Monday, July 31, 2017

Giveaway News and a Book on Writing

It's Teacher Book Talk Tuesday! Today I bring you a review of a teacher book, but before I begin I want you to know that starting next Tuesday, three weeks of book and Amazon card giveaways begin!
Starts Next Week!
The Amazon Cards will be for ten dollars each, and Flashlight Press is generously donating the books. Our first book prize to win next week will be Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre and Zac Retz. This book has made a big splash among the kiddos and was picked up by Elmer's Teacher's Club.... I'll review it next week so you know more about it before you enter the contest.

Four of my bloggy buddies will be joining me to spread the word and give you extra chances to win!

Angela from The Teacher's Desk 6                              Julie from Stem is Elementary


Corrie from  Peace, Love and Primary                           and Janet from Kindergarten: 
                                                                                              Hand-in-Hand We Grow

NOW on to today's book review.

In Pictures and In Words–
Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study
by Katie Wood Ray

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time now and I finally put it on my to-do list this summer. A good friend and teaching colleague read it years ago and was very excited about it. When I read the title I pointed out to her that we already do Lucy Calkins Units of Study and we love that program. She replied that this book could very easily be used in conjunction with Lucy. Based on her enthusiasm I said I would read it, and indeed I did buy it from Heinemann right then. It wasn't until this summer, however, that I took a good look.

Katie Wood Ray suggests that teachers can support students as they make meaning both visually and verbally, in words and in pictures, and that both these abilities can be strengthened. She explains that the key qualities of good writing can be taught in the context of illustrations, and that students can gain lots of experience planning, drafting, revising and editing as they compose illustrations for their books.

As I read Katie Wood Ray's words I was prompted to look at and think about ALL that students put on paper, not just the writing. By not only noticing all their work, but teaching into illustration, using picture books that we already love and read in class, teachers can help kids develop as writers. Her first point is that as children make picture books of their own, over three or four pages, they are doing so with an "exploratory spirit" which they bring to all sorts of play. People who read my blog know that I am a big supporter of play and push back as it is being squeezed out of kindergarten. It is through play that children learn not only self-regulation and social skills, but also language and cognition. It makes sense to me that making a picture book is like all the other open creation that happens in play on many levels.

There are lots of writing samples included in the book

We all have students for whom writing is very difficult. The process of putting letters on the page, making the letters approximate words, remembering what words they were even writing to tell the story in the first place are huge tasks as children first learn to write.  But these same students can tell stories– which is why oral storytelling practice is so important, too... but that is a topic for another day... When our struggling writers are supported in making illustrations to represent their stories, so much more becomes possible for them as writers. Support of illustration teaches them to make meaning. It also makes sense that students start "writing instruction" by making picture books because picture books surround them in their classroom. Picture books are what beginning writers are most familiar with, be they fiction or informational.

Sometimes teachers are lead to feel that we need to move kids out of drawing and into writing as soon as possible. But Katie Wood Ray points out that we can shift our ideas and think about teaching into the illustration part of composing. We can encourage students to stay with the illustration and expand the story by intentionally composing the pictures. Teachers who do this do not value word making over image making, but value them equally and see that students can move to writing instead of drawing when they choose to. Teachers can see illustration as true practice in composition, planning and meaning making– that illustrating in this way is doing with pictures exactly what a student could be doing with words.

Katie Wood Ray also cautions against thinking that teaching into illustrations is just letting kids draw. Teaching into illustration must be very intentional. Teachers need to teach into all sorts of texts, thinking of both the process of illustration and the final product. Different illustration techniques allow students different ways to represent meaning, just as words do.

There are two sections to the book. The first section is broken into six chapters in which Katie makes an argument for why teaching into children's illustrations builds a foundation for strong writing and how it helps children develop as effective communicators. I think this gives justification to all those teachers whose gut says there is more to the pictures that children draw when writing, but who want to be sure they are really teaching writing. The topics of the first chapters in section one will be familiar to teachers who use writing workshop– building stamina, reading like writers, learning qualities of good writing, planning and implementing a unit of study in illustration. Katie Wood Ray gives practical advice in these chapters with instructional tips for supporting students while teaching the topics.

Section two of the book is made up of fifty illustration techniques and the qualities of good writing they suggest. There are five broad categories that the illustration techniques fall into– ideas and content, precision and details, wholeness of text, tone, and layout and design. Each illustration technique is discussed in a predictable format that helps us think about illustrating and writing as parallel composing processes. Each write up contains– something to notice, an illustration example or two, an understanding for young writers and illustrators, an idea for trying it out, and a writing connection. The layout of section two makes it very user friendly to teachers and I predict that within a few lessons, the teaching becomes very comfortable.

Last but not least, Katie Wood Ray includes an extensive picture book bibliography. I think most teachers will find many of the books familiar and already on the classroom shelves. And the techniques are described so well, I don't think it would be hard to find similar books already on hand that could be used instead of the ones she describes if need be.

Just having read about some of the illustration techniques and their examples, I already have a new appreciation and understanding of what pictures do for children's books. I will look at picture books from a new angle, thinking of the writing lessons contained in the illustration style. This is a bit of bonus learning that I did not expect to receive. It really is a great book with a wealth of information which helps a teacher grow and shift lenses. I recommend it as a good read, even if you are not going to follow every page as a curriculum. You will become a better teacher of writing, I am quite certain.

Like all good Heinemann books, there is notice of other similar books on the last pages of this one. Doggone it... off I go to Heinemann again.

Well, then. I hope you have a better understanding of In Pictures and In Words and I hope I gave you enough info to decide if it would be valuable to you and your teaching. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Don't forget to come back next week to enter the giveaway– you'll get several chances to win! Bloggers, link-up your reviews below to give our readers a bit more good teacher book talk!

Thanks for stopping by!

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