For Teachers

Embracing Diverse Talents and Perspectives: Using Creative Projects to Dive Deeper into Fiction

For me, the brisk fall weather always brings with it a burst of creative energy. Most likely, you and your students are feeling that too. Why not use this season as an opportunity to engage your students in diving deeper into books in creative ways? As we all know, students have different styles of learning and a variety of talents. What if you could offer your students a number of fun options to explore the fictional books they’re reading and to demonstrate their knowledge? I have included several ideas below:

  • Invite students to consider books as not only works of literature but also as works of art. Begin by showing students several well-known hardcover books and discussing how the text, images, and other design elements on the front and back cover, the spine, and inside flaps relate to the central themes of each book Then invite students to rewrite and redesign the front and back cover, the spine, and inside flaps of the book they’re reading. Students can select a color palette that they believe best fits the book, create new images, and re-write the front and back flap copy to highlight things that they believe would appeal to potential readers. They can put those elements together in a new book design. Ask students to also consider elements such as text, font choice and placement, and how themes and design elements from the front cover continue onto the spine, back cover and flaps. Students can even choose a new book title.
  • Invite students to create a playlist including a song for each chapter with a short paragraph explaining why they selected each song and how it relates to the chapter. I recently put together a playlist for my book Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe featuring artists from Mississippi, where the book is set. Even for someone like me who is not musically inclined, putting the list together was surprisingly fun. I discovered new artists and thinking about chapter pairings gave me the opportunity to re-examine the central theme of each chapter. Limiting the playlist options to artists from Mississippi also allowed me to highlight the talented musical artists from that state. You might try a similar approach with your students. You can ask them to select songs from the historical period of the book, to feature only artists from the geographical region where the story is set, or to limit their choices to a particular genre of music.
  • Invite students to create a graphic novel presentation. If the book your students are reading is not already a graphic novel, you can invite students to select what they consider to be the five most pivotal chapters and to present those chapters in graphic novel form.
  • Invite students to create a poem to have a conversation with a book. Another idea is to invite students to create a poem inspired by questions that they had about a book they’ve read. First ask students to consider why the writer chose certain elements in the book. Then invite students to create a poem that explores the meaning of those elements or that asks questions about the writer’s choices. Students can use any poetry form that they wish, including free verse. Sometimes limiting options is the best way to inspire creativity. If students get stuck, they can write the letters of the book title vertically down the left side of a page. They can then use each letter as the beginning of a word in a line of their poem.
  • Use art to explore and express the way the main character changed. Novels involve change and growth. One way to engage readers in exploring the changes in the main character over the course of a novel is to ask them to create an illustration of the main character at the beginning of the book (utilizing elements of composition including setting, choice of color palette, clothing and accessory choices and other items to show the main character’s traits). You can then invite students to illustrate that same character at the ending of the book, again using elements of the composition to show how the character has grown and changed.
  • Turn students into book ambassadors. You can invite students to imagine that they are booksellers and ask them to create a short video sales pitch for the book. What types of readers do the students believe would be interested in the book? What elements of the book did the students find most appealing? What would they tell someone to try to persuade them to read the book?
  • Challenge students to become book marketers. Once students are comfortable becoming book ambassadors, you can invite them to take the next step and become book marketers. Challenge them to create at least five new taglines for the book they’re studying. As you know, taglines are short phrases included on the front or back cover or inside flaps intended to intrigue potential readers. For example, the tagline for Refugee by Alan Gratz is “Three different kids. One mission in common: ESCAPE.” The tagline for When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller is “Some stories refuse to stay bottled up.” The tagline for All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall is “When all the pieces fit together, dreams can come true.” As you can imagine, creating a tagline takes lots of brainstorming. If students get stuck, invite them to create lists of key words that capture important elements of the story. Student then can combine the words in different order and phrasing to come up with potential taglines.
  • Invite students to create a word-inspired poem. Ask students to pick a number at random that is smaller than the number of pages in the book they are reading. Then invite them to turn to that page, select at least seven words that intrigue them, and create a poem about the book that uses each of those seven words.
  • Invite students to immerse themselves in the setting of the book. You can invite students to research the setting of the book. They can then create an annotated map of the place where the major story action occurred.
  • Invite students to get social. You can invite students to create fictional social media posts from the point of view of the main character in the story at key action points.

 

Whatever activities you choose, I hope that you and your students enjoy diving even more deeply into the world of books. You can learn more about new releases at https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/mixed-up-files-book-lists/ and find a list of books by Mixed Up Files contributors at https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/about/contributor-books/. I’m wishing you and your students loads of reading and creative adventures.

Happy 4th Anniversary to STEM Tuesday and a BIG GIVEAWAY!!

 

The entire STEM Tuesday team is SO excited to be celebrating our FOURTH anniversary!! We have enjoyed every minute of it and hope you have, too.

Our goal, when we started this blog was to provide  engaging, exciting, and inspiring STEM/STEAM activities and literacy connections to all of our readers. Over the past three years, we have taken a deep dive into so many unique and interesting topics.

From conservation, to Health, to Field Work, and even Exploration and Technology. We have featured graphic novels, Women’s History monthsharks, and activity books. And who can forget the posts on epic achievements and fantastic failures? Such important concepts in all of STEM/STEAM.

If you have used STEM Tuesday’s posts in your classroom or homeschool, let us know by commenting below. We’d like to hear what kind of  STEM/STEAM activities and literacy connections your student’s are enjoying. If there is topic that we haven’t covered yet and you’d like to see, please also let us know. You can email us at stemmuf@gmail.com

We, the entire STEM Tuesday team, thank you for reading our posts and using our resources in your classroom or homeschool. After all, it’s all about inspiring kids (of all ages) to engage with STEM and STEAM!

