The talented and tenacious Michelle Cusolito talks about the importance of writing with our students, the power of picture book dummies, and how stepping outside of our comfort zone enriches our creativity.
When Michelle took an educational workshop about how to teach poetry to her students, she realized she needed to write alongside her students so that she could share her process with them. This led to ten-minute writing bursts with her students. When they wrote, she wrote. It didn't matter if it was poetry or prose, brainstorming or revision. If they did it, she did it. If you're a teacher who wants to write, Michelle recommends starting by writing ten minutes a day with your students. The synergy that arises will be amazing.
Last season April Jones Prince and Marcie Flinchum Atkins sang the praises of picture book dummies for various reasons. In this episode, Michelle gives us yet another reason to try out a dummy. When Michelle knew the beginning and the end of Diving Deep, but not the middle, she made a dummy. That way she knew exactly how many spreads she had to work with. Read Michelle's post for Nonfiction Fest and watch her video about her dummy here. Click here to access the teacher's guide for Diving Deep.
Michelle talks about how when we step outside of our comfort zone, our creativity increases. When she travels, being in a new place jumpstarts her creativity. Michelle had the amazing opportunity to join the scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on a two-week research trip studying the Atlantic Ocean's twilight zone off the coast of Spain. While she was on the ship, there were four storms, which made Michelle quite anxious.
Once again she was out of her comfort zone, and her creativity flowed. She wrote various blogposts to explain the different types of research occurring on the research vessel. Click here to read "The Great Migration," which explains the daily movement of various sea animals from the twilight zone to the ocean's surface to eat at night and then back down to the ocean's dark depths to hide from predators.
Michelle thinks elementary classrooms should have the following books:
Giant Squid by Candace Fleming not only because of the spectacular text and art but also because of the sense of wonder it can inspire in kids.
Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barbara Rosenstock is a biography about the first people who dove deep into the ocean.
The Scientists in the Field series from Houghton Mifflin featuring books about a wide variety of topics written by authors such as Sy Montgomery, Loree Griffin Burns, and Mary Kay Carson. Some of Michelle's favorite titles in the series are Life on Surtsey by Loree Griffin Burns, and The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery.
In addition to books for kids, Michelle recommends that every elementary teacher have Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep by Melissa Stewart. I agree wholeheartedly!
Not only is Michelle an amazing author and educator, she is also very generous. She's creating a five-minute Let's Write video that educators can use in their classrooms. Become a Chalk + Ink Patreon supporter, and you will have access to Michelle's videos as well as videos by April Jones Prince, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Zetta Elliott, Erin Dealey, René Colato Laínez and Lisa Stringfellow.
Michelle also generously donated a 30-minute “Ask Me Anything,” Zoom call to a lucky podcast listener. There are several ways to enter: 1) Tweet or retweet this episode and be sure to tag Michelle and me, 2) Make a comment below, 3) Make a comment about the episode on our Chalk + Ink Facebook page; and 4) Become a Chalk + Ink Patreon supporter. Patreon supporters are automatically entered into each giveaway. In order to enter the giveaway, these actions must be completed by midnight on Friday, September 16th. The winner will be announced on Friday, September 23rd, on the podcast as well as on Twitter and on our Facebook page.
If Chalk + Ink has improved your teaching and/or writing, I'd love to celebrate with you on our fiftieth episode. Please fill out this form by September 30th. If you'd like to support the podcast, but want to keep it simple-no recording, no subscriptions-click here to buy me a latte. Finally, please consider spread the word and letting your friends and colleagues know about the podcast. Thanks so much for your support!
Welcome back to Chalk and Ink: The Podcast for Teachers Who Write and Writers Who Teach.
This is the first episode of Chalk + Ink’s third season. Woot! Woot! It’s also the end of the summer season and the beginning of fall which for teachers and students is bittersweet. The laid back summer feeling slips away and in slides the frantic fall frenzy.
