Let’s Talk Writing Process with Cassie & Kate Beasley

Our fourth grade is immersed in the writing process using Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop. They are looking at mentor texts. They are studying author’s craft and developing their own style of taking a story from an idea to a published piece of writing. During this exploration, the fourth grade team reached out to ask if there was any possibility of connecting with an author to talk about the narrative writing process.  I immediately thought of the dynamic sister duo from south Georgia, Kate and Cassie Beasley. Both of these talented authors have visited our school in the past for their books, so I reached out to them to consider the possibility of connecting for an informal chat about writing.

Our @fourthgradebarrow learned so many tips about writing from Cassie and Kate Beasley. #author #skype #writing

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They enthusiastically said yes, and the whole fourth grade came to the library with writing journals and index card questions in hand.

Cassie Beasley is the author of Circus Mirandus and the recently released Tumble and Blue.  Kate Beasley is the author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and the upcoming Lions & Liars.  During our connection, they started out with an informal conversation about writing. They each took turns asking questions about writing process from the beginning to the end.  I loved how it was like a mini-interview conversation between the two of them and how we discovered that they both have different ways that they accomplish the same task of writing a story.

We learned many writing tips from the Beasley sisters including outlining. #author #skype

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Cassie shared that she often starts with an idea for a story and Kate often starts with a character and tries to put that character into a setting and a problem.  Both sisters shared that they do a good bit of outlining when they are getting ready to write.  One of the most surprising things to all of us was the amount of writing that they do that never makes it into a novel.  Circus Mirandus, Tumble and Blue, and Gertie’s Leap to Greatness all went through multiple rewrites. Kate even shared that she thinks that about 75% of what she writes doesn’t get used.  After our connection, we spent a bit more time talking about this and came to the conclusion that even though that writing doesn’t make it into the novel it wasn’t wasted work. The 75% was what was needed in order to discover the best story that was hiding underneath everything else.

 

I’ve heard several authors talk about how much they rewrite, and it’s important for students to hear that too because it’s really hard to start over.  I casually asked Kate and Cassie how they feel when they have to start again. I asked if they scream or throw things.  I mostly asked because that’s a bit how I feel when I have to start over.  I think it’s important that students know that it’s not always the best feeling to start over even when you know it’s the right thing to do.  Kate and Cassie both talked about the frustration. They shared how it’s a moment of panic. Cassie relies on Kate to talk her through the frustration so she can start again. Some deep breaths are involved and maybe some chocolate too.

Students had a chance to line up and ask their own questions to support their writing. One of the questions was about “where”.  Where do you write?  Kate has a very specific place where she writes.  It’s a house that doesn’t have phone or internet so that she can stay away from distractions.  Cassie also writes in that place but she does writing just about everywhere: a coffee shop, the pool, outside.  It was an important reminder to us all that sometimes it’s tricky in the crowded classroom to find writing spaces that feel supportive. I hope we can think more about how to give students a space where they feel productive in their writing process.

Another student asked about how many books they hope to write, and it was so great to hear that they have many more ideas for stories that are waiting to be told or are in the process of being drafted. Even though writing takes time and has frustrating moments, it still comes down to that magic of escaping into someone else’s life or some other magical place on the page.  It was so refreshing at the end of our skype to hear students who were excited to go back to class and write after hearing from published authors.

Thank you Cassie & Kate Beasley for taking time out of your writing lives to share your wisdom with us.  We can’t wait to celebrate all your future stories.

To purchase their books, visit here:  Circus Mirandus, Tumble & Blue, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.

To learn more about Kate’s upcoming novel, click here.

Little Red & Rapunzel: A Skype with Bethan Woollvin

I’ve written about the magic of Bethan Woollvin’s Little Red a few times on the blog. It’s one of those books that captures an audience when it’s read aloud. The repeating lines, the bold color, the large scary wolf, the shocking images….all work together to speak to so many readers.

