Posts Tagged ‘creativity’
Famous Figures of Ancient Egypt
written and illustrated by Cathy Diez-Luckie
Figures in Motion, ©2009
Interest Level: 7 to 10
Readers can select from among the group of 19 men and an elephant (Hannibal’s elephant), to create puppets of historic figures. You’ll find emperors, conquerors, and philosophers. These are the great men of Ancient Egypt, Greece, China, Rome, and Jerusalem. There is a two-paragraph biography on each person at the front of the book, followed by two pages of the character the reader needs to build.
I love books that bring history (0r reading) to life. When I saw Famous Figures, I was instantly captivated by the idea of creating puppets of historical figures and allowing the kids to role play as a learning process. This book covers the globe (ancient as it was) and balances disciplines (philosophers and conquerors) and fame (Alexander the Great and a Greek Hoplite). Cut the pieces out and connect them with mini-brads, fasteners, or 1/8-inch eyelets. Once the figure is assembled, kids can “play out the real stories of history or make up their own and travel through time.”
- This is a creative book that offers a way to reinforce learning in a meaningful way.
- There is a set of pre-colored pieces for those who aren’t artistic; and a set of coloring book-styled pieces for those who want to create originals.
- The pages are cardstock quality paper, giving them some durability and sturdiness.
- I would definitely recommend it, even for home use. It is a great way for you to play with your kids and learn together.
- There isn’t a lot of background about on the characters. One reviewer calls is a “supplemental activity book,” yet it would be ideal for an audience that has not yet learned ancient history (i.e., elementary students).
This isn’t a book that you’re likely going to find in your local library because the pages are perforated. If you know kids who learn best with hands-on activities, this is a must have.
Last but not least, Diez-Luckie has done a fabulous job with the front material, clearly explaining what the book has to offer each audience (children, adults, museums, and historical re-enactors).
If you like books like this, you might like
Do you have favorite books that bring learning to life for kids? We’d love to hear about them.
Keisa Williams (aka Ms. K) is a K-5 School Librarian at Monarch Academy, a public charter school in Oakland, CA. She is certified in secondary and elementary education (MLIS and MEd) and loves collaborating with teachers and integrating technology into her library lessons. She considers herself a “Technology Diva” and “Gadget Junkie”.
The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Wordless picture books are a great way to encourage reluctant readers, motivate storytelling, and prompt creative writing. I was blessed to receive the Caldecott Medal winning book, The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney from a Twitter Elementary Librarian colleague, Ernie Cox. It was serendipitous that our kindergarten and first grade teams had just read another version of this story to our students.
When I introduced this book to students, I talked about how the illustrations in most picture books tell the story. I then modeled how to “read” a wordless picture book. I narrated parts and I added dialogue where appropriate. For example, “As the lion squeezed his paws around the mouse, the mouse screamed, “HELP!”…But no one heard his cries.” During the second reading, I call on students to “read” each page. When they narrate, I encourage them to think about describing how a character feels (and why), body language, the setting, and encourage them to add dialogue to enhance their storytelling. They always surprise me with the humor and specific details they choose to add to the story.
Did you know that Big Universe has wordless picture books? Use these titles to get your little ones “reading”:
Wordless picture books on Big Universe
Ben's Big Dig on Big Universe
Ben's Bunny Trouble on Big Universe
Posted on February 7, 2010 by Suzan Woodard in Uncategorized.
Tags: Big Universe, Books, Children, Chinese New Year, creativity, Fun in class, Lesson Plans, literacy games, Online Children's Books, picture books, vocabulary
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Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, but did you know it’s the first day of the Chinese New Year, too? Yup – the Year of the Tiger is upon us! Maybe your child or class would have fun with some global fusion – half hearts, half dragons.
Kids like quirky, well, most of them anyway. Hang Chinese lanterns from the ceiling and cut and paste valentines. Mix in talk of tigers, dragons and firecrackers and you are sure to engage the boys, as well.
I figure most of you have the Valentine’s Day theme down pat, so I’ll give you a few hints on how to use the Chinese New Year celebration as a spring board for learning.
Get to Know and Appreciate China
- Make Chinese paper lanterns to string in a doorway or from the ceiling. Very festive.
- Read “China” by Gisela Lee, who writes about this influential country’s rich history and vibrant modern-day culture. The book posted online by Big Universe has a map, colorful pictures and a good vocabulary list aimed at sixth-graders. (Teacher Created Materials Publishing)
- Fly a kite, bring collapsible umbrellas to school or play dominoes. They were all invented by the Chinese.
- Use “Kingka,” an award-winning board game, as a class supplement. Created by New Jersey educator, mom and children’s book author Sholeen Lou-Hsaio, the Mandarin-language matching game resembles bingo and introduces the 54 basic Chinese characters. It uses “the spirited nature of a memory game to encourage effective learning. It takes away the fear students have of learning Chinese,” said Lou-Hsiao.