But the good news is after compiling last season’s top ten tips for a luminous literacy workshop, I can’t wait to dive into the deep end with my readers and writers. After you listen to or read these pointers, you’ll be ready to pack up your beach bag and head back to the classroom, too. Let’s get started.
Yes, you heard me. Summer did not fry my brain. I meant what I said. Plan to play as you head back to the classroom this year. Two teachers, Jyoti Rajan Gopal and René Colato Laínez will tell us how to do it. First up, let’s listen to former kindergarten teacher and debut picture book author, Jyoti Rajan Gopal, talk about the various ways play helps kids explore story.
Imaginative play is tons of fun but listen to how pre-k Spanish bilingual teacher René Colato Laínez attracts students to his writing center. Cardboard castles anyone? Get your boxcutters ready to go!
So thanks to Jyoti and René, you’re looking at teaching writing through the lense of storytelling and you’ve decked out your classroom in a whimsical way. The last thing you want is to squash the wondrous energy with grammar worksheets. That’s why you need Patterns of Wonder and Patterns of Power by Whitney LaRocca and Jeff Anderson.
Honestly, I had a super hard time picking which snippets to isolate because their whole episode is about fostering a creative community. But, I finally whittled it down and focused on the wonder of pictures and the joy of creating together. Give a listen.
Alright, so we’ve had discussions about moves authors make in their own writing and now it’s time for students to put their own words on paper, but if we just place a blank piece of paper in front of kids, they’ll freeze up. If you haven’t listened to the debut episode of season two of Chalk + Ink, put it on your playlist. Hannah Stark gives amazing prewriting activities and Alicia D. Williams talks about using music and gross motor activities to get energy flowing before asking kids to sit down and write.
This year April Jones Prince is going to teach us how to integrate smell into writer’s workshop and Marcie Flinchum Atkins will teach us how to do visual research for informational projects.
So, you’ve embraced play, recycled all your grammar worksheets, integrated sensory details, now what? Make use of all the mirrors in your classroom. What mirrors, you ask? Your students. I listened to Kate Messner’s episode twice, convinced she had told me about this mirroring activity on the podcast.
She wrote about it in her marvelous book Real Revision. I’m going to read how Kate had her students show emotions, while other students noted their observations. Then, Tina Athaide, will explain how she used a similar technique to raise her writing to a new level.
Okay, so your students have acted as mirrors for their peers. Now it’s time for tip number six-outline occultism. Maybe you’re thinking outline occultism, give me a break! Please use words my students will understand. But here’s the thing, occultism is a Minecraft mod, which allows players to automate various items and store more than a normal amount of materials. That's why your kids might already know what occultism means. If they don’t, tell them it means magic because that’s what happens when students use this outlining tip from Zetta Elliott. If you haven’t read Zetta’s The Witch’s Apprentice, I highly recommend it.
Before we move onto tip number five, Abracadabra Nanowrimo, it’s time to try something new-a call to action in the middle of the podcast episode. If you want to let me know you appreciate the 600 plus hours I’ve put into this podcast, buy me a cup of joe. It’s easy. Go to buymeacupofcoffee.com/chalkandink and buy me a latte. It’s that simple, and it would make my day.
Don’t have 5 bucks, but the podcast has really made a difference in your teaching or writing life? DM me on Twitter, or fill out my contact form so I can feature your success on our special 50th episode.
To shy to record your story on a podcast? Then take a minute and write a review wherever you listen to your podcasts or share this episode on Twitter. Spreading the word is simple, free and it will put a smile on my face. Thank you so much for letting me know you support Chalk + Ink. I'm so grateful for your support.
Did you know middle grade author, Lisa Stringfellow drafted her amazing novel Comb of Wishes with her students while they simultaneously participated in Nanowrimo? Well, it’s true. Not only did Lisa use Nanowrimo to guide her students into drafting 4,000-word narratives, she used the opportunity to teach them how to set goals.