Our 2nd grade has been studying Bethan Woollvin’s work by reading Little Red, viewing some of Bethan’s art, and exploring some of the resources on All the Wonders. Students loved acting out scenes from the book using the story shapes from All the Wonders.

Students also loved putting the book over their face or using the cutouts to become the Wolf or Red.

Today, in celebration of her upcoming book Rapunzel, we skyped with Bethan to hear both stories and learn about her art and inspiration.

So fun to hear @bethanwoollvin read Little Red #author #illustrator #skype #childrensbooks @peachtreepublishers

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Rapunzel has some similar magic to Little Red.  There’s some repetition of the “snip, snip” of the scissors, and students love to put their scissor fingers up and snip along with the story.

Such a treat to hear Rapunzel. Coming soon from @bethanwoollvin @peachtreepublishers #author #illustrator #childrensbooks

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The witch and her polka dot underpants steal the show when the book is read aloud, and you just have to pause and give the students a moment to point and laugh.  Without giving anything away, I’ll also say that there are a few images that elicit that same shock from students that they have when reading Little Red.  I loved hearing Bethan read parts of both books that had something gruesome or shocking. Her bubbly personality paired with Grandma getting eaten by the wolf was delightful!

I always love Skyping with an author or illustrator because they usually have original art, notes, or other artifacts that they can reach over and grab.  Bethan showed us a few early versions of illustrations from Little Read so that we could see how much they changed in the final version of the book. I loved the reinforcement that artists revise just like writers revise.

We saw some panel sketches from Rapunzel.  Students immediately made a connection to our current study of panels in graphic novels, and we learned that Bethan thinks a lot in panels when she is working. She also showed us images from Rapunzel that didn’t make it into the book or images that slightly changed after feedback from the publisher.

Near the end of our Skype, students formed a line to step up and ask questions. This is always a special moment because it’s so personal for each student to get to speak directly to an author or illustrator.

When students talk directly to an author/illustrator, magic happens #author #illustrator #childrensbooks

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I loved that Bethan would often answer the questions and then direct it right back to the student to answer too.  For example, a student asked about what her favorite part of writing and illustrating was. After answering, Bethan asked the student what her favorite part of writing and illustrating in class was.  It reinforced that we are all working on our craft no matter what stage we are in. We have connections to one another.

At the close, Bethan talked to us a bit about how her books are published in the UK and US. Some of the words and illustrations change depending on the vocabulary or to help the flow of conversation. Since I had a copy of both books, we were able to take a close look while she shared this with us.

We are so excited to now have both Little Red and Rapunzel living in our library for readers.  Be on the lookout for Rapunzel coming from Peachtree Publishers on October 1!  Many thanks to Peachtree Publishers and Bethan Woollvin for making this Skype possible and to Avid Bookshop for our presales of books.

The Winner of Our Global Book Talk Challenge

For several weeks, people around the world have been contributing to our 30-second book talk Flipgrid.  In March, we narrowed the videos to 16 and have been inviting a global audience to listen to the videos and vote on the brackets each week.

After many, many votes, we have a winner!  Congratulations to Evin for her book talk of It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton.  Adaline’s book talk of I Dissent by Debbie Levy was a very close 2nd place.  Both of these students will receive a special recognition on our morning broadcast as well as gift certificates to our local bookshop, Avid Bookshop.  Please help me in congratulating our winners, but more importantly, continue to share great books with one another!

The 2017 Student Book Budget Books Have Arrived!

Every year a volunteer group of students give their time to spend a budget on books for the library. This budget comes from grants, book fair profits, and rewards points and it is completely in their control. They create a survey, interview students throughout the school, analyze the results, set goals, meet with vendors, create consideration lists, narrow the lists to the final order, unpack the books, and display them for checkout.

This year’s book budget group purchased over 150 new books for our library from Capstone and Avid Bookshop.

When the books arrived, this year’s crew had a big additional step that previous crews didn’t have.

