Jessica Lander celebrates students' strengths, talks about using text structure to synthesize research, and self care.
As educators, we know students need to find mirrors in books. But, let's face it. Many students, especially immigrant students, never find those mirrors. As a result, they don't read. Jessica Lander has a simple solution for that all-too-common classroom challenge.
All of her students write their migration stories, which Jessica edits and publishes as books. Check out her We Are America site, if this is a project you'd like to implement in your high school. Publishing her students' work is one of many ways Jessica celebrates her students' strengths.
Need to get unstuck? Take a walk. That's what Jessica did and as she was walking, she figured out the text structure for her amazing book, Making Americans. She had done a ton of historical research, visited multiple schools, and did hundreds of hours of interviews, which she had cobbled together in a way that muddled her message and confused her first readers. But as she walked, the structure of the book: the past, the present, and the personal emerged. The rest is history.
Finally, Jessica talks about self care. Whether it's taking a walk, visiting with friends, or even something simple like treating herself to a cup of tea while she writes. Whatever self care looks like for each person, it's something we all need more of in our lives.
For a list of over 200 carefully curated social justice titles for high school classroom collections, please contact Jessica.
In the meantime, if you're looking for two titles that will most likely have mirrors for your immigrant, high school students, check out We Are America and We Are America Too, written by Jessica's students.
If you would like to be entered to win a copy of Making Americans, please leave a comment below.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's logo and banner.
Nicole D. Collier talks about facing fears, asking tough questions about whether or not we’re betraying ourselves and gives listeners tips to create courage.
It took decades for Nicole to face her fear and begin writing. But she did even though she didn't know how to begin or what to write. She began just in time to craft her debut Just Right Jillian. Just like Nicole, Jillian has to overcome her fear of being seen in order to pursue her dream of participating in her school's Mind Bender challenge.
In her second novel, The Many Fortunes of Maya, Nicole asks readers to consider a tough question. When we have a choice, how do we stay true to ourselves and choose what we want instead of choosing what someone else wants because we want to please others?
Nicole recommends listeners take the following actions to create the courage they need to chase after their dreams:
1) Read affirmations.
2) Listen to courageous music.
3) Wear courageous clothes.
Nicole recommends the following middle grade novels:
Hannah Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation by Sylvia Liu
Kids are connected to the internet through their brains. Say no more! I have to grab a copy of this book, curl up on the couch, and crack it open.
Dan Unmasked by Chris Negron
This book speaks to boys' social emotional health.
Not an Easy Win by Chrystal D. Giles
Giles tackles tough topics in this novel that features a multigenerational household and an incarcerated parent. I haven't read this story, but I love her other book, Take Back the Block.
The Tryout by Christina D. Soontornvat
Double Newbery Honor winning author, Christina Soontornvat's, graphic memoir about growing up in Texas. I own a copy of this book, but I've never read it. The title keeps getting passed from student-to-student. Looks like it will be a summer read.
If you would like to win a copy of one of Nicole's delightful novels, leave a comment below. Or share this episode on social media, and be sure to tag Nicole and me.
Remember to sign up for our next Chalk + Ink Chat featuring Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders on March 29th from 8-9 PM EST. We'll be talking about biographies, collaboration, book bans and more.
Many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. Congrats to Sarah on her latest book sale. I’ll echo another critique group member and say I can’t wait to see Lolly on the ice and on bookshelves.
Kyle Lukoff talks about puzzling out books, gives tips to librarians to protect their patrons’ right to choose their own books and compares picture books to formalist poems.
It turns out that Kyle thinks writing a novel is a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and so do I. He talks about how his third novel he wasn't sure how three different story elements were going to hang together, but in the end they all fit perfectly with one another, which felt like magic. His third novel isn't out yet. In the meantime, read his Newbery Honor book Too Bright To See or his latest novel Different Kinds of Fruit.
For eight years, Kyle worked as a school librarian. When I read his ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Award speech, I wanted to delve into protecting patron's rights on the podcast. He took the following actions to protect his students' right to choose their own books:
1) Invited parents and guardians to check out up to four books they could share with their kids at home to validate the adult's right to choose and participate in their child's reading life.
