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.
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