Kids love nonfiction, but since many educators prefer fiction, nonfiction often gets left out of the picture. But in this tip, two educators share how reading Nat Geo excerpts and newspaper articles engaged their students. First, we’ll hear from elementary teacher, Kristen Nordstrom, author of Mimic Makers.
Then, we’ll hear from high school English Speakers of Other Languages teacher, Rukhsanna Guidroz, author of Samira Surfs. She talks about teaching English to French teenagers. It’s a super fun story and makes me want to see a soccer match.
So in order to have a luminous literary workshop, we have to make sure we incorporate fiction and nonfiction texts. But it’s not enough just to make sure we have classroom book collections that reflect all of our students and their interests, we have to take a hard look at our own implicit biases.
Last February, it hit me that I had an implicit bias against nonfiction readers. I always thought of my husband and younger son as nonreaders because they don’t read fiction texts. Yet, they read nonfiction texts all the time. They are readers just like my older son and I, who prefer fiction.
This realization spurred me to take a look at how I viewed my students, too. I’m embarrassed to say I viewed students who excelled at STEM and liked fiction as well-rounded students, but students who excelled at STEM and preferred nonfiction as somehow lacking in literary prowess.
Of course fiction versus nonfiction is only one example of a harmful implicit bias that may be lurking in our subconscious. Another implicit bias we may have is a tendency to put books in binary boxes. Listen to Michael Leali talk about the necessity of getting beyond the binary. First, we’ll hear him describe a sophomore male student who fell in love with reading when he read Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land a novel in verse, which features two female main characters. Then, he explains why we have to bust out of the binary boxes.
Before we move on to tip number two, I want to say to be sure to read Michael’s debut, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, it’s a middle grade novel that definitely offers an invitation to question the historical accuracy of binary boxes.
Pernille Ripp talks about why we need to make the time to listen to kids. She chats about the necessity of talking to students about books, advocating for what students need, and why we need to have those same deep discussions around the writing process. Give a listen.
Not only does Pernille take time to discuss books with kids, she makes time to dig deep and discuss all the messy emotions that surround the writing process with her students.
Before we move onto tip number one, if you’re overwhelmed by tip number two, make time to listen to your students, start with a student survey. Pernille talks about student surveys in her book Passionate Readers and surveys are a very powerful tool. I implemented them last year on Google Classroom, and it was amazing. I learned what my students wanted to read, obtained those books, and it paid off. Many of my students chose to create recommendation bookmarks about those titles I bought. I would have never known what to buy if I hadn’t given them the survey.
Alright, we have reached our last tip for a luminous literary workshop. We’ve talked about the importance of play, of castles, of magic mirrors, about the power of writing together, and we’re going to end with tip number one from picture book author, Erin Dealey, which is–highlight moments of magic.
Let’s recap the top ten tips for a luminous literary workshop:
10-Plan to Play
9-Grammar Worksheets Be Gone
8-Integrate Sensory Learning
7-Magic Mirrors All Around
4-Extra! Extra! Read All About It
3-Bust Out of Binary Boxes
2-Listen to Your Students
1-Highlight Moments of Magic
On the next episode, we’ll be chatting with author and writing instructor Michelle Cusolito. Be sure to check out her books Flying Deep and Diving Deep before the interview. It’s thrilling to dive deep into her creative process.
If you want more great content from Chalk + Ink guests, become a Patreon supporter. You’ll be able to access videos from many of the excellent educators highlighted here today.
I want to give a shout out to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. If you want to make the most out of these last few summer weeks, be sure to check out Sarah’s A Perfect Day for some summertime fun.
I look forward to chatting with you again on September 9th. Until then, best of luck with the beginning of the school year and happy listening!
Happy Summer Everyone!
You’re probably thinking, wait a minute! It’s not August 26th yet! Why is there a new episode of Chalk + Ink in my feed? Has Kate completely lost track of time?