2) When a caregiver complained to Kyle that the book their child chose was too difficult, Kyle asked the adult to read the book at home for 15 minutes with the child. Then, ask if the child enjoyed the book. If the answer was yes, great. If the answer was no, then ask the child if they would like to return the book and pick a different title. That way the child had agency instead of the adult choosing for them.
3) Kyle told teachers that if caregivers had a problem with something in the library, that the caregiver had to reach out to him directly.
For the first time ever on the podcast, we talked about how "picture books are more aligned with formalist poetry than any other kind of writing." Kyle gives a lesson on picture book structure using Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and he also talks about the structure in Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper and Big Mean Mike by Michelle Knudsen. I talked about Kyle's book Explosion at the Poem Factory, which in addition to being a super-fun story is also a poetry primer.
Kyle recommends that elementary libraries have the following books on hand:
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
Sounds like Kyle loves this book as much as I do. He wrote a forthcoming picture book called Just What to Do, which is a response to Cori's book about how often what we need when we're upset is not to do anything, but to have someone who will listen to us talk it through.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell
Traci was in my debut group, and I love her work. In addition to We Are Grateful which talks about gratitude year round, Kyle said he loves At the Mountain's Base. As a fourth grade teacher, I highly recommend We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know because it dispels the myth that Native Americans no longer exist and highlights the power of education.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
It's impossible not to feel joy when reading this book.
Finally, Kyle recommends any book written or illustrated by Yuyi Morales to brighten up any library space.
If you would like to win one of Kyle's amazing books, leave a comment below.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's podcast art.
In this episode, Ralph Fletcher talks about how writing is a process for self-discovery, how the writer’s notebook is a place to honor students’ voices, and we also talk about treasure maps. Wait a minute, treasure maps? Yep, treasure maps.
What an honor to talk to Ralph Fletcher, a lifelong champion of writing! In his memoir, Marshfield Dreams, Ralph writes about his father's last kiss. No, not because his father died, but because when he was around seven or eight his dad decided Ralph was too old for kisses. Not a glowing parenting moment for sure, but Ralph assures listeners that his dad redeems himself later on in the book.
Funny enough, the same week I interviewed Ralph, I was revising my middle grade novel, and I realized that the whole story is about needing to ask for help. So, Ralph and I marvel about how one of the magical aspects of writing is that it's often not clear why the author needs to write certain words on a page until the project is well under way. But when the words appear, we will have uncovered a truth about ourselves that we didn't know we were searching for.
We also talk about using writer's notebooks in the classroom to honor student voice and choice. A newly revised version of Ralph's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You published in January and it offers a plethora of varying ways to use a writer's notebook, including collecting photos and ticket stubs.
If you're looking for even more ways to incorporate student voice and choice into writing, be sure to check out Ralph's inspiring book, Joy Write. After I read it two years ago, I incorporated joy writing into our classroom job chart. My students love it when they get to take one of our two classroom notebooks home and write whatever they want in its pages. I love reading about what brings them joy.
As writers, we all know one of the hardest parts of the process can be getting started. That's the case for our students, too, which is why Ralph suggests having students draw a map of their neighborhood. Then, ask students to mark their favorite spots, dangerous spots, and their secret spots. When they're done, they'll have a story treasure map they can mine any time.
Ralph recommends that elementary teachers have the following books:
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Ralph loves how Cynthia takes ordinary experiences and writes about them in beautiful ways. He also recommends Night in the Country, which Rylant also wrote. I, too, love The Relatives Came and I'm also a big fan of her book, The Great Gracie Chase.
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka
Jon gets at the absurdity of life. Plus, Jon is one of six brothers, like Ralph.
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield
Poetry is important because kids need to see that language is concise and can pack a wallop.
If you'd like to be entered to win one of Ralph's fabulous books, leave a comment below or share this episode on social media and be sure to tag Ralph and me.
Finally, as always, special thanks to Sarah Brannen for creating our Chalk + Ink art.
Chalk + Ink: Episode 52; Writing for a Wide Awake Life With Stacey Shubitz and Melanie Meehan
This week Melanie Meehan and Stacey Shubitz from the Two Writing Teachers Podcast talk about how writing helps us live wide awake lives, discuss why the best teachers of writing, write, and how as authors it’s our responsibility to ask for what we need from a critique.
