Last year, I purchased Jennifer Jacobson's book, No More "I'm Done!" and I thoroughly enjoy it. It is the number one book that I pull out every time I am looking for inspiration. Jennifer's book has writing mini lessons for the entire year as well as a guide on how to run Writer's Workshop successfully. Often times you find books that have mini lessons but you have to get a million different books that you don't own to teach these lessons. Jennifer's book uses books that are readily available to teachers. Since I love Jennifer's work so much I asked her if I could interview her for my blog and thankfully she said "yes".
The great thing about this book is that you can view it online for free (although I promise you will want your own copy). Also many other teaching blogs have great resources to go along with it.
Not only does Jennifer have wonderful books for teachers, she also created many wonderful books for students. When I told my students that I was interviewing the author of Andy Shane, they were so excited and wanted to ask her some questions too!
Read the interview below:
Children’s book? Charlotte's Web
Author? E.B. White
Quote? "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin
Television show? Modern Family
What book are you reading now? The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies (children's book)
Are any of your characters inspired by small moments in your life? Yes, Winnie was inspired by memory of my father teaching me a ballet step. (He was a basketball coach so this was an unexpected, but delightful moment.)
How do you go from writing a book to publishing your first piece? My first published piece was a children's picture book, and the road to publishing a picture book can take time. A Net of Stars was accepted seven years after I began writing for children, which was average then. (Now it takes an average of nine years to publish a first picture book, but picture books are the hardest form to get accepted.) Belonging to a community of writers was probably one of the most helpful aspects of this process. Other writers critiqued my work, shared their writing expertise and knowledge of the industry, and gave me a wonderful secondary reason to attend conferences, retreats, and librarian conventions (where I met editors).
Publishing a professional book for teachers is a slightly different process. I presented the idea of No More "I'm Done!" to an editor at Stenhouse, who in turn sent the proposal to a panel of educators. (The proposal included an outline, the introduction and a sample chapter.) These educators weighed in on the merit and originality of my work, as well as my writing style and voice. Once the proposal was accepted, I wrote the book. Because I had been speaking on the topic for many years, I knew that I had enough content and experience to write a book-length piece.
How did you come up with the idea for No More “I’m Done”? I often had teachers say to me, "I love the philosophy of writer's workshop, but how do you get started? How do you manage it?" While answering these questions, I realized that the success of writer's workshop depends, in large part, on the independence of our young writers. Yet, time and time again I noticed that we primary teachers (with the very best of intentions) actually train our students to be dependent rather than independent! This book gave me the opportunity to discuss the "hows" of Writer's Worksop and the practices that build independence.
I know you addressed this in your book, but for the blog followers who have not read it yet: What do you do about students who are still unable to come up with writing ideas? Instead of providing them with prompts, we need to teach students how to come up with their own ideas. Here are some of the ways I suggest. Students can:
- Create memory maps by drawing a setting they know well and placing an x in each spot that tells a story.
- Look at a topic grid with simple words such as: "afraid, surprised, ouch."
- Notice the connections they make when I'm reading a story or when they are listening to a classmate read his or her work in author's chair
- Use a picture file (kept in the Writing Center)
In your book you write about how some students only write about their “virtual world” how can teachers steer children away from violence, video games and TV within their writing?
Particularly by listening to our students, we can help them to see that their everyday experiences: a trip to the grocery store or laundromat; a surprise visit from a neighbor or relative; a lost item, or a time when they were injured make compelling stories that everyone loves and can relate to. Reading mentor texts such as Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems (a trip to the laundromat) or my own Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle (being tattled on) can help reinforce this point.
Are you working on any other books for teachers? Yes, I'm working on a similar book for teachers in grades 3-8.
Questions from my students:
What book of yours is your favorite? Charlotte's Web
Does Andy Shane have a best friend? Believe it or not, Dolores is his best friend!
What is your favorite genre of books to read? Realistic fiction
How do you come up with story ideas? Many of my stories (especially the Andy Shane Books) come from memories (or small moments) in my childhood. But I also find ideas by asking "What if?" For example, Small as an Elephant came from the question: What would happen if a young boy was left in a campground to fend for himself?