Student book budget unpacking in progress #studentvoice #librariesofinstagram @capstone_pub

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They had to sort the books into genre categories, label the books with their new genres, and scan them into those subcategories in Destiny.

Student book budget group is scanning books into genres. #librariesofinstagram #studentvoice #genre #collectiondevelopment

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Once the books were all ready, the students put them on display all over the tables of the library, and the excitement of check out began.

Because there were so many books, it was hard to put them all out at once. As books got checked out, we refilled the tables with new books.  Within the day that the books were put on display, almost all of them had been checked out.

Student book budget team with their personal picks #studentvoice #collectiondevelopment #librariesofinstagram

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Once again, the amazing Amy Cox at Capstone allowed our committee members to choose 1 book that was their personal choice for the library and these books were donated to us as a thank you.  Students got to put a personalized label on the inside cover to show that they were the selector of the book.

Student voice matters in the library, and every year I value this process of seeing students BE the process of collection development instead of just requesting books to be purchased.  When they take part in every step of the collection development process, they see the thought that goes into each book on our library shelves.

They see that their interests and requests matter because they immediately see those represented in the books on our shelves.  If the library is to be a true community, then I feel like one person can’t decide on all of the books in the collection. I certainly have a major role in collection development, but when my students work alongside me in this process, we all become members of our library rather than just a consumer.

Happy reading!

 

Student Book Budgets: A Walk to Avid Bookshop

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We are so excited to have the second location of Avid Bookshop just a few blocks from our school.  Avid was recently named one of the top 5 finalists for the 2017 bookstore of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.  Since our students have walking field trip forms on file, it was easy for this year’s student book budget group to plan a walking field trip to the new Avid.  This group of students has a library budget that they have complete control over.  Through surveys, they have set purchasing goals to buy new books for the library that kids want to read.

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Ahead of our visit, I sent Hannah DeCamp, school specialist, a list of the major genres the book budget group is looking to purchase books for.  She pulled together some books to show us, found some “Best Books for Young Readers” magazines, and dug out some advance reader copies of books for students to review.

Here comes the book budget team @avidbookshop #studentvoice #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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On the day of our walk, I met with 11 of our book budget team and reminded them about the purchasing goals we had set.  We also reminded ourselves that Avid would be open for business so we needed to stay out of the way of customers as well as keeping the store organized during our browsing.

Book budget students are visiting @avidbookshop today in five points. #avidinschools #avidevents #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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It was a great morning for a walk and it only took us about 15 minutes to arrive.  Hannah greeted us and showed us how the store was organized.  She showcased a few books in each section and then allowed students to browse the store.

Since the store sells books for all kinds of readers, students really had to ask themselves if they were looking at a book that would best fit an elementary library.  Some books were of interest, but they were really more for adults.  As students found books that they liked, they came to me and we wrote the titles down in a notebook.  I originally wanted to type them as we worked, but I didn’t want to lug around a computer.

Book talking with @hrdreads #athensga #avidevents #avidinschools #walkingfieldtrip #studentvoice

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What I noticed right away was that when books were presented in smaller sections like the shelves in Avid, students noticed the books better.  There were several books our students got excited about that we actually have in our library, but they haven’t seen them. It made me start to wonder how to make books more visible to students.

When Hannah let students look through a stack of advance reader copies, they again got excited about many of the books. It reminded me that I need to get more students involved in perusing the ARCs that I get in the mail or pick up at conferences.  I can’t read them all, but students can help read and make decisions.

I kept sending students back to the shelves of Avid and making them take books off the shelves to read a few pages or at least read the back.  I feel like they spent a good amount of time digging through what was in stock.  In all, we spent about an hour browsing.

What a great morning shopping with @hrdreads @avidbookshop #avidevents #avidinschools #walkingfieldtrip #athensga

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Several students brought money with them, so they made some purchases.  We gathered outside the shop for a bit and took time to look through the catalog that Hannah had given us.  Again, we added to our list before walking back to school.