Want to have more joy in your life? Then be sure to participate in the Two Writing Teacher's Slice of Life Challenge. To sum up the challenge, participants write daily blog posts about their lives and comment on other people's posts. Melanie and Stacey explain how knowing that they need to write every day makes them lead wide awake lives and actively seek out daily activities that will bring them joy. Their podcast episode about this incredible activity intrigued me so much that I just had to discuss Slice of Life so that Chalk + Ink listeners wouldn't miss out on this delightful opportunity.
Stacey and Melanie also chat about how if we want our students to grow as writers, that we need to write alongside our students. They each share various moments from their writing timelines and talk about how they incorporate those growth moments into their teaching. They're so inspiring that you'll want to know more. So be sure to check out their books, Welcome to Writing Workshop and The Responsive Writing Teacher. You'll be happy you opened your wallet and spent the time gathering numerous strategies to take back to your classroom.
As writers, we're responsible for our own growth. If we want helpful feedback, we need to state what kind of feedback we want from a critique. We talk about how to get specific feedback as professional writers and how to teach our students to use anchor charts, with specific questions, to help them get the feedback from peers and teachers so that they, too, can grow as writers.
Melanie recommends that upper elementary classrooms all have Jacqueline Woodson's Each Kindness. We talk about how this book is so important because it has an honest ending, that doesn't sugarcoat life.
Stacey recommends teachers fortify their professional collections with Melanie's, The Responsive Writing Teacher, as well as her book, Every Child Can Write, and the following titles:
A Teacher's Guide to Writing Conferences by Carl Anderson
When a teacher confers with a student on their work, so many windows of opportunity open. I can't wait to delve into this book.
A Teacher's Guide to Mentor Texts, K-5 by Carl Anderson
Obviously Stacey is a huge fan of Carl Anderson! While Stacey's book, Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts, examines a myriad of ways twenty specific picture books can be used to teach students writing craft moves, Stacey says Carl's book is a broader overview about the power of using picture books as mentor texts.
Both Stacey and Melanie fangirled about Katherine Bomer's book, The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. This book shows how if as educators we want students to live wide awake lives we have to teach them to breakout of the five-paragraph essay format. Delight emanated through Stacey and Melanie as they talked about this book. Full disclosure here, I am a proponent of the five-paragraph essay as a basic writing building block. So, I'll definitely be reading this book with a growth mindset lens.
Stacey ended her book recommendations by circling back to the topic of joy. To attract more happiness and peace, Stacey recommends Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee.
If you want to be entered for a chance to win one of Stacey or Melanie's amazing books, please leave a comment below.
Join us for our first ever Chalk + Ink Chat on the last Wednesday of every month, from September through May, from 8-9 PM EST. Our February 2023 featured guest is none other than the fabulous Melissa Stewart.
Special thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art.
NCTE published its Position Statement on the Role of Nonfiction Literature (K-12) and it's a must-read for all educators. One of my favorite quotes from the statement is, "Informed citizens of pluralistic societies appreciate multiple perspectives and worldviews and acknowledge the dangers of any single story."
One of the stories we've been sold over and over again is that undocumented immigrants are lazy and uneducated, and that is false. But don't take my word for it. I am not and was never an undocumented immigrant.
But Emily Francis was. In her stunning epistolary memoir, If You Only Knew: Letters From an Immigrant Teacher, Emily Francis describes her immigration journey, how she perseveres, despite countless obstacles, to become a teacher, and how sharing her story with her students empowers them to share their voices and stories in her classroom.
On this episode, Emily talks about the necessity of transparency and honoring students' stories and their wishes.
Emily cuts to the chase about the importance of transparency in the classroom. Speaking about her students she states, "I want them to see me for who I am, with all transparency." She continues on to say, "That vulnerability in the book... was necessary because it helped me heal... and it helps empower students to say, 'Hey, if Ms. Francis is sharing this part of her life, I think I can share mine, too.' "
So how does Emily provide the opportunity for students to share their stories? She uses Reimagining Migration's Moving Stories Unit which teachers can use in their classroom so that all students share their family's moving story about how they or their ancestors came or were forced to come to the United States, or how their ancestors were forced to move as a result of European colonization.
Not only does the unit provide teachers with a scaffold to help students share their stories, the unit also honors students wishes by providing them with statements they can incorporate into their individual writing contracts. Contracts reassure students that they will have the power to choose which parts of their stories they share, and which parts of their stories they will write for themselves.