As a way to share our excitement of this anniversary, we are giving YOU the prizes.

Take a look at some of the amazing giveaways being offered:

 

Author Jennifer SwansonFrom Author Jennifer Swanson

TWO free books

The Secret Science of Sports book

 

Newman headshot

From Author  Patricia Newman

Whose books include:  Planry Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean, and Eavesdropping on Elephants

One FREE 15-20 minute Skype Visit 

 

 

 

Author Heather L. Montgomery

From Author Heather L. Montgomery,

Whose books include:  Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other and Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill.

One FREE 15-20 minute Skype Visit 

 

 

From Author Nancy Castaldo

Whose books include:  The Farm that Feeds Us and Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction

One FREE 15-20 minute Skype Visit

 

From Author Janet Slingerland

Whose books include Atoms and Molecules

One FREE 15-20 minute Skype Visit

 

 

 

Sue Heavenrich, author

From Author Sue Heavenrich 

1 copy of

13 Ways to Eat Fly Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Hays

 

Mike Hays is offering a 20-minute classroom Zoom to talk about STEM Tuesday and the ways STEM intersects with all aspects of life and literature.

 

From Author Mary Kay Carson 

Two books:

Escape from the Titanic book  Emi and the Rhino Scientist book

 

From Author Kirsten W. Larson  

1 copy of
Wood Wire Wings book

 

From Author Karen Latchana Kenney 

TWO STEM books for  giveaway: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND  ONE FREE $25 Gift Card to Barnes and Noble (from the whole team) 

ENTER TO WIN BY CLICKING ON THE RAFFLECOPTER BELOW

We salute all of you teachers, librarians, and parents who are doing an AWESOME job teaching your kids/students this school year. If you are looking for virtual visits, please be sure to check our websites.

Many of us are offering activities and virtual events. You can find us all HERE

THANK YOU for reading along with STEM Tuesday. Cheers to another great year. GO STEM!!!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Middle Grade Examines the Constitution!

By Robyn Gioia, M.Ed

Constitution Day, September 17, 1787: The day the U.S. Constitution was signed by founding fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Jay at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

What began as newspaper comic strips in the late 1800s evolved into stories spanning several pages. From there, stories grew into the superhero genre with the likes of Superman and Batman, to name a few. Later the word “graphic novel” was coined for depicting larger works that can be more serious in nature. Since then, graphic novels have grown to represent every form of genre, from entertainment to nonfiction to academically examining controversial topics such as the Constitution.

The Constitution, a document that was written in the 1700s and for a different time in history remains the heart of American law. Many argue the Constitution needs to be rewritten. The graphic novel fault line in the constitution takes middle school kids through the history and nuts and bolts of the Constitution in easy to understand scenarios and graphics. It is definitely a topic that makes you question the way things work and how you think about them. The book has garnered “starred” reviews from top book reviewers such as Kirkus, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly.

Meet Cynthia Levinson, teacher, writer, mentor, and author of the middle-grade graphic novel, fault line in the constitution.

(Yes, fellow teachers, the book title does NOT use capitals!)

Robyn: Welcome to From The Mixed Up Files. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. It’s always fun to connect a person’s life with their books.

Cynthia: I have two daughters, two SILs, and four grandchildren. And every book my husband and I write includes a thank you to “our thoroughly splendid children,” regardless of whether or not they helped with the book! For most of my professional life, I worked in education—teaching from K-12 and higher ed and also in state-level education policy. As a writer, I still consider myself an educator. I like to cook, but only in spurts; otherwise, a kitchen-sink salad is my favorite dinner. Nothing with okra—blech.

Robyn: A good salad. Someone after my own heart. I’d pass on the okra, too! So tell me, why write a middle-grade graphic novel on the U.S. Constitution?

Cynthia: The idea to write Fault Lines in the Constitution came from one of my editors—Kathy Landwehr at Peachtree, who had given her father a copy of one of my husband’s books (a law professor) on the Constitution. He liked it so much that Kathy asked if we would write a version for kids. Our editor at First Second/Macmillan, Marc Siegel, requested a graphic novel  version! So, happily, the ideas came to us from publishers.

Robyn: How did you choose what topics to include?

Cynthia: Great question! How on earth did we?! Well, my husband, Sanford (Sandy), has written extensively on problems with the US Constitution so I began by reading his books more closely and winnowing his massive knowledge base to kid-size bites. We introduce each of the 20 issues in the book with a true story. For instance, we begin the chapter on habeas corpus—the right that the Constitution gives Americans to be released from prison if the government cannot show a cause—with a story about a pandemic. See Resources for Teachers.

Robyn: How does a topic on the Constitution relate to middle grade kids?

Cynthia: Although it might seem that the Constitution has nothing to do with middle-graders, that’s not such a tough question. Our government—especially, the way it fails to operate these days, thanks to our Constitution—affects kids’ lives from what they eat for lunch (that’s Chapter Two, called “Big States, Little Say: The Senate”) to whether they have to be vaccinated (Chapter 19) to whether they can vote (Chapter 8). Fault Lines makes abundantly clear the relationship between the Constitution and everyone’s everyday lives.

Robyn: Well, your book has certainly given us a lot to think about. Thank you very much for introducing us to your middle grade, graphic novel fault line in the constitution. Readers will be happy to know there is a plethora of resources available, everything from a teacher’s guide, to lesson plans, to a blog.

Resources are plenty and interesting! The Blog delves into topics such as:

Your Turn! How Would You Write a New Constitution?

What IS “General Welfare?”

What’s a Vice President To Do?

The King is Dead

Resources:

Discussion guides and Activities  (Peachtree teacher guide)

Standards based lessons

Blog

Games

Interviews

Presentations

Websites

Bibliographies