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Think Outside the Box

Story Tags #1

Minus this little hamster, there is about one hundred or more things you can do with one small (4″X4″) gift box! Today we will look at just one of those things. After your child has read a story, this is an excellent way to retell it. It can be a simple retell, a creative book report or just a pleasant way to relate to the story and also know that it was understood.

Have your child read the book to you, discussing it as you go. Then orally work on the 6 box tags, (click on link above to get them) together. Elicit answers and also talk about possible designs to go in the given spaces… and perhaps even around the edges. At this point make markers and a pencil available and allow work time.

Put two sheets of tissue paper inside the box to weight it a bit. Tape the lid shut, then cut out the completed tags and lightly glue them onto each of the six sides. Display!!

Hope you have fun with it.

Meet Peg Finley


Peg Finley is a well-known writer in the world of Children’s Literature. She has many published stories and articles online. Here’s a short interview to get to know a little more about Peg and her works.

Dy: When did you get interested in writing stories for children?
Peg: In 1979 initially. I started a course at The Institute Of Children’s Literature (ICL). Due to work schedules I waited to finish the course in 2004. After that, I also took the advanced course.

Dy: What made you want to target children as your primary audience?
Peg: I’ve always been an avid reader. It was a great escape as a kid. Kids are so hopeful that I wanted to give that feeling back to them. My preferred age to write stories for is preschool.

Dy: What do you feel is the most important characteristic for your main character to posess?
Peg: That they never give up! My characters are always honest, open and loving.

Dy: What’s fun about fiction?
Peg: The ‘happy endings’ are always the best.

***Here is an illustration by Jack Foster for Peg’s story Zippo the Hippo published in May of 2010 in Guardian Angels Kids EZine.


Dy: What are you currently working on?
Peg: Right now, it’s not a children’s story. I am journaling my cancer journey.
Dy: I’m wishing you all the best with that, Peg!

Dy: What are your future writing goals?
Peg: One all children’s writers have, to have a published children’s picture book.

An Interview With Carmen

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Here’s Carmen and a piece of wonderful art work she did for me! This is my childhood cupboard and she updated it with color and style! She does that with illustrating as well as any other thing she gets her hands on to paint. Today we’ll learn a little more about Carmen as I interview her.

Dy: What got you interested in art and consequently led to illustrating a children’s picture book?
Carmen: When I was young I watched Walt Disney and was interested in animation ever since.

Dy: Besides picture books, what other forms of art work do you do?
Carmen: Years ago, I started out drawing on canvas and also milk cans when they were popular. That led to various forms of crafting where I used my art skills.

Dy: What types of things do you most enjoy drawing?
Carmen: I enjoy drawing characters from cartoons, fairies for my grandchildren and challenging myself to things I have not done before.

Dy: What’s your favorite art medium?
Carmen: I have worked mostly with acrylics. I have used watercolor but prefer the acrylics because they are brighter and a thicker type of paint that goes on canvas easier for me.

Dy: What catches your eye when looking at illustrated work?
Carmen: I like to look at what pops out on the page. For instance, if you are looking at a black and white picture and there’s a bright red umbrella somewhere in it, you would focus on the umbrella because the red color would ‘pop’.

Dy: What are you currently working on?
Carmen: I am still working on a wall art mural. I am also finishing up illustrations for our new picture book.

Thank you, Carmen!!
And, thank you, readers! Have a super Friday!!

Rainy Day Activities


This morning began as a rainy day. So, what is there for kids to do on rainy days? My answer will always be that they can read and write… but, of course, we always want to make that fun! How? I say give it a theme. For the purposes of this, my theme will be ‘marbles’. You can pick anything!


First, let’s begin with reading. Here are a few titles on rainy days and marbles.

Red Rubber Boot Day by Mary Lyn Ray, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

Rainy Rainy Saturday by Jack Prelutsky, Illustarted by Marilyn Hefner

Playing Marbles by Julie Bickloe

The Klutz Book of Marbles… it’s a craft/activity book

After these are shared, play a game or five of marbles! Just the old-fashioned easy kind with string rings on the living room floor. Then together write a story from the marble’s point of view. This is always fun and I would use a large writing pad and just have fun with it, both you and your child/children adding on sentences.