She uses the following books when launching Moving Stories:
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Part of Emily's transparency in the classroom and as a keynote speaker is sharing her reading life. Click here to find more titles she recommends. It delighted me to see that her featured photo for her My Reading Life page included René Has Two Last Names by former podcast guest, René Colato Laínez.
If you'd like to be entered to win a signed copy of Emily's book, If You Only Knew, leave a comment below.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art and call attention to the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal. Last year at ALA, Summertime Sleepers, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah Brannen, won the Sibert Honor. As I write this post, the ALA awards are only ten days away and I can’t wait to see which book wins the Sibert Medal this year.
When unforgettable moments happen, they need to be celebrated. Thanks to Andy J. Pizza, Chalk + Ink exists. So, it's only fitting that for the fiftieth episode Chalk + Ink celebrates Andy and what he gives to the creative world week in and week out.
We talk about the definition of creativity, what it means when art works, and tips for creating a successful podcast.
Unlike most people who define creativity as something new, for Andy creativity is about sustaining humanity. We need stories to be fresh, updated, and relevant, to keep us captivated, but as creators we don't need to reinvent the wheel. For more on storytelling, check out Brian McDonald's Invisible Ink or listen to his podcast You Are a Storyteller.
Andy then moves on to explaining that art only works if it moves people from one emotional state to another. He dives deep into this topic on his 391st podcast episode-"How to Move People with Your Creative Work on a Deeper Level." Definitely worth a listen, as are all of his Creative Pep Talk episodes.
In order to create a successful podcast, Andy recommends creators do the following three actions:
1) Podcast Consistently for a Long Time
Andy's podcast, Creative Pep Talk, picked up steam in its third year.
2) Niche Down
Focus on a small group of people. Make the content for those people outstanding so that they convert people who aren't like them into listeners.
3) Speak on Other People's Podcasts
All the spoils of creativity "are in locking arms with your peers."
So how does Andy get everything done? He relies on his creative team, which includes his wife, Sophie Miller, and his agent, Ryan Appleton, and he makes the most out of his energy clock. For more on making the most out of one's own energy clock, read Molly Fletcher's The Energy Clock or listen to her talk about her book here.
If you aren't familiar with Andy's engaging children's books, be sure to check out Dream Machine and A Pizza with Everything on It.
Before our next episode, be sure to read Emily Francis’s If You Only Knew: Letters From an Immigrant Teacher. It’s an epistolary memoir that shines a light on all that we have to be grateful for and on the power of educators to encourage or discourage their students. Don't have time to read it? Check out this video.
One of my intentions for 2023 is to become more vulnerable, and as Andy said, fold more of myself into my art. So, I’ve been thinking about how I could do that on Chalk + Ink. That’s why in addition to assigning the homework for listeners at the end of each episode, I’m going to share with you the homework I’m giving myself. Then at the beginning of each episode, I’ll let you know the progress I made or didn’t make on my own assignment.
I've already ordered The Energy Clock, and I plan on listening to one new education and/or writing podcast each month of this year. Then, if the podcast seems like a good fit, I'll reach out to the creator to see if they're interested in a swap. Have recommendations for me? Leave them in the comments below.
Finally, I want to give a shout out to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. If you haven’t read Sarah’s book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, check it out. It’s on the ALA 2021 Rainbow List and Bank Street's Best Children's Books 2021.
In this episode, Susan Edwards Richmond talks about the importance of getting outside, cultivating a gratitude mindset, and how it take a community to create a picture book.
Pretty quickly listeners will catch on that Susan Edwards Richmond lives to be outside, whether by herself in the early morning birding or with a classroom full of preschoolers. It's nature that's inspired her to write her books Bird Count, Bioblitz, and Science Play.
In addition to getting outside, Susan works hard to cultivate a gratitude mindset in her own life as well as in her classroom. She talks about how using Traci Sorell's We Are Grateful is a wonderful way to begin the discussion of why it's important to be grateful year round, not just in November.
Finally, Susan talks about how although it may sound trite, it takes a community to create a picture book. Not only does she talk about collaborating with an editorial team, she talks about the importance of listening to professional critiques whether those come from critique group members, editors, agents, or other publishing professionals. If people take the time to critique your manuscript, it's because they see potential in it. So, listen.
