Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Dot
 by Peter H Reynolds

The Dot. "Make your mark" it says on Peter Reynolds' website.

The Dot by Peter Reynolds’ is a simple, but extremely inspirational and powerful book.  

Reynolds has written an incredibly motivating and beautiful story about encouraging and honoring the creative spirit in every single person, no matter how obvious—or not so obvious—that creative spirit may be. 

The Dot has inspired an “International Dot Day” to celebrate the creativity in everyone!  This year “International Dot Day” will be celebrated on September 15.  There are a tremendous amount of “Dot Day” activities across the internet!  Check it out and bring all the creativity out of all of your students!

The Dot can be used as a mentor text in a variety of ways.  The Dot has both a strong lead and a strong ending which can be discussed and analyzed in a mini-lesson, especially for 3-6 graders. The Dot  is a great example of  a 'less is more’  text—which is another writer’s move that is important for older students to understand and start applying to their own writing.

K-3 students will thoroughly enjoy the story, as well. For 2nd and 3rd graders, The Dot  would be a great, but simple model of the use of quotation marks in dialogue

The Dot would also be a great mentor text for all grades to demonstrate the live skills of ‘confidence’  and ‘perseverance ‘.

Book Talk
Readers meet Vashti, the main character, after her art class, and she is feeling pretty dejected. She had not been able to draw a single thing in class that day and was absolutely convinced that she could not draw at all.

The wise art teacher (of course!) asks her to make a dot on the page. Vashti was hesitant, but eventually made a big dot on the blank paper. Her teacher asked her to sign her name under the dot.

A favorite line:
‘Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”
Vashti grabbed a marker and gave the paper a good, strong jab.
“There!” ‘

The teacher had The Dot framed in a gold frilly frame and hung it above her desk. Vashti was astounded (and thrilled) when she walked into art class the next week and saw it.  

What a confidence boost!  Vashti thus began a series of ‘Dot’ drawings!  Big dots, little dots, lots of big dots, lots of little dots. The dot drawings were all displayed at the school art show and they were quite the hit of the art show!

A little boy really admired Vashti and her talent!  He wished he could be like her, but claimed that he couldn’t draw a straight line.  

Another favorite line:
“Vashti noticed a little boy gazing up at her. “You’re a really great artist.  I wish I could draw,” he said. “ I bet you can,” said Vashti.
“ME?  No,not me. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.”
Vashi smiled. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper.
“Show me.”

Vashi had him draw his line—which was gloriously squiggly. 
Then she asked him to sign it….leaving the reader with a ‘warm fuzzy’ understanding that the boy would experience similar recognition and confidence for his creativity.

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Predicting, Connecting, Inferring, Character Development
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies: Narrative writing, Personal Narrative. Small Moment, Strong Ending, Strong Beginning, Strong Female
Curricular Themes: Lifeskills, Grammar (dialogue) 

Peter Reynolds’ website:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato 
By Lauren Child

Awards: Kate Greenaway Medal  (UK’s award for best illustrated children’s literature book)

I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato is a delightful and entertaining story about siblings Charlie and Lola.  Younger students will enjoy (and connect with) the character of Lola—who is an extremely fussy eater—and the comical strategies that her older brother, Charlie, uses to try to get her to eat her vegetables.

As a mentor text, this book would work as a strong example of how to use dialogue in your writing—for younger students (2nd-3rd) I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato is a great mentor to use to demonstrate how to correctly use quotation marks.

For older students (4th-6th), I Will Never NOT EVER Eat A Tomato is an excellent example of  how to create an entire story that is told nearly entirely with dialogue between the characters—with humor even!  A very challenging writer’s move, for sure!

Book Talk
Charlie is put in charge of his sister-again!  And…he has to feed her dinner!

AND..Lola is a VERY fussy eater!

A favorite line:
Lola was at the table, waiting for her dinner. And she said, “I do not eat peas or carrots or potatoes or mushrooms or spaghetti or eggs or sausages,   I do not eat cauliflower or cabbage or baked beans or bananas or oranges. And I absolutely will never, not ever eat a tomato. (My sister hates tomatoes.)

This challenges Charlie to be creative in his approaches to get Lola to eat her vegetables.

Another favorite line:
“And I said, “OH, you think these are carrots?  These are not carrots. These are orange twiglets from Jupiter.”  “They look just like carrots to me,” said Lola. “But how can they be carrots?” I said. “Carrots don’t grow on Jupiter.” “That’s true,” said Lola. “Well, I might just try one if they’re all the way from Jupiter.”

Charlie continues in this way: giving common vegetables new enticing, creative and comical names to build Lola’s curiosity and interest in eating the food.

And it works!  After every ‘renaming’ and subsequent creative story about the vegetables by Charlie, Lola agrees to give the vegetable a try and eats it!!

Until the end, when she is faced with eating a tomato!  By this point, Lola joins in renaming the vegetables!  When she renames tomatoes  ‘moonsquirters’ and declares them ‘her favorites', she happily gobbles them up!  Yeah Charlie!

Suggested Uses As a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading Workshop Strategies: Connect, Inferring, Synthesizing,
Writing Workshop Genre and Strategies: Narrative, Personal Narrative, Small Moment, Opinion Writing, Strong Lead, Strong Ending, Character Development 
Curricular Theme: Grammar (Dialogue) 

Lauren Child's website: