CHAOS TO CALM: My First TV Interview!

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Last night I had my first tv interview on a Christian parenting show called Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner. We chatted about books, life, and faith.

Here’s Noelle’s official description of the  episode: “Children’s book author Laura Sassi is this month’s guest on my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner! The episode topic is “The Calm of Building Faith Foundations,” and Laura will weigh in on that as an author, mother, and educator. The magic that makes her stories come alive will open new avenues for sharing faith in your own home!”

If you’d like to watch the episode, here is the link.  Be sure also to enter the wonderful 10-book giveaway that Zonderkidz has authorized in conjunction with Noelle’s episode.  For details and to enter, please visit Noelle’s blog.

Going on a PATTERN Hunt (Plus a Craft): An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

img_3308Teachers and Parents:  This is the second in a series I will be posting especially for you.  Over the course of the next few weeks, and in celebration of the release of the board book edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER,  I will be posting several book-linked activities for you to enjoy with your children. 

Going on a PATTERN Hunt (Plus a Craft):

A GOODNIGHT, MANGER Extension Activity for Pre-Readers

Seeing and recognizing patterns are important skills for pre-readers. They lay the ground work for understanding words and stories. With that in mind, here are some fun pattern-related activities you and your child might enjoy after reading “Goodnight, Manger”.

Picture Patterns: Each page of “Goodnight, Manger” is full of colors and patterns. Colors alternate to form stripes.  Shapes are repeated (ex: stars, squares, dots, rectangles, milk splashes, palm fronds). As you explore Jane’s wonderful illustrations, see how many visual patterns you and your child can find. Afterwards, grab crayons and paper and make your own patterned star ornaments. (See sample below).  Or go on a pattern hunt around your house looking for fun visual patterns in curtains, plants, tiles etc.

Text Patterns: The text, too, is patterned visually. Pre-readers might enjoy examining the lay out of words. With your child, notice how the text is clumped into verses. Count how many lines are in each verse (four) and note that this is a repeating pattern throughout the story.

Sound Patterns: When you read the story aloud you’ll note that the sounds of the words form their own patterns as well. With your child, listen for sound patterns. Each verse contains rhyming words at the end of the 2nd and 4th lines (ex: fed/bed, itches/twitches). There are also words that repeat one right after the other (ex: No! No! No! and tap, tap, tap).  After exploring different sound patterns, you and your child might enjoy making a game of creating your own sound patterns using rhyme and repetition.

EXTRA FUN:   Celebrate the joy of Christmas and reinforce the fun of patterns with this simple craft.

img_33071. Cut a simple star shape from stiff paper.

2. Review different pattern options with your child – ex. stars, stripes, dots, swirls, etc.

3. Using pencil, have your child lightly outline the patterns on the ornament, using Jane Chapman’s delightful illustrations as inspiration.  Then, using markers or crayons, color it in!

4.  Tape a yarn or ribbon loop to the back. Then, hang your pretty patterned star on a door nob or on the Christmas tree.

LULLABY TO JESUS: An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

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 Teachers and Parents:  This is the first in a series I will be posting especially for you.  Over the course of the next few weeks, and in celebration of the release of the board book edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER,  I will be posting several book-linked activities for you to enjoy with your children. 

LULLABY TO JESUS:

An Extension Activity for GOODNIGHT, MANGER

When I read GOODNIGHT, MANGER at Christian preschools and churches, I wrap up our story time together by inviting the children to join me in singing a lullaby to Baby Jesus.  Step-by-step, here is what I do.  Feel free to adjust as you see fit.

REFLECT: First, I take a moment to marvel. I tell the children that this Baby we’ve just read about was like no other baby before or after because he was fully God and fully human. That means he felt everything we do.  And like all babies, he must have cried. We briefly chat about when and why babies cry and how we comfort them.

