Posts Tagged Common Core & NGSS

Middle Grade Voice: Speaking the Joyous/Painful/Ironic/Perfect Truth

Happy almost-summer to everyone! I love writing May posts for From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors because it calls to mind the excitement and fulfillment of the end of the school year. For teachers, parents, students, public or school librarians, and MG writers alike, the advent of summer is a time heady with the potential adventure, change, and insights of the coming months. New, thrilling stories are practically a guarantee. Whether you read them, write them, offer them to readers, or watch them inspire your own kids on breezy summer days, middle grade works can add a lot to  your summer season.

We often discuss on this site how various elements of a story impact readers in different ways. For example, a historical setting teaches readers about an era or event. Sci-fi and fantasy genre scenarios engage the imagination in a rigorous workout. A coming-of-age theme offers a hook almost all readers can relate to. Another important, impactful fiction factor is voice.

Voice is an element of fiction that can impact readers in several ways. So much more than point of view or perspective, a character’s voice ticks many boxes: It indirectly characterizes. It engages readers and controls the mood and pace. And it delivers thematic messages about life in ways that connect to our experiences and emotions—in other words, the truth.

Strong voice is particularly effective in MG fiction. There’s this interesting paradox that occurs with MG characters in “voicey” works: Though their world view may be limited by young age and lack of independence and experience, MG characters are often highly effective at revealing the truth. They might comment as an afterthought or make a passing observance… and ironically, that offhand remark is both significant and revelatory. Or, they share a just-learned lesson in their coming-of-age, but as it is communicated by their voice, additional ideas and truths are conveyed.

Summer, with its reduced emphasis on structured lessons, is the perfect time to think about this somewhat nebulous story trait. Gathered below are some examples of voice in MG fiction, a few writing projects for students experimenting with voice in their own writing, and (for writers of MG) a brief list of tips for “turning up” your story’s voice.

Middle Grade Voice Examples

Strong voice can seem like a you-know-it-when-you-read-it element. For practice in recognizing voice, study some examples before assigning yourself a search-and-find mission in some favorite and some brand-new titles. Here are a few handy examples of MG voice:

  • Jessica Vitalis’s self-assured protagonist Fud in Coyote Queen:

“That doesn’t mean I sat around crying about how things were, because I didn’t. And I certainly didn’t think twice about magic. I was too practical for that.”

  • Jennifer L. Holm’s witty main character Beans in Full of Beans:

“When someone says they’re gonna help you, they’re just waiting to stick their hand in your pocket and take your last penny. I should know. I got relatives.”

  • Any characters from Christopher Paul Curtis. Here’s Elijah speaking certain truth in Elijah of Buxton

“But classroom learning just don’t work the same as when something happens to you personal.”

Voice Activities in the Classroom

As the school year winds down, consider having your MG students experiment with the concept of voice in their own writing. You might begin by having readers search for examples in novels they read throughout the year. Introduce the idea of voice with some focusing questions: What line or lines have vocabulary, word choice, and phrasing that tell you right away what kind of a person this character is? What line would be spoken only by this protagonist? Where is a question or an exclamatory remark that highlights the voice?

With some examples at their side, students can then try their hand at voice by writing a real-time scene from the viewpoint of a selected, existing protagonist.  Writers already may be savvy with writing from a character’s perspective; try to direct their focus on the voice of the character through word choice, vocabulary, cadence, pace, and sentence length. For a scenario that also boosts excitement for the end of the school year, students might place their protagonist in a “summer vacation” scenario.

How Writers of MG Achieve Voice

These are some common strategies for practicing and assessing voice in your MG writing.

