to complete – endless opportunities.  (see an example from our family below)
  4. Provide a Family Dialogue Journal in a central spot such as the kitchen. Write notes to each other in the journal. Provide different color pens to differentiate between family members.
  5. Make ABC books about favorite family topics (seasons, holidays, vacations, etc.).  In my opinion, ABC books are timeless and this is an activity that can be enjoyed by children up through the end of elementary school at the very least.  The complexity of the ABC book will depend on the age of your children.

ABC Book Models for Young Children:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: Anniversary Edition by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson

ABC Book Models for Older Children:

When I taught fourth and fifth grade, I would often use Jerry Pallotta’s alphabet books as models for my students.  He has written several books that tied into our science curriculum and so I would read aloud the book and then students would make their own ABC book based on our science topic.  Here is just a sampling of some of his alphabet books.  There are many more:

The Underwater Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Extinct Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Icky Bug Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Butterfly Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Ocean Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Construction Alphabet Book

The Yummy Alphabet Book: Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Flavors (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Book)

The Jet Alphabet Book

The Flower Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Bird Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

The Vegetable Alphabet Book (Jerry Pallotta’s Alphabet Books)

Some writing samples from our family:

Our Travel Journal – We travel every summer.  About three years ago (when my son was 4) we traveled to Georgia to visit family.  To give him something to do in the car and while on vacation, I created a travel journal personalized to our trip.  I simply created a template so that he could draw and write based on a prompt.

Our Beach Alphabet Book – We take a trip to the beach every year.  During the same year we traveled to Georgia, we also stopped in Myrtle Beach.  I was looking for something to keep my son occupied and also provide lasting memories for us.  I created “My Beach Alphabet Book.”  I encouraged him to think about the things we did and saw while at the beach.  I had planned for him to work on his book during down time at the beach, but we didn’t seem to have much.  So instead, we worked on it when we returned.  This turned out to be a nice way to reminisce about our trip after we were home.  He only completed a few of the letters, but we still have a nice memory of our trip that year.  And best of all, I can see how his writing has evolved over time, now.

Top Ten Reasons We Love Daddy – Last year for Father’s Day, we made a book for my husband.  The kids listed their top ten reasons they love their dad.  I provided ten pieces of cardstock and had my son (in kindergarten at the time) and my daughter (an early 3 at the time) brainstorm reasons they loved their dad.  I had my son write them and then I split each page in half so each could draw a picture pertaining to their reason.  We did this for eight pages.  The last two pages of the book, I had each of them write one individual reason each and draw one picture.  I made a cover for the book, punched holes in it, and tied yarn to bind the book.  Needless to say, it was a big hit!  The kids enjoyed making it and my husband really enjoyed receiving it!  Oh, and it was a really inexpensive gift that came from the heart!

(He reads books to us)

How do you incorporate writing in your family?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Give Your Family the Write Start

March 17, 2010

We often forget that reading and writing go hand in hand. If we want to be a better reader, we need to write more. Conversely, if we want to be a better writer, we need to read more. Parents can help children reach higher levels of literacy not only by reading with them, but by writing with them, too. By weaving writing into the fabric of your family’s daily life, you are nurturing your child’s learning and can create traditions that will last for generations to come.

Creating a Write Start Environment

If we want to encourage a love of anything, we must immerse ourselves in it. Therefore, in order to encourage a love for writing in our families, we must immerse our families in writing. The easiest way to do this is to provide many opportunities to write during the day and to have writing materials easily accessible. Make your house writer friendly. Set up a writing center for your children – a space to free write. Provide plenty of writing tools: pencils, pens, crayons, colored pencils and markers. Provide different types of paper: lined paper, plain paper, stationery, envelopes, notepads, etc. Don’t forget construction paper, glue, and staplers for children to make their own books. Make the space fun and inviting.

Make Writing Relevant

Writing is learned best when it occurs in authentic situations.  So, tie writing into what you are doing as a family.  This may be as simple as having your child write out the grocery list for the week, write a recipe for his/her favorite meal, or to write thank you notes for gifts received.  Special ways to make writing authentic: create Family Vacation Journals.  Take pictures to paste in the journal and write about the event. Or create Family Activity Journals. You or your child can take pictures of day to day family activities. Place the photograph in the journal and then write about it. Aim to take one picture a day. One very special and easy way to encourage writing is by encouraging your child to begin a correspondence with a family member or other type of pen pal. A grandparent is a perfect candidate, especially if they don’t live nearby. Writing letters or even emails is a great way for your children to share their daily/weekly/monthly activities with their grandparent. And each will enjoy receiving mail from the other.