Finally take it to the activity stage. Make some fried marbles together. I loved do this as a child. We fried them on the stovetop in a greaseless pan. But, since my memory is not what it used be, I have a link to give you to a YouTube presentation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOAb2AwDk0k This tells about making the marbles into jewelry. Now, if you have boys they will not be thrilled. So, then use E6000 glad glue and make fried marble animals!



There are just so many ways to have fun with words. Check out the bird… he’s full of bird words as well as blogging words, perhaps because we chirp out news and ideas? Today, I am going to focus on teaching kids how to have fun with words. This will enhance their reading and writing skills as well be challenged a bit.

I want to share with you my idea of a word timeline. It’s a continuum of related words based on any word you choose to start with. The idea is to get a range or spectrum of related and connected words, thus increasing vocabulary and also learning new words and their meanings. After that, extend it to using the words, even playing games with them.

First, I’m going to attach my file for you to look at. It has one blank timeline from which you can copy and use with children. It also has an example in which my base, or beginning, word was huge. The range of words in this case go from opposite to extreme. If you chose a word such as ‘chair’… your range may be from usefulness to decor. Or it could be about size… you can make it whatever you would like to. So, check these forms out by clicking on the link below!


I am in hopes that after reading my file and seeing the example, it makes some sense… yes?? 🙂 I hope so. It’s really a simple project and can be very qucikly accomplished or longer if you want to have some addded fun with the word gathered. Here a few extras to have kids do to further their understanding of the words and actually use them.
1. Choose 5 words to illustrate.
2. Write a ‘HUGE’ story and label as many spectrum words as you can.
3. Make a poster or an ad relating to the group of words.
4. Make an illustrated ‘opposite’ book.
Any of these things will aid memory of the new learned words by the writing and reading of them.

Another fun thing is to do quick and easy verbal games with the timeline results. Two simple ones could be these.
1. Agree/disagree. Use two index cards to write AGREE on one and DISAGREE on the other. Then say a statement like “The word small could describe a giant.” They hold up one of the two cards. Keep score. Kids also will learn more about the prefix DIS. Lots of good sidebars in these activities!
2. Another easy one is just a recognition game, again with verbal clues. Looking at the finished timelime, say something like, “I’m looking for the word with long vowel that means opposite of small.” Could be giant or gigantic. You can put even more limits on it. Take turns or keep score. Always remember the KISS rule… Keep It So Simple.

I hope you try these things. School is almost upon us and they sure could be useful!


All About Color


Learning about color is a very valuable writing tool. So, as a teacher, I would try to have children see color in so many ways. One way was called a Color Poem. The prep for this writing is the most fun and really gets kids ‘into it’ and ready to take some chances. What do I mean?

Well, anyone can write about a green tree or a yellow sun. In this exercise, I want to get them thinking of the unusual and to really stretch what they know. In other words, I want them to take a chance! So, start by having a grab bag in which everything they pull out is the same color. And talk about exactly that… is it exciting? Is it easy to describe and make your writing interesting if eveything is the same? After that introduce activites with color. Here are some simple ideas: 1) Make bubble paper. They can use the sheet they make to mount their color poem! Just add food coloring to soapy water and blow onto white cardstock various colors. 2) Use different colors of cellophane to look through to see the world differently. 3) pass around a kaleidoscope and invoke a conversation of color feelings by using description like ‘flame red’, ‘fire red’ or ‘angry red’. Now it’s time for them to write.

Although I want their thinking to be free and unstructured. I do want the form of this poem, at least on the first try, to be structured. I would ask that the first line names the color and something that is that color. Line 2, write a sentence decription about it. Line 3, tell how it makes you feel. Line 4, say something you wish about it. Line five, rename the color in a different way. The product may be something like this:

Blue is a tree,
It blossomms boldly in wild jungles.
It makes me feel alive, like a dancing chimp.
I wish the world was filled with blue trees.
Blus is tall and beautiful!

The poem is ready for them to type, illustrate and glue to their bubble paper. Have fun!!

Why Write?


Why would I keep pushing for kids to read and write? Many would say that reading is a must and know why. It’s a life-long skill. But writing seems more of a sideline and sometimes it’s just not understood the importance of it at a young age… and all the benefits children receive from doing it.