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Avid Bookshop is going to be such a great resource for us being so close to our school.  There were so many life skills and standards that we explored on this trip.  We learned about the publishing industry, independent bookshops, community helpers, budgets, adding money, and taxes.

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Now, I am typing up the books that we loved, and students will make a final decision to send back to Hannah at Avid for a quote.  I know this is just the beginning of how we will utilize having Avid right here in our school community.

It was a great day for a walk to 5 points #studentvoice #librariesofinstagram #athensga #walkingfieldtrip

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A Visit with Kate Beasley

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Thanks to Avid Bookshop and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, we had the great fortune of celebrating the book birthday of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness with the author.  Our 3rd-5th grade all got to come to Kate’s presentation. We did lots of work leading up to the visit to write about great people in our lives as well as read the beginning of the book.

Kate traveled to our school with her wonderful publicist, Mary Van Akin.  When Kate arrived, she took time to look at all of the student writing in the windows.  Mary and Kate both took lots of pictures of the students’ “great people”.  I also had birthday balloons, Twinkies, and Gertie balloons to celebrate the book’s birthday.

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We were sure to take a picture with those to remember the day.

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Signing lots of Gertie's Leap to Greatness. #gertiesleaptogreatness #newbook #authorvisit #avidinschools

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Prior to the students’ arrival, Kate got busy signing all of the books.  Thanks to our PTA, ever classroom received copies of the books to put in class libraries.  Students are always eager to read the book after an author visit, so many teachers will read the book aloud while some will give the book to eager students to read and pass around to other students.  The library will also have 6 copies of the book for checkout and I’m sure that they will stay checked out for a long time.

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We kicked off the author visit by singing “Happy Birthday” to Gertie.  It was a rambunctious version of the song, but I’m sure Gertie would have loved it.  Then, Kate jumped into her presentation.  It’s always a treat to hear from an author because you get a window into their life to see where ideas come from.

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Kate also gave the students a lot of tips on what it means to be a writer and shared the huge stack of rewrites and revisions of Gertie. She also showed students what it looked like when various editors sent feedback to her to make changes.  Students were very surprised to see that she worked on the book for over 3 years before it came to be in our hands.

I loved that Kate read from Gertie and chose a part near the end of the book that students hadn’t read yet.  She read the part where Gertie goes to the office to take a note but the secretary forgets to give Gertie a chocolate for delivering the note.  It puts Gertie in a tricky situation where she has to make a decision about the tempting chocolate in front of her.  It was once of those scenes that leaves readers wondering, so I’m sure many students will be eager to read the book to see what happens in that scene.

At the end of her presentation students had a chance to ask questions and then participate in an activity on specificity.

Kate asked students to look at some parts of a sentence and try to come up with more specific details to make the sentence more descriptive and interesting.

Kate Beasley is now off on a big tour for Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.  We are so honored that we got to be one of her first two stops.  I can’t wait to see how readers at our school and across the country react to this wonderful book.

Thank you Avid Bookshop, MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Kate Beasley for a very special day in our library.

Happy Book Birthday to Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Today is a very special book birthday. Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is now on bookstore shelves. This is Kate’s debut novel and we are so excited to have her coming to our school on the book’s birthday thanks to MacMillan and Avid Bookshop.

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About the Book

How would you feel if your mom lived just a few streets away yet had no interest in seeing you or talking to you? That’s Gertie Reece Foy’s situation. It doesn’t matter, though, because she has a plan, and Gertie never gives up on a plan. Gertie is a firecracker of a girl. She takes matters into her own hands and makes a plan to be the best 5th grader in the entire universe. She thinks that if she gives the best summer speech and become the best 5th grader in the universe, her mom will realize that Gertie is so awesome that she doesn’t need a mother anyway or possibly even come back into her life. Gertie has something standing in her way: a new girl named Mary Sue. Both of them have what it takes to be standout students, but their battle for the top results in even more struggles for Gertie to deal with.   This is a book filled with friendship, school and family challenges, and summer adventures.  You’ll be laughing out loud, cheering Gertie on, and crying along with her too.

