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Read about Cheryl Malandrinos' visit to Stony Hill Road School in Wilbraham, MA by downloading the Summer 2010 Issue of Pages & Pens.


School Visit to Haverstraw Middle School , Haverstraw , NY  

By Donna McDine




In conjunction with Musing Our Children Group (http://musingourchi ldren.tripod. com), I conducted my first ever school visit to Haverstraw Middle School today.  I met with two sixth grade classes.  The first was with an ELA (English Language Arts) class.  After a brief introduction by teacher, Mrs. Debra Brennan, I immediately drew the students in with tidbits of my youth and briefly explained to the students about my background.   


A fictional short story was read out loud to the students.  They were then broken into groups of four to brainstorm and develop a 3-4 sentence paragraph regarding the last sentence of the story: “Hey, wait up.  Let me tell you how I scared the last new kid.  You’ll laugh your head off.”


It was also shared with them that their brainstorms and paragraphs do not need to be perfect.  The concept of the activity was to have fun and to get their creativity going.


The second group was a Science class.  Again a brief introduction was conducted by the teacher and myself. 


Before beginning to read the non-fiction article on jellyfish, I engaged the students in conversation about different species of the ocean.  The article was read out loud to the students and then were broke up into groups of four to develop a graphic organizer of eight characteristics of jellyfish. 


Even though this age group is used to working independently the teacher and I walked around to the groups to check on their progress and to see if they needed guidance.  Both classes jumped right into their tasks without hesitation and produced fine results. 


The enthusiasm, creativity, and group work of the students was quite the rewarding experience. 


www.donna-mcdine. blogspot. com

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My school visit was on Wednesday but worked with parents at a pre-school playgroup rather than the children.  We had a motivational discussion on the books their children liked to read --at least it motivated me, they were already buzzing with enthusiasm.

We started with how and what the children liked to read or have read to them, then looked at examples of favourite books, analysing character and story. The parents read their favourite stories aloud then shared their techniques for reading to children. One father had read for his children from the time they were babies.

"I just read the books I was reading myself out loud until they were of an age to listen to stories.  Bedtime stories are a must in our household.  The youngest child, now 18months, is already joining older brother and sister in the group.  And my daughter is very keen on writing and producing her own "books""

Interestingly the consensus was that their children preferred ordinary children like themselves caught up in an extraordinary story --so Lea as always you're hitting the right note with all your ideas.

Favourite animal heroes were not those which made cups of tea and sat at tables.  The children from our group liked animals to perform animal-like actions and eat animal rather than people food.  One well-loved book taught the days of the week with an animal eating a different type of food each day.  On the final day, the animal found its favourite food which was, of course, exactly what it would eat when living in the wild.

We decided that it is important for the character to have a suitable name, to have the same problems and interests the child would have and that he or she must have a problem to resolve.

Cumulative repetition was always popular so the child is anticipating what will happen next right up until the resolution.

It is now half term and everyone is going to write a story and encourage children also to write stories so that when we come back in November we have a small anthology to publish for the children in the pre-school playgroup.

The Pages and Pens newsletter was so popular I need to photocopy more copies to distribute.  We are also arranging an IT workshop to help parents who are nervous about using computers to grasp the basics, use Word, access the Internet and email.

A very positive experience for all concerned and I have to get round to writing loads more stories.


Associate Editor
Inkwell Newswatch
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 My school visit yesterday was so much fun! I walked in and sat down(in their Author's Chair). I told them I was excited to be in a room filled with authors. Their faces all lit up at that. I told them about myself, that I was a teacher, a mother of two teens, and an author. Some were amazed that an author was "just like a regular person." I showed them the first thing I ever had published. It was in the local newspaper (and had a picture of me when I was six--just their age). I also showed them the craft article I had in Highlights (which their teacher xeroxed and might do with them). I told them where some of my ideas came from (everyday things I did, or things I remembered doing), then had them each think of something they could write about.
 I had them turn and tell a neighbor what they thought of. (Teachers love this partner talk--you let them go for about 60 seconds, then call them back. This way they have all shared their ideas and you don't have to spend a lot of time calling on each child. They're just as happy telling a friend as telling you.)
 I shared my journals (I brought 8 of them--they were impressed), pointing out some of the sloppy crossouts and revisions I'd done (teacher requested I highlight this part). Then they got to share the class book they had just "published" in class. The last thing I did was to show them how many times I revised one story, from the sloppy copy through many revisions to the last copy.
I gave them a bookmark I had created and... that was that. Short, but very rewarding. I can't wait to do another.
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Cheryl Malandrinos, one of the site's members and active participant in the Musing Our Children project, visited her local elementary school on June 12. This is what Cheryl wrote about her visit:
"I had the teachers ask each child to draw a self-portrait with him or her doing something fun.  The teachers then sent me all the pictures and I created a story for the class, which I came in to read one morning. 




I made multiple copies so that I could give each teacher a copy of the book and have one for myself.  Then I dismantled the original copy that I read in class and gave each child back his or her self-portrait to bring home. 

It was a huge hit.  When I went back into school two days later the office staff was still talking about it."
Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your experience with us. The smile on the students faces told the whole story.
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"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."
~Sharon O'Brien

This site is maintained and owned by Cheryl Malandrinos 2007-2010