Make Writing a Family Tradition

Make writing a part of your family’s activities and it will quickly become tradition.  Create a weekly family writing night. During these evenings, take turns adding to a Family History Journal. Have each family member write about something special that happened during the week. If you have a child who is not yet writing, have them draw a picture.  Create Father/Son or Mother/Daughter dialogue journals. Use these journals to “talk” with your pre-teen or teenager about their day. They may feel more comfortable sharing events in their lives if they don’t actually have to verbalize them. Use the dialogue journal to ask questions and seek answers, to provide encouragement, or to apologize.

However you choose to incorporate writing into the fold of your family’s fabric, I hope you create family traditions that live for generations to come. What sweet memories they will hold as your children grow up, move on, and have children of their own.

This post originally appeared as an article in Literacy Lava 3.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Ten Ways to Use Writer’s Notebooks

March 4, 2010

Writer’s notebooks are typically used in the classroom to house ideas, favorite quotes, and just general nuggets of information.  At any time, the information within these notebooks may be turned into a writing piece.  

I like to encourage my own children to view writing as a fun, active form of communication.  I also like to encourage the connection between reading and writing as often as possible.  Here are ten ways a writer’s notebook may be used:

  1. Create a list of books you have read or want to read.  Keep the list(s) in your notebook.
  2. Write down how a book made you feel when you finished reading it.
  3. Use your notebook to keep a list of ideas (“writing seeds”) that you may want to write about.  Use your real life to help you with your ideas.  Memories are often the start of a great writing piece.
  4. Keep a running list of funny, scary, embarrassing, etc. things that happen to you.  You never know, one day, one may make a great story.
  5. Keep a list of facts about topics that interest you.
  6. Write down character traits of your favorite characters.  How does he or she behave?  Use examples from the books you have read.
  7. Clip out articles from the newspaper or magazines such as Scholastic News or Time for Kids.  The topic may spur a writing piece.
  8. Write down questions you have.  What do you wonder about?  Try to answer the questions
  9. Make a sensory section of your notebook.  When you are in new situations, stop for a minute.  What do you hear? What do you smell?  What do you see?  Write it all down.
  10. Write down interesting things people say.  Real people and characters in books.

If you are like me and you like to tie in literature with other activities, then Amelia’s Notebook (and the other books in the series) by Marissa Moss is the perfect book to read to introduce Writer’s Notebooks.  Check out my post at Teaching with Picture Books for an idea of how to get started with Writer’s Notebooks.  I wrote that post for use in the classroom, but I think it can easily be modified to use at home as well!

How do you encourage writing in your home?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Making Writing Part of Your Every Day with Children

March 2, 2010

My three year old is very interested in writing her letters right now.  As she was working on writing the letters of her friend’s name, I started thinking about ways that I may have already encouraged her and ways I can continue to encourage her to write.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Be a Role Model:  My children always see me writing: my grocery list, reminder notes, thank you notes for gifts, notes in their lunch boxes, and even typing on the computer.
  2. Provide a Writing Area:  We have a little children’s table in our breakfast room.  The table has provided hours of opportunity for my children to experiment with writing.  I provide different kinds of materials (computer paper, stationary, envelopes, lined writing paper, white boards, etc.) for my children to write on.  I also provide different writing utensils: pencils, pens, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.  At least once or twice a day, my three year old will write something for a family member.  If it’s made available, they will use it!

3. Scribbles are Great:  From their very first scribbles, children are writing.  Encourage scribbling and ask your             child what he/she is writing.  Transcribe it for them.

4. Play Games that Encourage Writing:  When my son was younger, he enjoyed playing “restaurant.”   He         was the waiter and he would take our orders.  He started out scribbling, then matched letters to the beginning sound of the word, then wrote the word with invented spelling.  It was wonderful to see his writing develop over time, and he had a ton of fun playing (I must admit, my husband and I did, too)!  Mental Note to Self: encourage three year old to play this game now!

5.  Write Messages:  Sit at a table and write messages back and forth to each other.  You can do this even if your child is not able to write yet.  Simply ask your child what the note says and then respond in writing to your child.  This is a quick and fun way for your child to see how words make meaning and you are modeling writing at the same time.  In the picture below, I began by writing (on a white board) “How is your day?” and read it to my daughter. She responded with a “G” and said good.  I then repeated what she said and gave her another message, “I love you” – and read it to her.  She responded with “TU” – Thank You – which is so funny, because if you verbally tell her you love her she thanks you then, too!

Often times, we forget that reading and writing go hand in hand.  In order to become a better reader, you must write more and vice versa!  If we read aloud to our children and play with writing every day, we are bound to raise fun loving, engaged readers and writers!

How do you encourage writing in your home?

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.