- Learn more about giant pandas by clicking on this link, or read “Pandas’ Earthquake Escape” at Big Universe. (Sylvan Dell)
- “Confucius, Chinese Philosopher” is another Big Universe book by Gisela Lee, who collaborated with Wendy Conklin to write this biography. (Teacher Created Materials Publishing)
- Look at “Holidays” by author Dona Herweck Rice. It’s aimed at younger children with simple text and great pictures. Keep an eye out for the Chinese New Year street parade picture. (Teacher Created Materials Publishing)
- Go to Page 33 in the book “Animal World,” published by Saddleback Educational Publishing. It offers a little zoology on the tiger – with colorful photographs and a fun “factoscope” box. Or read “What Tigers Do,” a beginner book written by Kris Bonnell and published by Reading Reading Books, LLC.
- Print out this coloring page of a tiger, a boy in traditional holiday clothing, or one of men dressed to do the Chinese New Year lion dance.
Posted on December 20, 2009 by Suzan Woodard in Personal Experiences, Uncategorized.
Tags: Big Universe, Books, creativity, Reading, writers block, writing, writing creatively, Writing prompts, writing with children
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If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know what it’s like to have the words dry up. It’s like you’re dying of thirst, and the rusty ol’ spigot just won’t give up a drop.
I probably felt that most intensely as a newspaper reporter and editor with a daily deadline. Writing facts in an orderly fashion was easy enough, but I worked in the Feature Department, so creativity was in high demand. Clever headlines. Intriguing lead sentences. Weekly humor columns. (Funny can’t be forced.)
It wasn’t long before I learned the merits of a “slush file” – also known as a backlog. I kept a file with random ideas, outlines of columns, and puns to prompt creative headlines when I was in a pinch.
I also made a habit of reading the news feeds and other literature resources, jotting down interesting facts and thought-provoking quotes – all stored away to use like one of those yeast bread “starters” that periodically get passed around the office and among friends.
You can do the same for children, who claim they can’t think of anything to write about. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.
- Provide physical prompts. Place a dog collar on a stool or a deflated football, a heart-shaped box of chocolates with one candy missing or a gift-wrapped box. Ask “How did this get here?” or “Tell me the story behind this item.” Or, use an intriguing photo.
- Make it safe. While I think spelling and grammar are important, it is crucial to avoid striking fear of failure in the young writer. It is more important to nurture the joy of storytelling and the beauty of words. The mechanics will follow.
- Give a fun situational prompt. a.) “If you could have three wishes, what would they be?” b.) “If I were invisible, I….” c.) “If you had to live on an island by yourself for a year, what 5 things would you take with you?”
- Use words to connect to others. Encourage kids to make cards for friends and grandparents – visual and language arts rolled into one. Plus, it teaches them to think of others: thank you notes, get well cards, holiday greetings. (My kids loved getting to add their two cents to the Christmas letter.)
- Mimic a book character. Give a verbal prompt and ask your child to write something in the voice of a book character with whom they are familiar – the Cat in the Hat or Junie B. Jones, for example. “It’s fun, I tell you.”
- Allow a little fun. Make writing notes in class “legal” on Thursday afternoons or turn on some music for 10 minutes and have kids take part in a written “Word Spill.”
- Ask kids to be convincing. Encourage children to write a persuasive paragraph about a trip they would like to take or why they would like a particular toy.
- Keep a family meeting notebook. I knew one family with five girls who kept notebooks in which their children could write anything: Why they got mad. How they broke the vase in the den. A prayer request. A thank you note. A joke.
- Tap humor. Kids get spelling and vocabulary words for school and often are required to use them in sentences. When my girls dragged their feet, I encouraged them to have fun with their words. Anything was legal as long as it wasn’t mean-spirited. They ended up laughing and liked to read their favorite sentences to me. “Mom grumbled when I ate her last piece of delicious dark chocolate.”
- Gravitate toward superlatives. Kids love them. “Blank is the worst food in the entire world.” Tell them to write three sentences explaining why. Or, “My cat is the best pet because….”
- Let kids lock up secrets. Diaries don’t entice all children to write, but a book with a lock and key hints at secrets and treasure. Write a secret. Lock it up. Hide the key! Or, have children write clues for a big treasure hunt.
- Read books. What can I say? I saved the best for last. Good books breed active imaginations. Books expand the mind until the words must flow somewhere. (Grab pencil and paper, a recording device or the easy-to-use authoring tool at BigUniverse.com to record the creative stories that result.)
I’m sure there are a gazillion other great ideas out there. Please share how you encouraged the children in your life to write!
Fifteen of my family members gathered at my house for the Thanksgiving weekend. For three days we feasted on turkey, pie and family stories. Laughter laced the ebb and flow of conversation and cameras flashed frequently.
One brother shared photos from his recent vacation on which he tracked down a tiny picturesque farm in Vermont, where our grandparents had lived for decades. We had thought the place would be long gone, but he found the house and barns still standing, lovingly restored by the current owner.
The pictures in his slideshow narration sparked many memories and lively discussion ensued. Photos have a way of stimulating our thinking, and it was fun to listen to the words my siblings and parents used to reminisce. “Grammy always had that black potbelly stove goin’…I remember finding the wooden sleigh in the barn… weird ball lightning dancing in the iron sink…What about Grampy bringing Princess the pony into the den?”
