Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2 Picture Books for Writing Lessons


I could not be any happier to be on break this week! 
There is a serious case of  Spring fever bouncing in my brain. My plan is to enjoy the heck out it.  Having free time is such a welcome novelty when you are a teacher.  Sadly, we had a snowstorm yesterday.  Who asked for snow on Spring Break?  Whoever you are. . . STOP IT RIGHT NOW!  It turned out to be more annoying snow than accumulating snow.  But, what to do on a Spring Break Snow Day?  Head to Barnes & Noble!
As you can see from the sign, they too have Spring fever!  I headed over to the children's section to see what was new in picture books.  I saw many familiar favorites, but there were two in particular that caught my eye.  Both books seem perfect for writing lessons.

The first book is Exclamation Point by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld.  Before I tell you more, let me just say I find it ironic that two people who write a book about punctuation choose to have their proper noun names in all lowercase letters on the cover. Thankfully, all the writing in the book follows the rules.
Exclamation Point is a dual purpose book.  It obviously teaches end marks, but it is also a great book about being yourself.  This little exclamation point tries to be a period and a question, but in the end it must be itself - a loud, proud exclamation point!  And, it is only once it decides to be itself that it is happy and admired by the other end marks.  What a great lesson to pass on to our friends.

I like the book as a good way to introduce sentence types and end marks.  For those friends who continually leave off those end marks in their writing, it would make a fun mini-lesson on how important it is to include them.  Below is a snapshot from the book.  Every time a certain end mark speaks, their sentence ends in their end mark.  Another cute point about the book is that its pages are ruled like primary writing paper.  Something our friends are very familiar with.
I might love this book simply because I am notorious for overuse of the exclamation point.  I'm also very guilty of using more than once even though I teach my friend that just one does the job!!!!!

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The other book I found and loved is One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo.  Since my pocketbook limited my purchase to just one book, I had to make a choice between the two.  This is the book that won my heart and my cash. :-)  I must have been living under a rock where this book is concerned because not only is it a 2013 Caldecott Honor book, it was on the New York Times best seller list of children's picture books back in February of 2012.  Where was I when all this was going on?
I love so much about this book!  First, I love that the author, Toni Buzzeo, is a former English teacher and school media specialist.  I also love that  David Small, is the illustrator of this book, but we also know him well from his many, many other illustrated books.  The GardenerThe Library, and So, You Want to be President? are some of my favorites.

One Cool Friend is a fun and surprising story of a little boy, Elliot, and his father who visit the aquarium.  While there Elliot asks his father, "May I please have a penguin?"  Thinking he would like a stuffed souvenir  the father hands him $20.  Little does he know that Elliot means a real penguin.  The story is wonderful.  I promise it will engage your friends of all ages.  There is even a surprise ending that tells us Elliot and his dad have a lot in common. :-)

So, where is the writing connection?  It comes in how the David Small chose to illustrate the dialog.  Take a look at a couple of pages.
Notice how the dialog is bubbled.  Perfect for teaching how to punctuate dialog.  Notice that the second line shows connected dialog. In the picture below, what Elliot is thinking is bubbled differently from actual dialog.
A great way to show the use of internal dialog to your friends. Notice the tags in both pages are different.  In one the father "announced" while Elliot "said."  You could easily use this to teach how to use different tags for dialog, even having your friends change the ones in the book.  This would be a good book to use with a document camera so your friends can get the full effect.

Right before I was going to publish this post, I thought to do a quick search and see what was out there on it.  I found something wonderful!  Toni Buzzeo has a six-trait writing guide available for free for  ALL of her picture books.  I guess once a teacher, always a teacher!  You can go directly to the download via THIS LINK, or you can get there through Toni Buzzeo's web site.  As I looked over her writing guide, I found that her idea for a convention lesson is exactly what I wrote about, the dialog bubbles!  However, her guide gives you a bunch of other good lesson ideas to use with the book.

I would say One Cool Friend is a must buy.  If your pocketbook allows two, don't forget Exclamation Mark.  Both books would serve you well as teaching tools, but both are also just great books to read and enjoy.


  1. Hey BlogFriend!

    Please stop by my blog and read today's update...
    And then... PLEASE leave me your e-mail address at joyin6th@gmail.com...

    Good sleuthing!

    : )
    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  2. I was so happy to read your post!! (2 exclamation points)
    I am looking for books for my new position next year in middle school (resource English) and these are perfect. Thank you so much and thank you for mentioning the six trait freebies to use with them. I will be taking advantage of this right away. Heather