Alison Hawkins, Angela Shante', back to school, children's books, children's writing, illustration, learning, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture books, pre-school classroom, re-mote learning, re-mote teaching, teacher, teaching, West Margin Press

Teaching Creatively=Learning Fun!

Learning is the end goal any teacher wants their students to achieve. How a teacher gets a student there is in their lesson plans, their creativity and engaging ideas.

In The Noisy Classroom, written by Angela Shante’, illustrated by Alison Hawkins and published by West Margin Press, the main character is a little girl who is concerned about her upcoming year in third grade and the possibility that her classroom might be the noisy classroom. The noisy classroom doesn’t have the familiar structure or rules she had been used to. She’s so concerned she thinks she ought to pack up and move to Antarctica.

When it happens that she does get enrolled in Ms. Johnson’s noisy classroom she finds she’s having fun, but she’s not so sure she’s learning. The week flies by and she’s learned about: skip-counting by threes, writing a story from an ant’s point of view, playing math ball, writing calculations on her desk with dry erase markers, appreciating a poem written by Nikki Giovanni and freeze dancing her way to lunch.

Waiting to get a drink from the water fountain, she is standing behind two quiet rows of 2nd graders and realizes learning in Ms. Johnson’s noisy classroom is way better than any other class and way, way better than Antarctica.

I appreciated this book from both a student’s point of view and a teacher’s point of view. Going into a new class and meeting a teacher who teaches and manages the classroom differently than a student is used to is understandably anxiety inducing. But seeing the creativity and joy of learning presented in the persona of Ms. Johnson and her noisy classroom was validating for me as a teacher.

I’m a teacher for visually impaired and blind pre-school students. I adapt my lessons and materials dependent on an individual child’s usable vision, and try my hardest to tap into what’s fun for each child.

If I can hone in on what’s important to my student and have the lesson include whatever that might be, be it: car emblems, construction trucks, tools, happy faces, characters from TV or from movies, etc., I know I’m heading toward engaging my student’s interest in learning. When it all comes together and I see their faces light up with smiles and laughter, it’s the best!

Sometimes, it’s hard to get there. Sometimes, the thing that really engages a small child can make it difficult for them to transition onto the next task. When that happens the if . . . then scenario has to be put into action, if you do this . . . then you’ll get to do that. It’s not optimal because if the child digs his or her heels in, it takes a good amount of creative brainstorming to figure out how best to change the dynamic. And if you add on that the student is learning remotely, well you have to enlist the parents, more so than ever, to team up with you to make their child’s learning successful.

Whether you’re a parent, a student or a teacher or all three, I hope your week is full of noisy, fun creativity because that equals a whole bunch of learning!

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amwriting, books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, E.B. Goodale, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, imagination, Julia Denos, meditation, picture book author, picture book illustrators, pre-school classroom, pre-school teacher, teacher

In the here and now . . .

Its a place where most children are quite comfortable being. Wherever they are and whatever they are presently involved in is their focus. I see it everyday as a teacher for pre-school aged children. And so I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the picture book HERE and NOW, by Julia Denos and illustrated by E.B. Goodale in hopes that you will go check it out yourself and share it with others.

A lovely picture book
dedicated to showing
children what it means
to be present.

Right here right now, you are reading this book. That’s the first line of HERE and NOW. The author and illustrator take their readers on a journey that starts where they are with the book in their hands and gently extends out to explore the earth and the many, many things that are happening around the reader while they are reading. My favorite one is pictured below.

An idea is blooming.

All of the happenings occur as the child is involved in the act of reading and through that simple activity the child is becoming. The last image expresses the perception we all hope that children can hold onto as they grow and develop.

Right here, right now, YOU are becoming.
Isn’t that wonderful!

At the end of the book is an authors note that discusses the origins of the book, what meditation means to the author, and the awareness (that of noticing with senses wide open) that she’d like to encourage her audience to engage in.

Go check it out, and let me know what you think.

books, children's books, children's writing, creativity, critique groups, happy new year, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture book manuscripts, prek activities, teacher

A Happy New Year Hug For You!

It’s the end of a year, of a decade, hugs are in order. Say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Here are some hugs from me to you. Wishing you a year full of hugs, and happiness.

