Friday, February 15, 2008
GREAT school visit: Verballoons and Wrist Bands!
Tuesday morning I had a great time visiting the 5th graders of John B. Cary Elementary School, in Hampton, Virginia. What wonderful group of students! They were all so bright and enthusiastic. Same for faculty and staff. They made me feel very welcome. Mel Black, the librarian who had hired me, asked me to concentrate on writing skills, so I came up with a phrase, "Writers Choose Their Words," to show that writers are very careful about what words they choose -- after the 1st draft, of course!
We did a fun activity about verbs where I borrowed a passage from Dawdle Duckling that Toni Buzzeo had sent me. They know Toni and love her; after she visited there last year, she recommended me.
I printed the passage on an overhead transparency, replacing Toni's verbs with more bland ones. Then, for each word, (there were about 6 or 8 of them) I put 4 or 5 alternate verbs into a balloon which I allowed the kids to stomp, releasing the words. They'd read the newly-spilled verbs, and the crowd would pick its favorite. I tried to include at least one silly one in each batch, ("put on deoderant" instead of Toni's much more succinct "preen.") The kids were actually pretty good at picking the same word Toni had. I called the activity "Verballoons."
Even I got something out of that verballoons activity. It really shows how picking the right verb conveys lots of information very quickly. One sentence in Toni's text began:
"Past the marsh with the cattails waving,"
I replaced "waving" with boring old "growing," then, from the balloon they burst, I gave them a selection of:
waving, blowing, nodding, meowing, or whipping.
They chose "whipping," which wasn't too bad, since they couldn't tell from this beginning sentence what the setting would be. Then we talked about how "whipping" is not only a more active and visual verb, it also gives us more information about the setting, that it must be windy in our story. Same with Mama Duck, whom they chose to be "thrashing." So now we had a verb which was not only ulta-visual, but also gave us some idea of Mama Duck's state of mind. It was really a very interesting activity.
[[[UPDATE about this activity, 2010: I've since created a PowerPoint version of this activity which seems to work just as well and is a little easier to transport. All those balloons take a lot of prep ... and a lot of space in my car!]]]
I only wish I'd had time to share the two passages sent to me by Marianne Mitchell (Finding Zola) , and Fred Bortz, ("Dr. Fred," Collision Course!). I have a similar gig in a couple of weeks, so I'll try to streamline the visit to fit in those extra passages, even if we only talk about them, without the balloons.
Of course, I shared my Evil Inner Editor photos, which they laughed at, as well as reading Jack of All Tails on transparencies from David Clark's first set of sketches, before the book was published.
As a closing activity, I had them create wrist bands (I'd cut strips of wallpaper old sample books) onto which they affixed stickers which they had labeled with the letters WCTW ("Writers Choose Their Words.") They wrote out the whole phrase on the inside of the band. Mel told me the kids were really pleased with these and wore them the rest of the day.
I was kicking myself that I hadn't brought a camera to get a photo of the wrist bands for my blog. There would have been issues with showing the kids' faces, but a nice shot of all those pretty little brown wrists wearing the bracelets would have been nice.
Mel told me she's putting together a presentation right now and wants to use a similar shot, so she's going to recreate the activity and send me the photo. She's really cool. We totally hit it off and have a lot in common. (She was even a typesetter in a "previous life," incredibly enough! I didn't know there were any more of us still alive. LOL!) Here's her blog about the visit: http://melsplace.blog.com/