Photography serves as a catalyst for communication – something which the Literacy Through Photography (LTP) writing program has tapped into. This classroom-based educational component of FotoFest International is designed to help students improve their writing skills through visual imagery. LTP has been used successfully for 20 years in the Houston Independent School District by more than 25,000 pupils and teachers.
Even earlier than that, I remember a teacher using images to prompt creative writing in one of my classes as a child. I just ate that up! I had a healthy imagination, so written words were a way to express what was going on in my head and heart.
Big Universe’s Author tool offers the same benefits, allowing children to select from thousands of images in the graphics library and then to create a story to go with them. They also can upload their own photographs and scanned artwork with guidance from a parent or teacher and then write about these personal images.
Not only will children sharpen computer skills, but they also will incorporate visual arts with language literacy and learn to express themselves. In the end, they will have a book to show for their effort and skills to navigate our increasingly media-driven culture.
Hah! Whoever said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step should have his/her head examined. The truth is a thousand steps in lots of directions might—one day, if you’re lucky—–coalesce into a single journey. I write this from experience.
One would think that I’m at a good point this summer; for the first time in years I’ve actually got some free time on my hands. I could finish one of the many projects I have that are partially done. I could start a new novel or other project. But I keep stumbling first one way, and then another. And then I retreat . . . I’ve taken a whole lot of steps to get exactly nowhere fast.
My husband has complete faith in me. Don’t I already have ten books out and more under contract? He knows I’ll find my way. I don’t. One would think that the more writing one does, the easier it gets. I should have learned something about how to start by now. But it seems to me that every book has its own fits and starts. Each one is different. I can’t find a pattern about how to jump in and get going. It’s like I’m circling a pool and wondering where do I wade in? As my southern kin would say, I’ve been “treading mud.”
I’ve no dearth of partial projects, sketched ideas, picture book drafts, lists, character studies—–all things I could work on. And still, each morning I get up and try to find anything else to do but write! Why is it so hard? I love words. I even love working with an editor on the revision process. I just really do not like creating that first draft. It’s a bit like Michael Kanin said, “I don’t like to write, but I love to have written.”
I know the routine—–the things you’re supposed to say to help snap someone else, or yourself, out of a slump. I’m also a writing instructor. I know all the bits of wisdom (or at least a good portion of them), like looking back to the initial excitement of a piece. What was it that spurred me originally to jot these ideas down, to get this partial manuscript going? I’ve been rifling through my unfinished manuscripts and asking myself that a lot lately. I know I need some block busting technique, like timed writing everyday, or a writing buddy to help me through. I know, I know, I know . . . But it’s just not clicking.
Lately, I’ve even had dreams of going back to work. Gads! (I’m a retired librarian.) I told them to my husband. He laughed and said that’s only because any day job is easier to do than putting my rear in the chair and trying to create magic with my fingers. He’s right. A job would just be another excuse not to write.
Whenever I do a workshop and a child looks at me and says, “I don’t know what to write.” Believe me; I’m right there with him/her. The blank page is a frightening thing. (Is there a term for that fear?) Sometimes I suggest that the child just keep drawing big circles on a piece of paper over and over and over until a word pops up. I learned this method of loosening-up from an art instructor. Besides, it’s a better thing to suggest to kids than suggesting Gene fowler’s method. He’s said, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Okay, I’ve written this posting. Now I’ve gotta go face my fear or, at least, produce another bit of abstract circle art to tack up on the bulletin board above my desk with all the others. If it’s drawn in blood, come get me.
Roxaboxen, a hill in Yuma, Arizona, littered with rocks and wooden boxes, serves as the setting of this children’s book, which tells a true tale of one child’s active imagination. “With the aid of her mother’s childhood manuscript, the memories of relatives, and letters and maps from former inhabitants of Roxaboxen, author Alice McLerran recreated the magical world…,” in this storybook, “…as if she played there herself.” McLerran.
I’ll always remember the day my son returned home from third grade, after his teacher read Roxaboxen, by Alice McLerran, to her classroom of children. He couldn’t stop talking about the imaginary town, created simply from rocks, broken pottery, colored glass, and old wooden boxes. There were: buried treasures, a Main Street, houses, and dishes, a town hall, a Mayor, plenty of shops, money, a bakery, ice cream parlors, cars, a jail, police, horses, and a cemetery. Not only does Roxaboxen allow children to feel like they can participate in making a grown-up place all their own, students might just venture to create a town, which they can run – in the classroom, at a park, in the basement, or in the backyard.
Roxaboxen serves as a favorite childhood book in our home, as our son is now 12, and he continues to create imaginary towns, tree houses, recyclable villages, European cities, all of which found their roots in the works of Alice McLerran. Roxaboxen is “A celebration of the ability children have to create, even with the most uncompromising materials, a world of fantasy so real and multidimensional that it earns a lasting place in memory.” McLerran.