PRETEND: Second, I have the children pretend to cradle Baby Jesus in their arms. I ask them how they should hold him –  gently, lovingly, safely. Then we all pretend to coo over the Baby Jesus we are holding with phrases like “Oh, isn’t he precious!”, “Don’t cry, sweet Jesus!”, “We love you.”

REVIEW:  Next, I ask them how the characters in the story finally got Baby Jesus to sleep. (It was by joining voices and gently singing a lullaby.)  I ask if they’d like to help Baby Jesus fall asleep too. They are always eager to do this.

SING: I introduce the lullaby by singing the first verse of the famous carol “Away in a Manger”. Feel free to use any carol of your choice. “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” are also easy to teach/ learn. Before they sing, we review what kinds of voices we should use to sing a baby to sleep – loud or soft?  (Soft, of course.)  Then we practice singing the opening words of the carol both ways so they can feel and hear the difference.

REJOICE: Then, with joyful hearts we cradle Baby Jesus in our arms and sing our lullaby.  Our gentle voices are so sweet that Jesus, of course, falls asleep and so, very carefully, we place him in the imaginary mangers that are right in front of us.

GIVE THANKS: Before closing, I challenge the little ones to remember the sweet gift of Baby Jesus who came to  earth – God in the form a human baby – to be the savior of our world.  I note that this is why celebrate Christmas.  Then together we pray, thanking God for loving us so much that he sent his precious Son, Jesus, to earth in the form of a tiny, humble baby.

 

 

 

GOODNIGHT, MANGER Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

IMG_0764Thank you, Katey Howes, for interviewing me on your blog today.  Join us as we chat about creating extension activities for picture books.  (Oh, and there’s a giveaway!)

PICTURE BOOK WRITERS: Activate your SUPER POWERS!

IMG_0625A week ago Friday, I spent a delightful morning talking about writing picture books with 3rd through 8th graders at a “Meet the Experts” symposium organized for our town’s gifted program. Since students in the program will be writing their own picture books, I focused my session on what makes picture books engaging.

During our time together we focused on four qualities and had a wonderful time looking for them in the sample picture books we read together.  I then challenged them to incorporate these qualities into their own writing.

I like to think of these qualities as  SUPER POWERS. That’s right, as picture book writers, we have super powers we can activate to create engaging stories.  Now, with a wave of my wand, here FOUR SUPER POWERS you might like to activate in your own writing:

The POWER of the KID-FRIENDLY PROBLEM:  Losing a favorite toy, wanting a cookie, being afraid of a storm, not wanting to take a bath. These are just a few examples of kid-friendly problems in the books we read.  A kid-friendly problems connects the reader to your story.

The POWER of PICTURES that ADD: The hallmark of picture books, of course, is that they are illustrated. But there’s more. Good picture book writers let the pictures tell part of the story. Sometimes the pictures even include important details that are not in the text. (See Mo Willem’s KNUFFLEBUNNY for a great example of this.) As you write and revise your stories, put stars next to parts of the story that could be told (or enhanced) by the illustrations.  Then consider omitting the words from the text, instead substituting a simple illustration note, but only if absolutely necessary.

The POWER of the PAGE TURN:  With only a few sentences per spread, picture books include almost constant page turns.  These built-in pauses provide authors a great opportunity to build suspense. Consider pausing an exciting moment mid-sentence as you write.  What happens next?  To find out kids will have to TURN THE PAGE! (Note: creating a book dummy during revisions is a great way to figure out how you can take advantage of page turns.)

The POWER of HUMOR:  Kids love to laugh, or at least chuckle, and so do parents. So anytime you can infuse humor into your story, via text or illustration, go for it!

Happy Writing, all!

GUEST BLOG: Education Professor and Children’s Author Rosanne Kurstedt Chats about Teaching Writing to Kids Using Picture Books

ImageToday I’m delighted to have Rosanne Kurstedt as my guest. I met Rosanne at last November’s NJSCBWI Writing Retreat and was struck immediately by her passion for picture books. She not only writes them, she also encourages teachers to use them as models for teaching writing.  Today she’ll be chatting about how educators can use picture books to support students’ writing. Take it away, Rosanne!

