Sunday, December 5, 2010

It Looked Like Spilt Milk, a Rewrite

The essential questions for this unit of study are:

clip_image001 How does reading help me become a better writer?

clip_image001[1] What can I learn from other authors and illustrators?

clip_image001[2] How can I make use of the craft of other authors and illustrators in my writing and drawing?

It Looked Like Spilt Milk


Charles G. Shaw


This week we studied the text, It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw. This choice is for the following reasons:

· This is a text most students know and love (familiarity and prior knowledge)

· The structure is obvious (repeating phrases on each page)

· The illustrations are large silhouettes.

· Text and pictures match (emphasizing picture-word match)

· There is a surprise ending. (“It was just a cloud in the sky.”)

· When our class rewrites the text, the format (structure) will be easy to replicate.

Monday-Teacher read the book and students listened.

Tuesday-Teacher and students read the book together. The students were asked to lie on the floor looking up at the ceiling. They were told to imagine they were looking at the sky. Then they were asked, “Have you ever seen a cloud that looks like an object?” Students sat back up and recounted the times they had seen clouds that looked like something else.

Thursday-Students read the book chorally. Students were asked to come up with ideas about adapting the ideas from this text to write their own texts. They offered three possibilities as a lead for the story.

1) It looked like strawberry juice

2) It looked like chocolate pudding

3) It looked like melted ice cream

We discussed each possibility as the lead. The class voted to use, It Looked Like Chocolate Pudding. Students made the decision to eliminate the word sometimes from their text.

Friday-Students read the book chorally with a student helper using the pointer and a student helper turning the pages.

Students brainstormed a list of objects that would be easy to draw and paint brown. I recorded the list on chart paper. I passed out lap white boards. Students practiced drawing a silhouette of an object of their choice.

We scripted the book as follows:

It looked like chocolate pudding.

But it wasn’t chocolate pudding.

It looked like an apple.

But it wasn’t an apple.

It looked like a pumpkin.

But it wasn’t a pumpkin.

It looked like a crescent moon.

But it wasn’t a crescent moon.

It looked like an orange.

But it wasn’t an orange.

It looked like a star.

But it wasn’t a star.

It looked like a Venus flytrap.

But it wasn’t a Venus flytrap.

I looked like a leaf.

But it wasn’t a leaf.

It looked like a butterfly.

But it wasn’t a butterfly.

It looked like a pear.

But it wasn’t a pear.

It looked like an ipod.

But it wasn’t an ipod.

It looked like a dinosaur.

But it wasn’t a dinosaur.

It looked like a heart.

But it wasn’t a heart.

It looked like a ghost.

But it wasn’t a ghost.

It looked like a banana.

But it wasn’t a banana.

It looked like a soccer ball.

But it wasn’t a soccer ball.

It looked like a dragon.

But it wasn’t a dragon.

It was just a mud puddle on the ground!

Once students were comfortable drawing their silhouette, they drew their final copy on a half page of tag board. Each student used brown paint to fill their object in.


We had less discussion about the content of the book and the author’s intent this week. This text is very simple and I felt we had already worked that line of questioning quite well with the previous texts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Final Reflection

Author Craft via Big Books Reflection 2

As I process this final piece, yet another creation by my class awaits publication. This time we studied Gail Gibbon’s non-fiction big book titled, The Milk Makers.clip_image002 We also read an assortment of her works as our author study for several weeks. Writing a non-fiction book requires prior knowledge, experience, and researched information and I felt we would have to create something in order to get a good book. Our project took place before Thanksgiving. I wanted the kids to get a chance to cook so we settled on making a book about apples to applesauce.

What I liked about this project was it required two types of experiences in order for the kids to write well. First, we had to read many books about the cycle of apple trees and apples (the research phase). Second, we had to make applesauce to experience the process so we could write about it in a how to format. Since the book was a two- part process, the children illustrated the cycle of apple production and I photographed the steps of making applesauce. My intent was that the change in mediums would signal a change in the book for the students.

The book is not complete because we have had so many interrupted weeks in the month of November. Finding time to share the big book, read other works by the author, make applesauce, write our text, illustrate our text, and put the book together has been very difficult. Since this is a capstone project, I am under a deadline and forcing a situation that would otherwise be saved for full weeks of school and spaced out over a longer period of the school year. The students’ enthusiasm for writing and illustrating is waning, as this is our eighth book in two months.

Here is a list of positives and negatives I have been collecting along the way. I plan to continue this project throughout the year. My students have asked to create seventeen books. They each want one to take home when first grade ends. We are half way there! Marrying shared reading and writing just seems natural to me. The benefits have far outweighed the obstacles.



Big books are easy for everyone to see and read

Students choose to read the big books after we have studied them during their literacy workstations

Students pick up sight word vocabulary as they do repeated readings

Students learn strategies for reading with daily modeled reading

Fluency is increased with daily practice

Retelling is rehearsed as we read and write

Students gravitate toward the books we wrote and illustrated in the library, reading them over and over again

Students see the connections between the text and the illustrations

Students make text to text connections

Students become more familiar with the author’s style (craft)

Students are more aware of visual and auditory craft

Students get to know authors’ works and talk about them as if they know them

Students look for books in the library by a known author

Students get the opportunity to toy with the author’s craft by imitating it in their whole group writing and illustrating

Students begin to recognize craft in other books

Students transfer craft they have studied into their own writing

Transfer is taking place with all types of writers in every stage

Students make suggestions about books we can imitate

Students point out craft they are using in their own writing (“Did you notice I am using speech bubbles like Mo Willems?”)

Students are reading more fluently and writing with some voice

Students have asked if we can make seventeen books so everyone can take one home at the end of the year.

Short weeks don’t allow enough time and rolling into a second week drags the process out too much

There needs to be time to study an author/big book and then take a break

Putting the books together is time consuming (but worth it)

The whole group writing is better than the illustrations which are sometimes hurried and messy (students want to get the product done)

This was an expensive project buying hard cover blank books, lots of clear packaging tape, printing photographs, etc.