by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors
Study the trees to learn the forest. Think about it: if you are a botanist, a biologist, or an ecologist, you could investigate everything there is to learn about a tree, and through that process, you would learn a great deal about the entire forest.
We apply this metaphor to reading and writing to encourage kids to grow more fully on their journey. We want children to explore a single literary idea in depth, like studying a tree, instead of broad study across a wide expanse of forest. All the activities in our book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension, including our Cartooning Characters strategy, are rooted in our learning model.
Thinking in depth about a single character improves reading comprehension. Writing with depth about a single character improves writing content. Our kids don’t have to write 5-paragraph thesis essays to obtain this goal.
Today we begin encouraging our children to engage in a type of writing I call “Bits and Pieces.” Bits and Pieces of writing—in this context, surrounding a character illustration—encourage kids to capture their thoughts in real time, then transfer those ideas onto paper in manageable chunks. Translating our Bits and Pieces of thought into written words captures our ideas. Capturing our ideas promotes deeper comprehension.
Our children learn a great deal about literature, character, reading, and writing by studying this one tree: illustrating a single character. The practice of Bits and Pieces of writing helps kids elaborate and expand on their ideas. We will begin Bits and Pieces of writing today, as we continue Cartooning Characters with our children.
In today’s activity, we further develop our character by digging into the story. This is easiest if we think about a favorite scene. Once we each think of a scene, we will write in short sentences or phrases what our character is thinking within that scene, as well as how the character acts. By focusing on one scene, and writing in Bits and Pieces, we begin to draw our character in words.
If your children are young or struggling writers, consider partnership writing, in which they write the easy words and you write the ones that are difficult to spell. Or, they can write one phrase, then dictate one for you to write, etc. No matter the level, encourage tiny bits of writing today! We have purposefully created boxes to help the struggling writer: a box is easier to fill than an entire blank page, encouraging writing in only Bits and Pieces.
If you haven’t already, download Cartooning Characters to begin adding Bits and Pieces of writing to the character’s cartoon. You will receive a packet that contains a blank drawing sheet, five days’ worth of activities labeled Day One through Day Five (each adding to the original drawing), and an example of Tracy’s completed cartoon for your reference.
Today in this blog, we provided insight into Day Two’s strategy. If your children are feeling inspired and want to do all five days at once, then go for it. But tomorrow we will give you insights into how and why Day Three matters, so be sure to read along throughout the week. Spreading the cartooning over many days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.
Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors
Think deeply to write deeply. . . Geared to parents, educators and Speech Language Pathologists, this creative resource can be used to aid children in becoming lifelong readers and writers. Available in PDF or PRINT formats.
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