I write picture books. I am also a teacher. When I taught elementary aged students in grades 3-6 (depending on the year) I infused our reading and writing curriculum with picture books. My classroom was overflowing. I read picture books as read-alouds to model reading strategies, discuss big ideas, and to study author’s craft. In addition, students read picture books independently, with partners and in groups. Students used the picture books for inspiration and models for their own writing. We relished in the beautiful language, the well-crafted stories, the perfect word choice, and the enchanting illustrations. Since picture books are more inline with the types of texts students write in the elementary grades they are perfect models, mentors, and inspiration. There are countless ways to use picture books to support students’ writing, but today I will highlight two.

Structure: The structure of a story is extremely important because the structure can both support the writer as she writes her piece, as well as support the writer’s intent. Exposing students to different structures unlocks some of the mystery of what makes a story what it is, and provides multiple access points for students to see themselves as writers – writers who can emulate the structures found in a favorite book or used by a favorite author. In addition, introducing students to and studying different structures can provide organizational support for students’ stories and ideas. For example, the alphabet book structure (see Laura’s review of different alphabet books) can support students who have a lot to say about one particular topic. Other structures like Circular (stories that begin and end at the same place or with the same line) and See-Saw (the text goes “back and forth” on each page) provide different yet powerful organizational support, as well. Studying picture books, as way to illustrate (no pun intended) the various structures, helps students envision themselves writing similar stories.  And of course, the classic story arc of beginning, middle, and end can be mapped out easily because the events are succinct and the structure is compact. Here are some favorite picture books you can use to demonstrate the abovementioned structures.

See-Saw: Fortunately, Unfortunately by Michael Foreman and And I Thought About You by Rosanne Kurstedt

Circular: My Momma Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray and Dot by Peter Reynolds.

Traditional Story Structure (Beginning/Middle/End with a conflict and resolution): Most Patricia Palacco books

Big Idea: The “big idea” is the theme or underlying message of a story.  While many teachers might use picture books to model different levels of comprehension: main idea (the events of a story), as well as “big idea” (the message or theme of a story) you also can use picture books to teach students how to make their stories special by adding a layer of meaning- a “big idea”. Sharing picture books and discussing “big idea” with students reveals that truly great stories are those that have more than just events. The stories that stay with us – in our hearts and minds – are those that address big ideas: like friendship, family, honesty, integrity, or loneliness.  So when students are writing their own stories, ask them to think about what they want the reader to get out of the piece.  What do they want the reader to feel? What is the “big idea”?  Highlighting the “big idea” through the use of picture books and bringing the notion to the forefront buttresses students’ understanding that they have important things to say and that writing is about connecting with readers.  Here are some favorite picture books you can use to demonstrate big idea:

Oliver by Birgitta Sif

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman

Thanks again to Laura for providing me with this great opportunity.  I’d love to hear how you’ve used picture books to support students’ writing development or how you might do so in the future – so leave a comment below.  I assure you, you’ll be amazed at what students will be able to notice and then emulate if given the freedom and opportunity to do so.

ImageRosanne Kurstedt is a former elementary school teacher, and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Education at Fordham University.  She’s the author of a professional book, “Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models” (Scholastic, 2000), as well as many professional development guides that support teachers’ continuing growth.  In addition she is the author of the award winning picture book, And I Thought About You.  A simple, yet poignant, story about a daily-welcome-home routine shared by a working mother and her son.

Rosanne was on the leadership team that started Hong Kong Academy International School in Hong Kong, where she was the Director of Curriculum, and is the founder of Writers Experience, a summer writing workshop for children ages 7-11.

Visit her at;

website http://www.rlkurstedt.com/RLK/Home.html

blog http://www.rlkurstedt.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndIThoughtAboutYou

Twitter: @rlkurstedt