Being creative when your home is your school

I saw a mention of using writing prompts to inspire kids who are home schooling now. A few that I’ve used with students are:

Write a “graphic label” that describes an animal in an aquarium or a zoo in 30 words or less. Make it interesting!

Make a list of questions you would use to “interview” a sea creature or a scientist who is studying your favorite animal.

Invent an animal. Describe its habitat and adaptations for survival (for getting food and avoiding becoming someone else’s food). Draw a picture of it. You might want to give it a common and a scientific name.

Write and illustrate a story about a sea creature’s adventures, like this one that my daughter and her friend wrote in fifth grade. (In this case, the hero is a leaf.) Bonus points: write a dedication to your patient parents (or teacher)!  img003

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Won’t you be my neighbor?

Just ask the third graders at Great Salt Bay School in Damariscotta. Each student chooses a local sea creature to study for their unit on “Oyster Neighbors.” At the end of the year, their reports on estuarine animals are assembled into a printed book, making them all authors of a very special field guide. This is the 11th year I helped kick off the unit. After giving an overview of my book writing process—emphasizing the importance of that first “grabber” sentence—I met with individual students, like Allie, below. Together, we brainstormed about special features of their animal that might grab a reader’s attention.

At the end of the day, all the third grades got together again for a lively game of Ocean Jeopardy! Another chance to share quirks about my favorite sea beasts.

Allie the Aspiring Author at GSBS

Consulting with aspiring author Allie

Thanks for a great day with all these budding authors!


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Teaching and learning

Doing an author visit to a school is as much about teaching and learning for me as it is for the students. When I encounter such engaged audiences as I had with Old Town Elementary School, I can see how well their librarians and teachers have prepared their students before I visit. They have shared my books and assigned writing projects or questions to ask. Some of those questions can be quite challenging! And, of course, at the end of my presentations, students get to share their own stories. Many of those would make great topics for their own tales.

1.15.20 OTES 1 - Copy

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A teacher turned dolphin trainer—for a few minutes

Bowdoin central -Ms Rice

I had a great day with the all the students at Bowdoin Central School talking about my writing process and the sea creatures I’ve encountered. After a schoolwide assembly in the gym, I visited with the students in second through fifth grades and shared lunch with 20 kindergarteners and first graders. Favorite parts of the day: hearing students’ ideas for great opening lines for their own books, seeing how well prepared they were through their questions and observations, and turning second-grade teacher Ms. Rice into a dolphin trainer. One student’s mother said her daughter now wants to be a marine biologist! (And a writer, I hope!)

Letter from Bowdoin Central School

Second grader Iris proved my point that books need writers and artists!

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