As we talked, we discussed the following titles: Braiding Sweetgrass, Miss Rumphius, Finding a Dove for Gramps, Octopuses Have Zero Bones, and Susan's forthcoming Night Owl, Night.
Susan thinks all early elementary classrooms should have these books:
Be a Tree by Maria Gianferrari
Susan loves how this book teaches readers all about trees from the tippy-top to the roots, takes you around the world, and teaches people how to be communal like trees.
Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks by Melissa Stewart
Susan loves the concept and the art, which the illustrator created on actual pieces of wood to incorporate wood's natural grain. Not only does Susan explain that this book is a must-have because it teaches about habitats and animal facts, she gives lists lots of fun classroom activities to accompany this title.
Same, Same but Different by Jenny-Sue Kostecki Shaw
Two pen pals, one from India and one from United States both have commonalities but they write about the unique aspects of their lives like taking a public bus to school versus riding in a school bus. Susan's students really identify with this book. After listening to Susan talk, I ordered it from one of my favorite local bookstores, The Silver Unicorn.
For upper elementary classrooms, Susan recommended Leslie Bulion's Serengetti: Plains of Grass. It's a spectacular book with beautiful, lyrical, primary text and includes informative secondary text with facts about animal habitats and interactions.
If you'd like to win one of Susan's signed picture books or a free picture book critique, leave a comment below.
Want to support the podcast? Leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts, boost this episode on your favorite social media platform or go to buymeacoffee/chalkandink and with a simple click you can spread Chalk + Ink cheer.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. If you haven’t read Sarah’s book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, check it out. It’s on the ALA 2021 Rainbow List and Bank Street's Best Children's Books 2021.
Chalk + Ink: Episode 48; Sticky Notes, Think Boards, and Checklists, Oh My! With Tracey Baptiste
This is such a rich episode it's near impossible to sum it up in a succinct manner. Sure, Tracey talks about organizational tools, and really let's be honest, are there any teachers who write and writers who teach out there who don't want to gush about office supplies? But that's far from all. We dig deep into accessing the subconscious and debunking historical "facts" that dehumanize people.
First, the office supplies. Okay, sticky notes and checklists, those are part of our DNA. But a think board with a QR code that you can snap pictures of so that you can access your brainstorms no matter where you are?! I mean, come on. It doesn't get much better than that.
The subconscious. How does Tracey nurture it? She feeds it regularly by exercising daily whether it's walking and yoga, or a ninety-minute ballet class. That way she never gets stuck. How does Tracey access it? She asks it for help with a specific problem, moves on, and trusts that the answer will come when the time is right.
When Tracey researched her must-have collective biography, African Icons she uncovered many fascinating facts. But they weren't all fun. In fact, one was infuriating. We've been sold this idea that before slavery, African society didn't exist, that the continent consisted of a bunch of savage hunter and gatherers. And that somehow because of this lack of society, one could understand why Europeans invaded and enslaved Africans. But the truth is Europe and Africa had a long shared history, where Europeans and people from other parts of the world, travelled to Africa to study in their world-famous libraries.
On the note of debunking historical myths, Tracey recommends Kate Messner's History Smashers series. I couldn't agree more. These titles fly off my shelves and spend the school year travelling from one students' hands to the next.
Tracey also recommends Renée Watson's Ryan Hart series because her books feel like a hug. These are great books for beginning readers with a caring, loving tone.
My favorite Watson title is Some Places More Than Others because it talks about pregnancy loss and showcases how miscarriages affect the whole family.
When Tracey delves into YA titles, she focuses on Afrofuturism and horror. She enjoys books by Tracey Deonn, Lamar Giles, and Tiffany Jackson. For YA historical fiction, Tracey suggests people read Meg Medina's Burn, Baby, Burn.
Before closing out 2022, I want to shout out Heather Kinser for supporting Chalk + Ink on Buy Me a Coffee. Heather wrote, "I just want to show my appreciation. I'm a picture book writer who discovered the podcast earlier this month, and I'm really enjoying the in-depth conversations." Thanks for making my week, Heather!
Remember, if you want to be entered to win one of Tracey's gripping books, leave a comment below.
And as always, special thanks to Sarah Brannen, for Chalk + Ink's art.
Happy listening, everyone!
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