  • While middle grade characters certainly keep secrets and remain private about some things, they typically are more open with emotion than teen characters.
  • Defy stereotypes. Offer your characters traits that conflict with common assumptions.
  • Focus on the foundational blocks of a good story: themes, plot, detail, description, characterization. Voice is the conveyance system that communicates the story to the reader in the most effective, most “hearable” way.
  • Don’t allow the writer’s goals for sharing pithy truths to become the character’s goals. The character’s goal is to pursue their objective and resolve their conflict.
  • Stick with on-level vocabulary choices.
  • Who are your beta readers? Have a few middle graders in the mix to comment on MG characters’ believability.

Thanks for reading, and have a story-filled summer!

STEM Tuesday — Renewable Energy — In the Classroom

 

How will renewable energy be part of our future? These books explore different sources of renewable energy and how they are being used today and in the future. The possibilities are endless for energy-filled classroom discussions and activities!

Energy Lab for Kids: 40 Exciting Experiments to Explore, Create, Harness, and Unleash Energy by Emily Hawbaker, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Energy lab for kids: 40 exciting experiments to explore, create, harness, and unleash energy

by Emily Hawbacker

Do you want to know about the different types of energy and how they help us in our everyday lives? Potential, kinetic, chemical, radiant and thermal energy: they affect us daily. This book provides activities that explore the different components of energy: from what it is, to how it’s discovered and used, and how we can save it. If you like hands-on fun, this is the book for you!

 

Classroom Activity

How much energy do you use? Ask students to track their energy use for 24 hours. Have them write down the activity, type of energy used, time spent using energy, and where they used it. Using this information, have students answer the following questions:

  1. How many minutes of energy did you use in total?
  2. What activities used the most energy?
  3. What surprises you about your energy use?
  4. Why is it important to understand your energy use?

Have students brainstorm three ways they can conserve energy in their daily life. What changes will they have to make? How easy will it be to implement these changes?

 

See related product detailThe Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition

written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Anna Hymas

An exciting memoir of a boy living in a drought-stricken village in Malawi, who builds a windmill from scrap, with the help of science books at the school library, and brings electricity to his home to pump water for crops.

 

Classroom Activity

After reading about William Kamkwamba’s windmill, students can harness their creativity to design and built wind-powered cars. A basic wind car design has a base, wheels, and a sail. Have students sketch a design for their wind car. Next, students can brainstorm easy-to-find materials they can use to build their cars. What will they use to build the base? The wheels? The sail? Have students gather the materials and attempt to build their design. What adjustments, if any, do they need to make to the initial design? Once the cars are built, test how well they capture wind power. Which designs perform the best? Why?

 

Green Energy

by Jasmine Ting

Have you ever considered the energy we use to power our lives? Our houses, our tablets, our handheld games and phones all require it. That won’t stop anytime soon. What scientists want to do is find sustainable energy that will lead us to a green future. This book explains what green energy is, the types of green energy available to us, and how each is put to work for us through technological innovations.

 

 

Classroom Activity

What types of renewable energy are being used in your community? Have students form small groups to research renewable energy use. How could renewable energy sources replace fossil fuels in the community? What types of renewable energy would be the easiest to implement? What types would be the most difficult? How and where would the renewable energy be used? Have each group prepare a presentation that highlights their renewable energy recommendations for the community.

 

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Carla Mooney loves to explore the world around us and discover the details about how it works. An award-winning author of numerous nonfiction science books for kids and teens, she hopes to spark a healthy curiosity and love of science in today’s young people. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and dog. Find her at http://www.carlamooney.com, on Facebook @carlamooneyauthor, or on Twitter @carlawrites.

 

STEM Tuesday — Renewable Energy — Book List

 

 

Renewable energy is the future of our planet. The titles below help readers to make sense of it. From easy-to-read text, to fabulous photos and fun hands-on experiments, curious scientists will gain an understanding of the different forms of energy and what exciting innovations are headed our way to make sure we are powered up for years to come, and still keep our planet green and healthy.