No, I haven’t. I know it’s mid-July and the next school year is still very far away. But, I’m already thinking about Chalk + Ink’s 50th episode, which will be released on January 30, 2023.
To celebrate this accomplishment, we are going to take a look at how previous episodes have affected listeners.
Has Chalk + Ink improved your teaching?
What about your writing?
Would you be willing to share your experience with other Chalk + Ink listeners?
If so, please fill out this form by September 15th. I will get back to you by September 30th and let you know whether or not I'll be able to feature you and your experience.
I can’t wait to hear from you!
Now it’s time to return to reading that book, writing that story, or savoring the sunshine as you swim in the sea.
See you on August 26th!
It’s the season two finale. That means it’s time to give everyone a jumpstart on their summer writing. I’ve compiled the top ten writing tips from this season’s guests to help get listeners psyched up for a creative, productive summer.
This episode embodies the reason this podcast exists. You count. You matter. Your creativity counts. Your happiness matters. It’s time to pour all the energy you channel into teaching during the school year into your creative process. Whether you are a budding or a blooming writer, these tips will help you deepen your creative practice.
You’re probably thinking, wait a minute! Didn’t you just say to channel all my classroom energy into my writing? Yes, I did. But the truth is I’m teaching till June 21st. So, while I’d like to make a 100% shift, I can’t right now. But I can follow in Carole Boston Weatherford, Kate Messner, and Jyoti Rajan Gopal’s shoes and strengthen my craft by writing alongside my students. This tip starts at 52 seconds.
So you’re feeling energized from writing alongside your students. Now, it’s time to fuel the fire by working in an invigorating space. Michael Leali, René Colato Laínez, Whitney LaRocca and Jeff Anderson talk about where they get their best work done. This tip starts at 5 minutes and 27 seconds.
So you’ve soaked up your students’ energy, you’ve further energized yourself by writing in a new space, and you’re ready to start a new project. Where do you find ideas? In notebooks. Don’t panic, if you have never kept a notebook, Whitney LaRocca will tell you an easy way to get started. If you’re an advanced writer, don’t skip this tip, because Loree Griffin Burns does notebooks like nobody else. This tip starts at 10 minutes.
Now that you have all these amazing ideas in your notebooks, you’re ready to try one out. Try something different and instead of drafting your picture book manuscript on the computer, draft it in a dummy. April Jones Prince tells listeners how to create a dummy and shares how she uses them to draft. Then, Marcie Flinchum Atkins explains how to use dummies to see whether or not your manuscript will pass muster with school librarians. This tip starts at 15 minutes and 1 second.
Dummies work great for picture books. But how do you plot out chapter books or novels? Zetta Elliott shares a loose way to outline novels and Ruhksanna Guidroz explains how to create a plot grid to make sure all plot threads are present throughout the book. This tip starts at 18 minutes and 21 seconds.
It’s funny because tip number five for our Season One Finale was “Find Your Voice.” Zetta Elliott and Veera Hiranandani both talk about how to find voice in their episodes this season. But this tip is about how to make your voice stronger. Listen to Michael Leali and Veera Hiranandani describe how they chose certain points of view to lessen the emotional distance between the reader and their characters. Then, follow Lisa Stringfellow’s advice and be mindful of your word choice and sentence length so that you create a consistent, authentic voice. This tip starts at 23 minutes and 48 seconds.
Maybe you’ve made dummies, plot grids, played with point of view and something still isn’t working. Try interviewing someone. It works for nonfiction and fiction. First we’ll hear from Kristen Nordstrom, the prize-winning author of Mimic Makers, and then we’ll hear from Tina Athaide, the award-winning author of Orange for the Sunsets. Here’s Kristen. This tip starts at 30 minutes and 1 second.
