Recommended Picture Books to Teach Writing Traits

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Hi Guys and a happy Thursday to you! I hope you had a wonderful first half of the week. This week I ate out quite a bit. There was the early brunch at True Foods Kitchen in Palo Alto (See HERE) on Tuesday and then lunch with my sister at Krung Thai Restaurant yesterday. I mention both places in a previous post HERE. Today is pretty low-key, so I am going to just relax. I have planed another fun post for all the mommies and daddies out there. When I taught elementary school way back in the day, I learned that picture books are a great way to teach students great writing. Picture books written by adults teach not only the 6 traits of writing, but also inculcate that a purpose needs to be behind what you write for an audience. I know as parents, you may not be familiar with the 6 traits taught in schools: So here they are:

  • Ideas—the main message
  • Organization—the internal structure of the piece
  • Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
  • Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
  • Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
  • Conventions—the mechanical correctness

For those of you who want to learn more on how to use picture books to teach writing, these are some of the suggested titles. For Grades 3 and up, see HERE, and for Grades K-2, click HERE. What books I am about to recommend were used in my classrooms or are recommended online. I recommend reading to children every night so they learn what good writing is. Having meaningful conversations while you read is great for improving their comprehension as well. Remember it takes a village to raise children so don’t expect your teacher to be responsible for ALL their learning. So here goes:

Ideas

Kids are pretty imaginative. It is our task to expose them to wonderful literature works and life experiences so they build connections and imprint their ideas onto paper. Graphic organizers are a great way to teach students writing. However, if your child is stuck on ideas, and there is nothing wrong with that, some of the best books I used were “Where the Wild Things Are” (See HERE), The Phantom Tollbooth (See HERE), and Harry Potter (See HERE). Lastly, with a sea of picture books available on Amazon or in your library or local bookstore, children can get access to some varied reading experiences and ideas. Please pick accordingly. It is impertinent, whether you read a chapter from a non-fiction or fiction chapter book or an entire picture book to help them with ideas, you provide them with some sort of structure so they a. see  a model of how the experts do it b. they can apply the same structure to their own idea generating process. Some of the ones I like are below:

 

Organization

Some of the books that lend themselves to learning “Organization” as a great writing technique is “Tuesday” (See HERE), Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (See HERE) to teach techniques such as repetition, which is form of organization, and “Because a Little Bug Went Achoo” (See HERE). These graphic organizers are great for literally putting events and ideas in sequence. The kids must learn what events/facts to put first and then what describing words and supporting sentences to use next. These graphic organizers provide visual scaffolding to help children organize their ideas.

Voice

This was my favorite writing trait to teach in class because this is where the personalities of students really come out. I recommend reading the following books to kids to teach them perspective aka voice: “The True Story of the Big Bad Wolf” (See HERE), “Diary of a worm” (See HERE), “Are you my mother?” (See HERE), “Stellaluna” (See HERE), “Thank You, Mr. Falker” (See HERE). Here, instead of using graphic organizers. I would discuss  the idea of perspective with words that describe feelings and thoughts. Asking questions like, “How do you think_________ is feeling when this happens?” “Or what would you do if you were in ___________ place?” This really gives the children a chance to connect with the characters and see them as real and human. This will teach them to incorporate their own words and phrases to describe the characters.

For any teachers out there, one fun suggestion I would give is to read them Dr. Seuss books and have them make up words in a poem or a story. They can uttered by a character. This will help them express their creativity and teach them the subtle meaning behind goofy made-up word. Also, one of my favorite lessons was teaching students how to write fairy tales from the point of view of another character. I mean imagine reading a fairy tale from the point of view of the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk or the evil sister from Cinderella. You’d be surprised what your kids can come up with.

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Word Choice

There are a lot of great books out there that teach students about word choice. Describing words aka adjectives can be seen in “The Owl Moon” (See HERE), “A Wrinkle in Time” (See HERE), and “The Great Fuzz Frenzy” (See HERE), and “Rattletrap Car” which teaches onamonapia (See HERE) . I would pick one book per concept and research a picture book that demonstrates that concept. For example, with word choice you can teach students about adjectives, onamonapia, vivid verbs, alliteration, sensory words, word play aka “pun” and for older kids like 4th and 5th graders, you can even teach them similes and metaphors. I have done this so I am speaking from experience.

Sentence Fluency

This trait is definitely for grades 3 and under. Adding adverbs, compound words, and generally teaching them that a combination of long and short sentences improve writing is the purpose behind this writing trait. Since I taught 4th grade during the majority of teaching career, I didn’t feel the need to teach kids this trait. They knew sentence fluency when they came to me. For younger grades, teaching them words like “because”, “and”, “then”, etc helps add variety to their writing. It is also a great opportunity to teach punctuation. Picture books like “The Night Before Christmas” (See HERE), Yo! Yes! (See HERE), “Meanwhile” (See HERE) do just that.

Conventions

This writing trait is one my least favorites to teach, but children need to learn this writing trait to improve their written expression. Books like “Punctuation Takes a Vacation” (See HERE), “Punctuation Celebration” (See HERE), “Behind the Mask: A Book About prepositions” (See HERE), “Nouns and Verbs Have a Field Day” (See HERE) are great to teach conventions.  This writing trait is the most confusing and technical of all 6 writing traits so I would again focus on one concept (period, comma, noun, verb, etc.) ata time and teach them to include that in the writing.

Well mommies and daddies out there, I hope you have gained some knowledge on how to help your child at home and bridge the learning from school to home. Remember it is not your task to teach them concepts, but build upon the concepts learned in class. Please read class newsletters, email your teacher or just have a chat with your child to learn what they are learning in school. Then use picture books to reinforce the learning and make the learning more fun. Remember to teach them ONE concept and not go overboard with it. If your child is learning alliteration at school, for example, read a picture book with alliteration at home, and instruct them to use it 2-3 times in their writing assignment/homework. That’s it.

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I hope you enjoy reading these picture books because they truly are a hoot to read and a wonderful learning experience. Happy Reading!