Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing Enrichment: Make a Book

A reader recently asked me if I have any suggestions for summer academic enrichment activities, specifically in the area of English, for her middle school age son. She doesn't want to send him away to a writing camp or spend money on an online writing course.

Coming up with a good writing enrichment activity is more challenging than finding fun STEM activities. After pondering her question for a couple weeks, I remembered a co-op enrichment class I have taught a couple times that students really enjoy. My recommendation for my reader, Jennifer (and you, too) is to have your children write and illustrate a book.

Using the method given here, a wide age range of students can write and illustrate a book and have a finished product they will cherish.

Using the book, Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt as my guideline, I guided my students to write a story, illustrate it, and publish it using a photo book publisher.

My class met for one hour per week for ten weeks, with students doing most of their writing and illustrating at home. As a summer enrichment activity, students could work on the book an hour per day for several weeks or a similar schedule.

Basic outline for making a book:

Start with a stack of books

Go to the library and check out 20 or more children's books and biographies about authors and     illustrators. Some suggestions: Bill Peet, An Autobiography, books by or about Eric Carle, H.A. Rey, Hans Christian Andersen, John Newberry, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, Dr. Seuss, Don Freeman, A.A. Milne,Robert McCloskey, Bill Martin, Jr, and your student's favorite authors or illustrators.

Older children might wonder why they are reading children's books this week. Remind them that most children's books are written by adults. They will be reading these books from a different perspective. They will be studying the writing styles and illustration methods. Have students notice the illustrations and medium used. Have them pay attention to how the story is written- what is the conflict or setting? How are the characters described? Is there a mystery? Have your student find passages that demonstrate the basic elements of writing a story.

Reading aloud during this whole process is a fun family activity, too!

Determine what to write about

This is difficult for some students. Will it be a mystery story? A humorous story? Historical fiction? A poem? An alphabet book? Retelling a favorite memory or Bible story? An adventure story?     Fantasy?
Brainstorm as many ideas as possible to help your student see the possibilities.
Write, Edit, Re-write    
Once your student has settled on what to write about, it is time to start writing. If your student is young, it is certainly acceptable for them to dictate their story to someone to write for them. As the draft is being written (or when it is finished) you will want to read it and offer suggestions to help make the story clear. Often students will leave out details that the reader needs to understand the story. Ask questions so your student can include important details in the story.

Make a Mock-Up Book

Making a mock-up of the book will help determine the pages and text lay-out. Because most photo books include 20 pages in their price, students were encouraged to have 18 pages of story, plus a Title page and Author page. Sometimes a student needed more pages and paid the extra charge for the extra pages.
write and illustrate a book with children
For the mock-up book, just use 'scribbles' to indicate where the text will be and a circle to indicate where the illustration will go.  Your students might notice that some books have text over the illustration, some books have border illustrations (Jan Brett books).  Students can be very creative with the layout.

Eighteen pages of story does not necessarily mean a lot of words. When you look at many children's books, often there is only a sentence or two on a page. If an older student wants to write a longer story, several paragraphs can be on each page.

Students need to determine the layout of their text and illustrations. To do this, make a mock-up of the book. Take 10 pieces of printer paper, fold them in half and staple the 'spine'.

Using a pencil, label each page of the mock-up book in this order:

Front page - Title Page.
Back of title page- blank
Inside right hand page - Page 1
Number the rest of the pages through 19
Page 20 - Author page where you will put a photo and info about the author.

Use the mock-up book to decide where the text and illustrations will go on the page: top, bottom, middle, or whole page. Pay attention to a two-page spread if any illustrations will cover both pages.
After deciding where the text will be placed on the pages, decide where the page breaks will be in the text and mark your story by page number.

Time for illustrations
Based on the text on the page, decide on your illustrations. Look at more children's books to decide your  medium. Will it be pencil? Pen and ink? Collage? Photography? Water color? Colored pencils? Computer drawing? There are many options. It is always fun to see how the students choose to illustrate their stories.

write and illustrate a book
This illustration was designed to cover a two page spread.  Photo books today would not have the big gap you see here.  Photo book technology has come a long way in nine years!

There are two different ways you can choose to put the text with the illustrations.

  1. Type and print the text on a page where you want it. Do the illustration directly on the printed page. Scan the page to your computer as a .jpg file. Upload it as a picture into a photo book publishing program like Shutterfly or My Publisher.

    2.  Type the text on the page directly into the photo book publishing program. Scan the illustration and save as a .jpg file. Upload it as a photo and put it with the correct  text page.

I have only used the first method, but I think the second method may be easier.

Design the Book Cover

Design a cover for the book that includes the title and the author.  This can be done on paper and scanned or made directly in the photo book publishing program.  Don’t forget to include an illustration for the book cover.  This can be an illustration from the book if the student doesn’t want to make something different.
publishing books for children
When this book was published we didn't have the option to print the cover directly on the book, but now you can!

Make the Author Page

The author page will have a photo of your budding author and information about the author.  The information might include how or why the author chose the story, what the author likes to do, age, where he goes to school, etc.
author page
You can design your author page any way you want. 

Publish the Book

Upload all the illustrated pages into the photo book publisher.

Proof-read again for errors. It is always good to have a couple people read to catch any errors.
Choose your book size and format (softcover or hardcover).
Order your book.
Be proud of your hard work!
Some pages might be illustration only or text only.

Many photo book publishers offer discounts on photo books when you sign up at their website. You can find some good deals, so this can be an inexpensive project.

If you try this with your student(s), I would love to hear how it turns out.

The book I used by Valerie Bendt has some very helpful tips for guiding your student in their writing and illustrating. Since she had the students hand bind the books, I did not follow her instructions for that. I really prefer the photo book method for a professional looking book.

I did this with my now 17 year old son when he was 8 years old.  His book, How the Tiger Got His Stripes, is a wonderful keepsake.

I hope this inspires you to try this writing enrichment activity.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

12 Things People Don't Tell You About Visiting Scotland and Ireland

I recently returned from a 2 week visit to Scotland and Ireland. I did enjoy the trip, but discovered some things I did not know before I went, even though I did research travel tips. If you are planning a trip to the UK or Ireland, here are some things to know before you go.

  1. It's damp and windy- All. The. Time. Yes, I knew to expect some rain and rapid weather change, but I was not expecting the reality of the weather. Rapid weather change means that in a 30 minute time span you can have sun, overcast, wind, drizzle, sleet, and violent wind. Yes, I'm talking about you, Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher weather
What started as a sunny day soon turned to sleet and wind that almost knocked you down.

  1. Just invest in a cute coat to take on your trip, nobody will ever see what you are wearing under your coat. (see above for the reason)

    How cute I could have been, if only I had known.

How 'cute' I actually was- a London Fog coat for warmth, another jacket for wind and rain.

  1. Apparently, washcloths do not exist there. We stayed 13 nights and never had a washcloth included in the towel set. We stayed in a couple hotels as well as self-catering accommodations and all we received was a bath towel and a hand towel. I suppose if we had stayed in a chain hotel like a Hampton Inn or Marriott, we might have gotten a washcloth. Lesson learned: when travelling to Scotland or Ireland (perhaps all of Europe?), take your own washcloth.

  1. Top sheets are rare, too. Most bedding did not include a top sheet, though a couple places did have them. Comforters with a duvet cover seemed to be the common way to make a bed.

  1. The English they speak is not the English you speak. Well, in general, it is the same, but they speak much faster (unless you are from the northeastern U. S.) and have a different accent. If you are from the southern U. S., expect to listen carefully and ask people to repeat what they just said. Or just smile and nod and pretend you understand.

  1. Except for the major highways, the roads have no shoulder. Not only that, but there is usually a stone wall next to the road, or a stone wall/hedge combination. It is similar to driving next to concrete construction barriers. All. The. Time. I hate those concrete construction barriers.