For kids, daily and/or bi-weekly writing exercises:

– increase knowledge of vocabulary by 50%
– improve syntax and grammer usage
– make understanding new words and word forms much easier
– help children adapt better to any written assignment
– increase overall ‘awareness’ of things around them
– help them to see options
– drastically improve organizational skills
– help children to better meet deadlines
– increase the likeliness of taking ‘creative’ chances
– improve sensory input and output
– increase motivation
– improve speech and structures of writing
– increase oral and written comprehension skills such as making inferences, understanding word context clues, sequencing events and recalling details
– increase their willingness and ability to complete assigned tasks
– makes ‘succeeding’ second nature

It’s an impressive list, so who would argue? And I am sure I am probably missing some. Wow, such a myriad of wonderful and useful benefits are derived from projects that can bond you closer and be lots of fun. So, keep on writing!!


Chili Container Stories


Click the link for the story activity: Please take a minute to look at this file before you read the rest of the post.
Chili Container Stories

Today was a reflective day for me, full of fond memories. When nostalgia hits, I often find myself in the classroom. I did this particular activity with my students many times. And I did use Wendy’s chili containers. Thanks to our local store I got some donated. This pattern is from my manuscript entitled Student Wirting With a Flare.

In the preface of the book, here’s what I wrote to introduce these projects. Writing is creating and expressing, it’s sequencing and it can be retelling. What’s important in any writing is presentation. How is it different from what you have written before? We assign students writing all of the time. What’s imperative is that we also present it with a variety of ways to allow their expression to grow. Like most writing genres, it’s all about ‘formula’. For kids that is very basic. We either want to hear first, next, then and last… or beginning, middle and end. This can easily be hum-drum if not given the incentive and tools to make it more interesting and unique every time.

I hope you all enjoy this reading and writing activity.

Meet Suki

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Good morning everyone! Well, here’s my attempt at the character doll, Suki, from A Bunny Tail! I had a very difficult time getting a good picture… this is somewhat better than the others (thank you, Susan) but it’s still hard to see her hair. I could not find the right background or lighting to save my soul. LOL In person, she looks okay.

I am hoping next week to get back into routine and give you all something fun, that is a good learning experience to do or make with your children, students, grandchildren, etc.

The cleaning mode has been upon me and I have unloaded bags and bags of stuff to Goodwill, a rummage sale and the garbage and I still have some to go. It’s beginning to look “spacey” around here which is my biggest goal. Did you ever just feel buried?? I need only consumable items from now on. It breaks my heart to toss and toss so many things. I am somewhat of a pack-rat but it’s more because it’s just time to ‘let go’. Also when you craft, stamp and teach, accumulation is the natural outcome no matter how organzied you are!!

Now that I managed to get off the topic, I hope you like and enjoy Suki. Uhhhh, my computer room is beginning to fill with dolls and books… but I sure love the scenery!! Have a beautiful Sunday.

The Newest Addition… Meet Nikea


Good Morning! I wanted to share with you the newest doll. The girl in the picture is Nikea… she is Chi’s sister in the sequel book. You will find her and her story in the newest picture book, Over the Milky Way! She was made for Jan and I by Pinnochio’s Friends. Isn’t she awesome? SSSSHHH secret, secret…. I have a ‘feeling’ you may soon meet another character from another book you see here. Who do you think??

It’s Snowball Time!!


Happy Friday, Everyone! No, I have not ‘lost it’, ‘gone cukoo’, ‘lost my marbles’ or any such thing. In my household, July is snowball time. You can imagine the kind of writing this could solicit from children. On the night of our village fireworks, we will also be throwing snowballs and, thank goodness, cause it is generally in the 90’s!! Why, you ask? I have no reasonable answer, but the fun and truthful answer is that it is a tradition my mom started. I have taken pictures of it and even caused other to start the traditon also so they can also have fun and feel good.

As with any event or tradition, the automatic second step for children should be to tell about it in some form… oral, written, pictorial… have your pick. I realize you may not have prepared for this year so just to make sure you have a writing topic, remember the bike parade!


It’s always been another fun activity to dress up a bike and parade it around the neighborhood. No matter which activity you choose to do, make sure to capitalize on improving your child’s writing and reading skills by sharing their fun! Have a happy and safe 4th of July!!