As I think about my Monday morning visit with students at McBride Elementary School I wonder what they will ask me. As anyone who does this sort of thing knows, most questions from young children reflect off-the-top curiosity. Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take to write a book? How many more books are you going to write? Do you write joke books? Do you have any children?
The questions need to be answered, of course, although the trick is to work in more useful information as we go along so that the teacher has more to go on later than the number and ages of my daughter and son.
Now and then, though, I get pleasantly surprised when I receive more original, thoughtful questions that show me the teachers have been working ahead of time with their students and their students have been paying attention. Those are the best visits because they’re not only fun but also provide young writers with specific tips to help strengthen their own efforts.
Here are a few questions I received recently from Susan Hutchens, an outstanding teacher whom many of us know, from students I’ve never met. Susan shared a book of mine, NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T, talked about the author and what goes into writing books, and sent me pages of wonderful questions. For example:
How did you figure out that you should write a nonfiction poem?
What was your preparation for this book?
What other animals did you learn about? Why did you choose to write about these animals?
Can you possibly think about poems that can also help you with learning?
Did you read a lot of books when you wanted to write books?
Have you been to all the places (in the book)?
How can you find that many words describing the animal that rhyme?
These are only a few of many excellent questions. They’re the kind that every visiting author and illustrator hope to get. Some of the questions are assured of going into the book I’m writing with Mary Jo Fresch. Yay for your kids and you, Susan!
Just discovered that a good friend is taking the same Caribbean cruise we are. Larry and Maryann Wakefield and we are scheduled on a Holland America ship five days from now and it turns out that Susan Hutchens from Colorado is taking the same cruise with her family.
There are thousands of people on those gigantic boats but I’m sure we’ll meet a lot and I look forward to our visits. Susan is an elementary teacher and active in the Colorado Reading Association. Two years ago she was chair of CCIRA and invited me to present at the conference, which is an old favorite of mine.
I’ll remind you later but during the week onboard and the week after I’ll have little or no Internet so I’ll not be posting. Time for some serious goo foffing!
I told you on Wednesday that I’d heard from my friend Susan Hutchens, who has been subbing in a third grade class this week at Kruse Elementary in Ft. Collins, Colorado. When Susan read one of my books to the students – MISS GRUBB, SUPER SUB! the kids were interested in some of Miss Grubb’s activities, such as going outside with “Magic Bags” to gather the wondrous things to be found there. Susan decided to try that activity with her young charges and I asked the class to share with me some of what they gathered. Who knew that I would also harvest a bumper crop of jokes!
With full permission from Susan and her students, here are some selected results. My thanks to Miss Grubb for thinking of the whole thing! The rest of the report comes in Susan’s words.
“The 3rd grade students have had fun “collecting” things to put into their Magic Bags today! (I gave them little bags with some pieces of bright “magic” paper to write their thoughts on!)
My “magic bags” were actually some paper sandwich bags I’d picked up somewhere – very flat and about 6×8 inches in size. I wrote each child’s name with a permanent marker at the bottom of a bag, and also stuck on a red smiley-face sticker. (Extra points for me because they happened to be smelly stickers too! Ha!)
I cut 8 1/2 by 11 colored paper into four pieces per sheet, and put three different colors of paper into each magic bag.
When the kids came in this morning, I handed each of them their bag, and explained (again) that they weren’t going to put anything “real” into the bags, but thoughts and feelings, memories or smells, etc. They kept the bags out on their desks all day, and had permission to write quickly on their colored paper if they needed to write down something for their “collection.”
It was pretty neat to hear what they’d written, and I teared up when one little girl told me that she put ME into her magic bag! How humbling (and wonderful!) to know that I earned a special place in her magic bag!
The kids are anxious to look for more things to add to their “collections” tomorrow!
Okay – I do have to admit this, though…..one young man made a puppet out of his magic bag! I guess he wasn’t as thrilled with the activity as the others! ha!
Here is a partial list of what the kids collected today:
-the book, The Big Friendly Giant (the class has been reading this book)
-my cruise ship boat replica
-the book, The Sea of Monsters
-the taste of a lollipop
-The Big Friendly Giant
-The Big Friendly Giant
-the wetness in the air
-basketball at recess
-I helped a classmate with a bully
-played “get the ball” at recess
-Manar’s hot dog stand
-mixing sand and grass
-playing games with my friends at recess
-working on Manar’s hot dog stand with my friends
-making a hot dog stand with my friends
-playing with my friends
-seeing a cute puppy dog
-last minute goal in soccer
-found out Mrs. Hutchens is 51, and she looks like she’s 30! (I did NOT pay the kid to say this! LOL!)
Joke from Josh:
My little pony stepped on a bunny fell on her face and broke her tummy.
Joke from Kaitlyn:
Big Friendly Giant
Big Friendly Giant who?
Bit Friendly Giant I’m gonna eat you!
Joke from Emma:
How do you spell it?
Joke from Bethany:
Charlotte of mosquitoes out tonight!
Joke from Samantha:
Roses are red, violets are blue
You’re a good author, she’s your friend too.
Joke from Henry:
Why are you crying? I did nothing!
Feel free to share!! I’d love to know that these kiddos inspired other teachers/people/kids to use Magic Bags! These kids really liked the idea of having some bright slips of paper inside the bags to write down the things they “collected.” I think it helped them to remember! (I only let them tell me one thing each when I sent the email to you. Otherwise, it would have been really long!)”
To Super Sub, Susan Hutchens, and to all of your great kids, I thank you for sharing with us on my blog. Go Cougars!
If other teachers decide to try the same exercise, I hope you’ll share your results too!
My good friend Susan Hutchens has been subbing this week in a third grade class in Colorado. Yesterday she sent me a note to say that she had just read my book MISS GRUBB, SUPER SUB to her kids. I got out the book and ran across one of the activities that Miss Grubb dreams up for her charges. She hands them empty paper bags, takes them to the playground, and instructs them to fill their bags with what they see, hear, smell, and feel. She starts by placing fluffy clouds and happy birdsong into her bag.
When Susan told me about the great kids in her third grade class, I suggested that today she give them all bags to fill when they go to their playground. I’m eager to hear what the students collect. They promised to let me know!
My suggestion to you and the kids you know is to fill your own bags today on the playgrounds of your life. It’s an exercise that reminds me that we are surrounded by splendid things, many of which are worthy of a poem and all of which can make the day a little brighter.