Maybe you’re thinking whoa… I’m at the beginning of my writing career. I’m nowhere near the stage where I’m going to write a novel. That’s fine. Everyone is on a different path and at a different stage of their journey. Pernille Ripp is an accomplished public speaker and an author and she started by blogging, openly and honestly, about her classroom practice. This tip starts at 34 minutes and 5 seconds.
Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not teaching over the summer, so how can I blog about it? Why not blog openly and honestly about your writing process? Why not share with others how writing is about progress, not perfection? Why not talk about the mistakes you made to make it easier for the people who have yet to begin their writing journey?
If you’re not interested in publicly sharing about your writing or teaching process or if it feels like too much to commit to blogging by yourself on a regular basis, then join a group blog or create your own group blog. In addition to producing Chalk + Ink, I blog for Teachers/Books/Readers. We’re a group of classroom teachers who blog about our students’ responses to recently published books. We’re looking for new bloggers. So, if you’re a classroom teacher and you’re interested, please reach out to me.
Stop putting yourself into boxes that hold you back. Laurel Paula Jackson didn’t think she could be a concert pianist and write. Loree Griffin Burns didn’t think she could be a science writer and write about her personal life. Tina Athaide thought she could only call herself a writer if she were putting words on a page every day. This tip starts at 36 minutes and 30 seconds.
Life is too short to put ourselves into boxes. It’s time to tear down the walls and see what awaits us. And if you’re super brave, combine this tip with tip number three, and blog about the busting out!
You’re a writer and a reader, so you know that the beginning holds the end. This season’s writing tips started with writing alongside our students and it’s ending with following the advice we give our students and leading them by example. Listen to April Jones Prince and Erin Dealey. Then, if you’re still reluctant to get started because you feel as though you need someone’s permission to put pen to paper or your fingers to the keyboard, listen to what Pernille Ripp has to say and get ready to write. This tip starts at 44 minutes and 16 seconds.
There are so many more invaluable writing tips in each episode of season two. I hope you’ll listen to each interview and take advantage of the invaluable knowledge each creator shared. Chalk + Ink will be back on August 26th, 2022 with the top ten teaching tips from the second season to get us psyched up for the 2022/2023 school year.
Before we wrap up season two, I want to give another shout out to you. I started off this episode talking about how important you are, and I’m going to circle back to that same message because it’s true. I’m so honored to be on this journey with you. Chalk + Ink has over 2,000 downloads, has listeners in 6 continents, 26 countries and 479 towns and cities. Thank you so much for listening.
Hey, before you go, I have a favor to ask. Chalk + Ink has one review on Apple. One is a whole lot less than 2,000. When you have one of those long, slow, summer moments, please take a minute to leave a positive review. Help spread Chalk + Ink joy.
Have you read Melissa Stewart and Sarah Brannen’s Summertime Sleepers yet? If not, why not? It’s the perfect book to help you enjoy summer’s slower pace. Plus, you’ll be supporting Sarah, who does our podcast art.
Happy writing and happy listening!
Interview with Author and Educator, Jyoti Rajan Gopal
The creative and flexible, Jyoti Rajan Gopal, talks about the power of changing one word in a manuscript, exploring various storytelling modalities, and the magic of making a manuscript sound like music.
The picture books that live in our hearts embody a feeling. It's fascinating to listen to Jyoti explain how she captured the sentiment of being caught between two cultures in her debut, American Desi, simply by changing the word "this" to "which." Sometimes revision means a complete overhaul. Other times, it means digging deep, figuring out why your heart is in your creation, and making sure each word mirrors that emotion.
Jyoti taught kindergarten for years, and she's passionate about storytelling. She informs listeners that writing is so much more than pencils, crayons, and papers. What we're all trying to do is tell a story, and students do that in various ways whether it be while building with blocks or playing with one another during unstructured moments inside and outside of the classroom.
Music has the power to transform not only our feelings, but our writing as well. Although Jyoti doesn't normally listen to music while writing, one day she put some music on while revising and magic happened. All of the sudden, she knew the manuscript had to sound like music and the right words flowed from her fingertips.
