So I finished writing my first middle grade novel last month and wanted to share with you what I learned. Going from writing picture books to a novel is quite different, yet some things stayed the same. I made this Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the two.
I'm a plotter, and so I sketched out each chapter and created my characters. However, my muse didn't always follow the outline, which is good. And as I got deeper into each chapter, my characters became more alive to me and even changed. I remember adding to their character sketches as I went along. My characters became a little bossy and sometimes took the story in a new way. And new minor characters introduced themselves that weren't even planned. I think it's a good idea to have a vision and rough outline to begin with and then let the story come alive and unfold as you write. I've sent it out to the first batch of beta readers. We'll see if it's any good. :) If you have any revision tips, let me know!!
I'd like to welcome my writing critique friend, Laura Sassi! This is the last stop on her blog tour for her debut picture book, Goodnight, Ark, which was published by Zonderkidz. This is an adorable, rocking read aloud! If you are a teacher, you're eligible to win a free 30 minute Skype session for your classroom with Laura. Enter at the end of this post. Take it away, Laura!
I can’t imagine a more pleasant place to finish up the GOODNIGHT, ARK blog tour than here with Tina. Tina and I are writing partners, but we are also both teachers at heart. I taught elementary school for eight years before writing and she taught elementary for eleven years. Today, I’d like put on that teacher hat and think about creating extension activities for the picture books we write.
But how do you get started? Here are four brainstorming strategies I recommend.
Notice what your readers notice. Even before ARK officially released, I read my advance copy to my children and young relatives. I showed it to friends. I was even lucky enough to get to share a folded galley with my mom. As we read, I listened carefully to what each reader noticed. My mom, for example, was fascinated by Jane’s use of stripes, dots, and other patterns throughout her illustrations. Other readers noticed the pattern in rhyme and meter. Yet others commented on the patterns of repeated words and sounds. Pulling those pattern-thoughts together, I created “Going on a Pattern Hunt”, an extension activity that challenges kids to find picture, text, and sound patterns in GOODNIGHT, ARK and then create their own. That extension activity is now available on my blog.
Build upon the Common Core. A close look at your book’s listing on Amazon or at your local library will show you which common core standards your book meets. The three listed for GOODNIGHT, ARK are:
1.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
2.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
3.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
I am now in the process of using these as jumping off points for creating fun activities that include the learning elements above. Stay tuned… they’ll be up on my blog soon.
Get input from a teacher. Whether you are a teacher or not, I highly recommend showing your story to several teachers. I did and I was amazed at the lesson suggestions. One teacher in particular got really excited about all the spelling lesson possibilities that can be drawn from GOODNIGHT, ARK. And she’s right! The text is full of short vowels, long vowels, adverbs, blends galore, digraphs, rhyming words and more! I would never have thought of this, but I’m now creating fun spelling extensions for primary graders. I’ve also got lessons in mind that will focus on cause and effect, making predictions, and counting by twos. Thank you, teachers!
Think multi-sensory. Kids learn and process things differently and so don’t forget to take a multi-sensory approach. My son, for example, is very visual and verbal, so visual/verbal activities work well for him. My daughter is more of a kinesthetic, artistic learner. So, as I brainstorm, I strive to meet all kinds of learning styles with activities that include movement, art, and interactive activities. I also love crafts and will definitely include extension posts that require glue and scissors.
So there you have it.
Writers, I hope these strategies will spark your creative teaching juices as you think about extension activities for your own stories. Teachers, I hope you will check out my blog in the coming weeks as I continue to post extension activities for GOODNIGHT, ARK.
Thanks, Tina, for having me. It’s been a lovely last spot for a tour.
*If you're an educator and would like to win a free Skype visit for your classroom, please leave your name and and the grade you teach in the comments below. A winner will be drawn on Saturday, 9/27. Please check back on Sunday for the results!
Bio: Laura’s poems, stories, articles and crafts have appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. GOODNIGHT, ARK, published by Zonderkidz, a HarperCollins Company, and illustrated by Jane Chapman is her first picture book. She is represented by Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura writes from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and a black cockapoo named Sophie. You can also find her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here's a list of all the stops on Laura's blog tour if you want to read other posts.
8/26 The Stylin’ Librarian
8/28 Picture Book Den
9/3 Pragmatic Mom
9/5 Time out with Becky Kopitzke
9/8 Rosanne L. Kurstedt’s KALEIDOSCOPE
9/10 Southern Belleview Daily
9/12 Susanna Leonard Hill
9/18 Tara Lazar’s Writing While Raising Kids
9/22 Le&ndra’s Blog
9/24 Tina’s Tidbits
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!