Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day One: Atmosphere

It is a well known fact I adore picture books. I have used them throughout my years of teaching to entertain, to instruct, to reinforce skills. I was afraid that by moving to the fifth grade, I would be giving up any opportunities to read picture story books to my students.

Oh ho ho, not so, sayeth Lissie. She recently gifted me with two books, the first, Using Picture Storybooks to Teach Literary Devices to Children and Young Adults is a wealth of resources and information on just that. The second book is written explaining how to use pictures books to instruct your writing lessons and is written for grades 4-8.

Both are amazing resources and I happily pored over the first Saturday afternoon, determining which literary devices I was going to teach each quarter, and then pacing them throughout the rest of the school year.

I began today with "Atmosphere". I told the children we would be learning about literary devices and then had them try and reason out what those could be. We had a class discussion about "literary" and I told them "devices" were items people used. They determined literary devices must be items or ideas authors use to make thei writing more interesting.

From there I moved on to "atmosphere".
"What is atmosphere," I asked the children. This lead to a discussion on atmosphere. Some of the children were quite literal and gave me the meteorologic definition of atmosphere. We were able to expand it to anything that is around you. From there I read the definition of "atmosphere" found in the book. I then told them I was going to read them a passage and I wanted them to tell me how they were feeling as I read it, what was the mood, what kind of a day was it, etc.

The passage was from "Alice in Wonderland". It was a hot, boring afternoon. The children explained what words helped them "feel" the heat and the boredom. I then told them I was going to read a book that evoked Autumn. I told them that as I read, I wanted them to identify words that helped them "feel" or "see" or "smell" or "hear" what the author was experiencing.

I read, It's Fall by Linda Glaser. The illustrations are fantastic--cut paper collages. The words are amazing. Listen to these:

"I skip and swish through Autumn leaves. They crunch and crackle under my feet and whoosh and whirl all around me. Red, orange, yellow, gold and brown. A wind swoops up. More leaves fall down."

As I read, I would ask the children how they were feeling or what words were particularly meaningful to them. When I was finished, the children all agreed the book really did help us "experience" Fall. I then told them they were going to use this literary device in their writing. I had them take a few minutes to discuss writing possibilities with their group and then share with the class what they were planning on writing about.

I then had them create a circle map on which they recorded everything they could about their chosen topic. I had them close their eyes and imagine they were there, and I wanted them to use their five senses to explore their environment. I wanted them to then record all those feelings on their map. There was an excited hum and buzz throughout the room as the children began to record their "experiences". They were VERY disappointed when time was up and they had not even begun to scratch the surface.

I told the kids an author is always writing for an audience, and that their audience was going to be my mother. She is someone unknown to them, so I knew they would strive harder to create an excellent atmosphere in their writing. I also told them their writings may be selected to be used as models and examples at a conference at which I may be presenting. They were very excited at that prospect as well. :o)


Lissie said...

You are da bomb, Rachy!



Kelly said...

Oh, I am going to have so much fun reading this additional blog, Rach. Thanks for sharing your valuable information. I'm sure you know how helpful it will be to have all of your wonderful ideas documented on-line! You're creating an incredible resource!


butterflylinda said...

Holy cow you are amazing!!!

Jess T said...

Awesome! Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Jen said...

what a fantastic idea, Rachael - I can only imagine how much fun the kids had working on their projects