From Tiny T Rex and The Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman
illustrated by Jay Fleck
From Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
illustrated by Vashti Harrison

children's writing, creativity, interactive story ideas, puppets, story box, teacher, Uncategorized, visual scanning activites

Tommy The Tailless Turkey

With a short school week this week and the U. S. holiday of Thanksgiving to celebrate, I’m talking turkey today. Not one that gets eaten, or one that runs away. It’s one that gives a shout out to the slightly newer celebration of Friendsgiving. Have I piqued your interest? I hope so.

The story is loosely based on one from The Everything Book, an accumulation of early childhood educating materials. I’ve had this book so long that I’ve lost its cover and although I tried looking it up online to give credit to the creators I could not find it. Many of the authors of the stories in The Everything Book are unknown. But I do want to acknowledge The Everything Book as the source of my interpretation of the story of Tommy Turkey as well as the templates I used to create the puppet characters.

Now let me introduce the lovable, at least I think he is, main character of my story. Say hello to Tommy.

Lovable isn’t he?

Tommy’s flying is a little wobbly but he definitely can gobble with the best of them. What he can’t do is fan his tail feathers. He doesn’t have them. Because of that the other turkeys shun poor Tommy. Tommy is a lonely little gobbler until . . .

Some friends Tommy meets along the way.
And some more friends.

. . .he meets some friends. First Tommy meets Purple Duck. He’s the prettiest duck Tommy’s ever seen. Tommy tells the duck how he’d like to be purple like him. The friendly duck shares a feather with Tommy.

As Tommy makes his way farther along he meets more and more friends all who share what they have with Tommy.

Green Snake, in particular, is so pleased to be called pretty that he gives up enough scales to form a shimmering feather for Tommy. Similarly, Blue Horse gives a length of his mane. Soon Tommy has the most colorful tail feathers of any turkey you’ve ever seen.

When he returns to his flock the turkeys, who shunned Tommy, now all want to be his friends. This turns Tommy’s head, for a moment.

But after he thinks about all the different friends he met on his journey and how they all liked him just as he was, enough to share all they had with him, he knows what he has to do. And so he flies the flock, so to speak, and heads back to be with his real friends.

When I come into classes its to involve a particular student with a visual impairment in the classroom activities and to encourage him and his peers to use certain visual skills they need to develop. The student in the class who’s going to hear Tommy’s story needs to practice using a left to right scan of his surroundings in a more consistent way in order to move more safely through his surroundings. In order to foster that he, along with his peers, will take turns as the story is being told, hiding and then seeking the colorful feathers shared by the new friends Tommy meets. It should be loads of fun.

Are there interactive stories you like to share with students or children you know? Please share them I’m always looking to find new stories to share with my students. In fact after the break I’m planning on having a snowflake search in the classroom, so if you have any snowflake stories that might go along with it please share them!

Happy Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving to you and yours!

amwriting, books, children's writing, early chapter books, eifrig publishing, interactive story ideas, picture book author, picture book illustrators, teacher

An Owlish Point of View

I’m working on the final edits to the early chapter book sequel to Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another. The sequel is titled Cleo’s Big Ideas: Onward and Upward. I’m hoping to reveal the book’s cover soon.

The main character, Cleopatra W. Darby, is focused on the 3 R’s (Recycling, Renewing, and Reusing) just as she was in the first book. And, like in the first book, the sequel has instructions for STEM activities that readers can try out. Below is the Solar Oven in which Cleo made scrumptious Solar S’mores and the Gripper-Grabber she used to rescue the owlets.

Gripper-Grabber from
Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another
Cleo’s Solar Oven from
Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another

In Cleo’s first book she and her class were studying owls that had nested in a nearby pine tree. And in the second book Cleo’s school hopes to build an owl blind to observe the developing nestlings. The activity that follows that chapter is a project that lets readers explore how an owl sees.

Unlike humans owls can’t move their eyes. They have to move their heads to get a good look around. This week I was working on re-writing the steps on how to make owl specs, so kids can try them out and gain an understanding of the world around them from an owls point of view. Here are some pictures of the process.

Tomorrow I’m bringing the owl specs and Martin Waddell’s, OWL BABIES with me to my pre-school in order to share them with my students. One little guy in particular needs to work on his visual scanning skills, and I think the owl specs will be just the thing to encourage him to move his head from left to right to search his surroundings. I’m sure they’re going to be a hit with his friends too. So after reading OWL BABIES, he and his peers will have fun pretending they’re mommy owl in search of Percy, Sarah, and Bill. Should be fun for all!

Here’s to having an owl point of view!