Gertie is a character that I just want to hang out with. She is full of wit and adventure and can take just about any situation and make the best out of it. She does all of this even with a gloomy situation hanging over her. I think about my role in education and how a student like Gertie might slide by unnoticed as having a challenge to deal with. She isn’t one to reach out for help because she thinks she has to handle it all herself. How do I recognize those students? What opportunities can I give to students that allows them to shine and be the star that they are?  I love how even the stern Mrs. Stebbins recognized the potential in Gertie and gave her a moment to shine.

I’ve been reading the first two chapters of Gertie to our 3rd-5th graders, and it is pure magic to read aloud. Reading aloud is a sure way to see how a book connects with multiple readers.  It only took a few sentences into the book to have readers hanging on every word, laughing at the opening scenes in Aunt Rae’s kitchen, and begging to go on to the next chapter.  I know this book will become a favorite of many of our students.

 

Going Above and Beyond

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This book made all of my students think about people from their lives that are always giving their all.  Together, we thought about the many “great” people in our lives.  Students in 3rd-5th grade were able to write down their great person on a Gertie’s Leap to Greatness card and we displayed them in our library windows.

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I have so many great people in my life: family who are always there for me, volunteers who give their all to keep our library program running smoothly, and librarians who push me to be a better librarian.

One of those many librarians that I look up to is Nikki Robertson. She is the picture of perseverance, determination, and never giving up.  She is 100% awesome, not from concentrate just like Gertie Reece Foy.  I can’t really comprehensively name all of the things that Nikki does, but here are a few:

  • Co-founder of EdCamp Atlanta
  • Member of the EdSpeakers Group http://www.edspeakers.com/nikkidrobertson.html
  • Champion and producer TL News Night, a monthly internet program highlighting libraries
  • Moderator of #tlchat on Twitter
  • Nominee for numerous awards including Edublogs and Bammy Awards
  • Presenter at national and international conferences including ISTE and AASL

What stands out to me about Nikki is her willingness to go above and beyond for the good of all educators and students, not just herself.  Here’s an example.

Recently, Google Hangouts on Air transitioned to Youtube Live.  Many people in education use this tool and were really worried about how the changes would affect them. Nikki jumped right in to figure out the new tool.  She shared her frustrations, reached out to other people for ideas, and ultimately figured out how to easily use Youtube Live just like Hangouts on Air. She could have kept all of this new knowledge to herself, but instead she made a step by step visual tutorial on how to easily setup Youtube Live, and it saved me from agonizing over it another second.  I immediately used it to teach my BTV crew how to setup the new way of doing our morning broadcasts as well as assisted a fellow friend in a Youtube Live event we were doing for Dot Day.

Nikki also goes above and beyond for her students. Her high school library is buzzing with activity and it’s all about giving the students a voice. Nikki designed custom Snapchat filters for her library and had students and herself immediately having fun in the library and embracing the power of social media.  Her makerspace is a bustling place where she empowers her students to deeply explore specialized topics in making. She engages her students with creative interactive displays such as inviting students to spell out the word “hope” and share what hope means to them.  She does a personal shopper program to put the right books in the right readers’ hands.  All of these things are in addition to the fully packed schedule of classes that she teaches.  The list just goes on and on.  The bottom line is that Nikki Robertson never gives up on any mission she starts for her students, teachers, and network just like Gerite Reece Foy.

Get the Book

Who do you know that goes above and beyond?  I invite you to leave a comment, share on social media, or do your own blog post.  Be sure to get yourself a copy of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness at your local indie bookshop.  You can always order a copy from our local store, Avid Bookshop.

Leap with Gertie

While you’re at it, when you get your copy of Gertie, take a picture of yourself leaping with the book and post it to social media with the tag #leapwithgertie  Take a look at Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping along with students from our school.

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Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping with Gertie. Photo courtesy of Macmillan.