Jyoti thinks all elementary classrooms should have the following authors' books:
Carole Boston Weatherford-Listen to Carole's Chalk + Ink interview.
Kelly Starling Lyons
Matt de la Peña
Rob Sanders-Listen to Rob's Chalk + Ink interview.
Finally, this episode is dedicated to my beloved hound, Buck. When Jyoti and I recorded this episode, he was still alive. But he was struggling and in the room where I record. Since I knew we had very little time together and because it was difficult for him to move, I let him stay. He was quiet until the end of the episode, when he barked. Normally, I would edit that sound out; however, I couldn't do it. I couldn't cut out his voice. So, you may want to turn down your sound around an hour and five minutes.
As always, happy listening!
Interview with Author and Educator, Kate Messner
The prolific and versatile, Kate Messner, talks about what happens when we share our writing process with our students, inviting our students to help us make our writing stronger, and taking and making time to prioritize our writing.
Kate differentiates between writing exemplars for our students and writing alongside our students. When we write alongside our students, it's powerful for our students because they see all writers revise and struggle to master the craft. But it's not just powerful for our students, it's powerful for us as educators to feel like beginners again. When we remember "what it feels like to have the ground not so steady beneath our feet," it makes us much more empathetic educators.
One of the great benefits of simultaneously writing and teaching, is that our students can help improve our writing. Kate talks about having her students read her manuscripts and using different colors to mark boring or confusing parts. And hey, let's face it. Students get antsy during the spring months. So, now's the time to break out our writing and provide them with some new reading material.
Almost every guest talks about taking and making time to write. Kate takes it up another level. She tells us about the power of carving time out to write and then sharing our intentions with our family members. Not only will sharing our intentions with others, make it more likely that the writing time will actually happen, but it also shows our kids how it's important to set goals and communicate our needs to others.
We talk about a ton of Kate's books during this episode including but not limited to: History Smashers, Ranger in Time, The Next President, Fergus and Zeke, Breakout, Real Revision and my current favorite, 59 Reasons to Write. 59 Reasons to Write is filled with exercises that I'm using as a write another draft of my middle grade novel and Kate and her guests' tips are making my writing stronger.
Kate recommends the following writers and their work for upper elementary classrooms:
Tracey Baptiste: We started off talking about her wonderful Jumbies series, which were also part of Pernille Ripp's Global Read Aloud this year. Then, Kate talks about how Tracey wrote African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History because she became tired of her kids always bringing home information about the same Civil Rights Era icons. In African Icons, Baptiste showcases African history before the enslavement of black people began, a history that is not only often hidden, but intentionally erased.
Anne Ursu: Kate loves The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy because it's a fantastic fantasy with a feminist theme. I don't know this title but I'm thinking it would be a fantastic addition to my classroom collection.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: Operation Sisterhood looks like a super fun summer read. I'm definitely putting this one on my summer reading list.
Linda Urban: Linda's new book is Almost There and Almost Not, which Jennifer Laughran talks about on this episode of Literaticast and Michelle Knott talks about it here on her blog, Mrs. Knott's Book Nook. Jennifer Laughran and her guest talk about Almost There and Almost Not being a great gift for young readers in people's lives and Michelle Knott talks about the title being short and easily accessible for upper elementary readers. All I'm going to say about it is that it has a ghost dog. Does anything more need to be said? I don't think so. My summer reading list keeps getting longer and longer!
Kate and I also talk about Linda's humorous voice. Kate mentioned Linda's previous titles: Hound Dog True, A Crooked Kind of Perfect and The Center of Everything. I want to give a shout out to Milo Speck, Accidental Agent because I absolutely love that title and my students do as well.
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Chalk + Ink
Chalk + Ink is a biweekly podcast that publishes on Fridays throughout the school year. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get notified of new episodes. Download Chalk + Ink wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Feeling inspired, grateful, and generous?