It is hard to tell from this photo, but this is a major highway in Ireland.

  1. Prices are inclusive of tax and tipping is not expected. Fortunately, I was informed about tipping on the first day of our trip. This is nice, especially considering the exchange rate of the dollar to the pound and the euro.

  1. In Dublin, request a non-smoking rental car – if such a thing exists. Our car smelled like it had been smoked in and an air freshener had been used to try to mask the smell. Yuck. I saw more smokers in Dublin than I have seen in a very long time, so don't forget this tip.

  1. “When visiting Scotland, always bring your hiking boots and dancing shoes,” said the nice female Ranger at the Glencoe Visitor's Center. Alas, I packed neither; maybe next time.
  2. Scotland has 'open access' which means you can walk anywhere, even private property, as long as you don't harass the livestock. It also has many, many trails, so it would be a great choice for a long backpacking trip
    Don't mind us, sheep, we're just walking through your rocks and fields.
  3. If you wash clothes, expect them to take 2 days to dry. If you hang them up outside, I don't know how long it takes for them to dry (see #1), but it is a common practice. (photo) Also, don't get in a hurry and put your expensive 'wool' hiking socks in a warm oven to dry. There is some acrylic in those socks and they will melt!
    This is a common sight.  With it being 'damp' all the time, I don't know how these ever dry!

  1. Learn about traffic signs before you go if you plan to do any driving. The signs can be confusing and/or hard to interpret.

For those of you who want the fun part of the trip and the travel photos, I will post that next time.

Have you ever travelled abroad and discovered things you wish you had known before you went? Share in the comments, please.

**Sorry about the strange spacing and double 4's.  Blogger was doing weird things and I could not figure out how to make it right.  If you know, I would love tips!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Guest Post: Success Without College

 Today's guest post is from my friend Courtney at Minivan Mom.  I think we were the very first customer at their body shop.  That is where I first met her husband.  I asked Courtney to tell us their story about how they are succeeding without  college degrees.  Courtney and her husband were both homeschooled and now homeschool their children.  She has some great advice here.  Enjoy her story (and this picture of her adorable family).
Photo Credit: Abbie Gibson Photography

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Guest Post: 7 Reasons You Should Take Your Child on a Mission Trip

 There are many things you can teach your children at home, but some lessons are only learned by venturing out.  My new friend, Kathleen from {full of life}, is my guest blogger today.  She shares lessons learned from taking her daughter on two mission trips.

Going on a mission trip can be a mind-altering experience for a teenager, in the best possible way.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Family Favorites Friday: The Library

We love the library;  any library, any place.

My children grew up with a weekly trip to the library.  They spent many hours perusing the books and choosing some to check out and take home.  

It is a good thing our local public library did not have a limit on how many books we could check out!  With seven children choosing books, we easily carried home 70 or more books each week.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Week End Field Trip/Get-Away: Little Rock River Market

I spent the last four days in downtown Little Rock with my son while he participated in the Southwestern Division American Choral Directors Association High School Men's Honor Choir.

Admittedly, downtown Little Rock, AR is not an area that comes to mind when I am looking for a week-end getaway that is fun and educational. However, I was surprised to discover a wealth of activities that fit that description.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Dream Trip

My dream trip has always been to visit Ireland and Scotland.  That trip is finally becoming a reality.  When my son was in Belfast, that seemed like the perfect reason (excuse) to plan a trip to Ireland.  Even though he is not there now, the plans moved forward and we are going!  Me, my husband, oldest daughter and her husband will be leaving soon to visit Scotland and Ireland.  Our itinerary is so full, I'm not sure when we will sleep, but I guess there will be time for that later.

We have planned our own trip, including car rental and vacation house rentals.  Be prepared for photos and reviews when I return.

While I am gone, I have lined up some guest bloggers for you to enjoy.  I will only have one post per week while I am gone, but I think you will enjoy these lovely ladies and their stories.

What is your dream trip?
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