 

Coming Soon - Nomad Press

 

Renewable Energy: Power the World with Sustainable Fuel with Hands-On Science Activities for Kids

written by Erin Twamley and Josh Sneideman, illustrated by Micah Rauch

With prompts, projects and questions, this book tells us how switching from nonrenewable energy sources to renewable ones, like solar, wind, biofuel, hydro and geothermal energy can make our lives and that of our planet’s, better and healthier.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover: Renewable Energy in Infographics

 

 

Renewable Energy in Infographics

by Alexander Lowe

For students who learn better visually, this book is a great intro to renewable energy, with images and graphics and comparative information about renewables. Includes hands-on experiments too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Change and Energy Technology 

by Rebecca E. Hirsch

Climate change is partly because of the way we use energy. This book tells us how scientists and engineers are testing new sources of energy, and explores whether these can help us fight climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

Green Energy

by Jasmine Ting

Have you ever considered the energy we use to power our lives? Our houses, our tablets, our handheld games and phones all require it. That won’t stop anytime soon. What scientists want to do is find sustainable energy that will lead us to a green future. This book explains what green energy is, the types of green energy available to us, and how each is put to work for us through technological innovations.

 

 

 

 

978-0-531-24443-2

 

The Alternative Energy Book Set

Solar Power by Laurie Brearley

Water Power by Laurie Brearley

Geothermal Power by Laurie Brearley

Wind Power by Matthew Ziem

Four books that provide a great introduction to four types of renewable energy solutions.

 

 

 

Birds vs. Blades?: Offshore Wind Power and the Race to Protect Seabirds

 

 

Birds vs. blades?: offshore wind power and the race to protect seabirds

by Rebecca E. Hirsch

This book reminds us that trying new kinds of energy comes with problems we may have not thought of. A good introduction to one of those problems involving seabirds and windpower.

 

 

 

Energy Lab for Kids: 40 Exciting Experiments to Explore, Create, Harness, and Unleash Energy by Emily Hawbaker, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

 

Energy lab for kids: 40 exciting experiments to explore, create, harness, and unleash energy

by Emily Hawbacker

Do you want to know about the different types of energy and how they help us in our everyday lives? Potential, kinetic, chemical, radiant and thermal energy: they affect us daily. This book provides activities that explore the different components of energy: from what it is, to how it’s discovered and used, and how we can save it. If you like hands-on fun, this is the book for you!

 

 

 

Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power (Next Generation Energy)

 

 

Energy from Water: Hydroelectric, Tidal, and Wave Power

by Nancy Dickmann

For centuries, water has been used to create energy. It’s called ‘hydroelectricity’ and it’s considered clean energy. Scientists today are finding new ways of using it to help us build a sustainable future. From rushing rivers, to ocean waves, water is being used to create electricity in new and exciting ways. This book makes sense of all the ways water works for us.

 

 

 

Biofuels by Kate Conley

Biofuels

by Kate A Conley

Did you know plants such as corn and sugarcane are powering cars? These are considered biofuels, and they’re beginning to replace gasoline. Take a closer look at the biofuel industry and how it’s making inroads. Lots of resources are included in this engaging, easy-to-read book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See related product detail

 

 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Young Reader’s Edition

written by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Anna Hymas

An exciting memoir of a boy living in a drought-stricken village in Malawi, who builds a windmill from scrap, with the help of science books at the school library, and brings electricity to his home to pump water for crops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planet Earth: The Evolution Of You And Me - Readings

 

 

From Sunshine to Light Bulb

by Michael Bright

From switching on the light, to turning on the TV, electricity flows to activate each, but how? This book follows the journey of electricity from start to finish, taking a look at how sources of energy are examined to how grids help make it available across the land and sea. In addition, it takes a peek at several real-world examples, allowing for discussion of nonrenewable resources versus green energy.

 

 

 

 

Shruthi Rao is an author. Her home on the web is https://shruthi-rao.com

 

 

 

Susan Summers is a wildlife enthusiast and an author. Contact her at: https://susan-inez-summers.weebly.com/