Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Trees in the Forest: Day Five

Trees in the Forest: Connecting with Character

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I
Day Three: Bits & Pieces II
Day Four: Story Symbols

“You have helped ease my mind . . . Seeing you demonstrate that there are choices to be made in every passage is liberating. I see more clearly that we are laying a path. What that means is this: it’s a process!” —Tara, Homeschool Parent

Connecting with Characters is one of the chapters in our book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension.

Cartooning Characters is a strategy we explore in order to enrich understanding in a story. We readers are more likely to relate to a story’s theme when we relate to the story’s character. Cartooning is one step in Laying a Path to deeper comprehension.

In interpreting our character’s conflict and the stories themes, we begin to relate the story’s ideas to both the broader issues of the world and the narrower issues of our own lives. This is the definition of connecting with text and active reading: the ability to understand the writer’s themes, analyze how and why ideas are revealed, and to relate those ideas to our own lives and to all of humanity. Connecting with text is a tall order; all of us—children and adults—grow in these skills throughout our reading lives.

Helping readers develop a habit of making connections and analyzing text can happen at any age, especially when we capture and record our thoughts while reading. In our book we use the practice of copywork to help us capture and record our thoughts. We teach strategies to intentionally turn a story’s passage into a language arts study, taking a small bit of learning (a tree) and using it to gain understanding of literature (a forest). We call this in-depth study of copywork (the equivalent of studying a tree) Intentional Copywork.

Intentional Copywork must begin with comprehension—after all, understanding is a necessary first step in deep learning. I discovered in my Foundations class through Brave Writer that many families weren’t using the practice of copywork and dictation to its fullest, and therefore, either giving up or missing opportunities. Sometimes families assigned copywork, but didn’t realize their kids weren’t reading and understanding the chosen passage. Thus, part one in our Trees in the Forest Series gives various ideas for one aspect of language arts—comprehension—that can be used within a week of Intentional Copywork. Like our Cartooning Characters activity, we provide strategies that can be used again and again—all containing Bits and Pieces of writing.

Today we will add context to our cartoon. One way we add context is by engaging in copywork. We will add a quote from the story that seems to fit our cartoon. It might be a favorite quote, an oft repeated character line, or just something that tickles our fancy. The quote might illustrate the symbol or the theme. The quote might illustrate the conflict. It is the artist’s choice! But since the writing is going onto our week-long project, let’s write as neatly as we can. If you have a young or struggling writer, be sure to add lines for guidance.

Voila! We just gave our children a great reason to be neat in their copywork.

Lastly, we will add context to our story by drawing in the setting. Every story is told in its own little world. But story worlds are designed to help the reader relate the conflict and themes to two other worlds: the larger human world and the smaller world of our own lives. We use another activity in our book to help children make this connection, but Cartooning Characters is a great start.

If you haven’t already, download the free PDF to see how we encourage children to think about their character’s world, adding context through setting and quotations. We will add context to our drawing sheet that now contains all five days’ worth of activities. There is an example for your reference.

Over these five days, we have

  • explored a favorite character,
  • added our own thoughts with Bits and Pieces of writing,
  • identified conflicts,
  • discovered symbols and themes,
  • and added both the story’s content (quotes) and context (setting).

We began with a simple drawing, and ended with a complex character sketch! We gained insight and added our thoughts to the story. As we say in our book—without a reader’s response, there is no story.

Download our PDF, or continue with Day Five . . .

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


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.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Rita Cevasco

Trees in the Forest: Day Four

Trees in the Forest: Story Symbols

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I
Day Three: Bits & Pieces II

“He was convinced you were going to ask him why he has trouble writing, so I think he was relieved when you talked about the brain and helping other kids (some who struggle more), allowing him to be honest about how he hates writing. Plus, you were so positive about his strengths and interests.” —Melissa, Homeschool Parent

Non-struggling readers and writers find it easier to match their writing skills to their thinking skills. They can achieve a flow from head (thoughts) to hand (writing on paper). Yet even those of us who easily flow from head to hand find writing in Bits and Pieces a great way to capture and stimulate our ideas.

Most children who struggle with reading and writing have perfectly wonderful thinking skills, but their writing skills cannot keep pace. For children who write more slowly than their thought process, Bits and Pieces of writing is a useful tool in helping them grow as independent writers. Bits and Pieces keeps the emphasis on their thoughts.

Lower output helps lower their struggle.

The Bits and Pieces of writing strategy also serves as a bridge from writing for your children to them writing independently. Even though we, as parents, applaud our children’s thinking skills, they become convinced of their abilities when they can write their ideas for themselves. In all things, kids believe real progress is defined by “I can do it myself”—from tying shoes to driving a car.

Cartooning Characters gives kids new ways to convey their ideas. This is empowering, especially since they are still learning how to analyze a story and interpret a writer’s message. Yesterday we gave attention to what our characters want. When we make personal connections with characters, we become more comfortable interpreting our character’s thoughts and desires. Once we understand our character’s thoughts and desires, our story’s conflict is revealed. As conflict is revealed, our story’s themes begin to rise to the surface.

One of the ways we gain insight into our story’s theme is by watching for symbolic language within a story. Today in Cartooning Characters, we will begin to identify our story’s symbols.

Some symbols are the result of the writer’s intentional efforts. Noticing these symbols, and the messages they represent, is important to understanding a story below the surface of the text. Other symbols occur in the head of the reader, based on personal experience. For instance, to some readers, a character’s car might represent socioeconomic standing or cool-factor, while others may disregard the car as unimportant. Some readers might resonate with a specific scene, so an item within that scene may be their choice to represent one of the story’s main ideas.

Remember: Symbols often point to themes. Recognizing themes in a story is easier when we identify not only the character’s conflict, as we explored yesterday, but also the story’s symbols, as we will explore today. Symbols are signs, so we want to imagine what our signs are saying. Like advertisements, they allow the writer to share the story’s sound-bites with us, the reader.

When we draw today with our children, we will look for symbols within our story, and then write a tag on the symbol to tell what the symbol signifies. Again, it may help to think about an important event in the story, and what items are in that scene. One of those items can become our symbol for important ideas in our character’s world. We will also create a sign for our character to carry—like a placard—broadcasting each character’s personal message to their world. We will again use Bits and Pieces of writing on signs and symbols to explore our story’s themes.

If you haven’t already, download the Cartooning Characters PDF to see how we encourage children to identify and interpret their character’s symbols. 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.

We are on Day Four of the activity, so be sure to work up to that day. Tomorrow, we will give you insight into Day Five’s strategy. We will explain why the next step matters, so be sure to return to the blog. Spreading cartooning over many days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension (Volume 1)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.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Learn more at Rita’s website: Rooted in Language

Trees in the Forest: Day Three

Trees in the Forest: Bits and Pieces II

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I

“In light of having a very reluctant, older, dysgraphic child, I appreciate the information surrounding ways to entice, encourage, inspire, appreciate, and respect where he is at and where he hopes to go—even when he doesn’t have the faith that he can get there.” —Tara, Homeschool Parent

Bits and Pieces. Every bit of writing lays a stone on the path to more elaborate writing. Each word on paper is a necessary ingredient to helping a reader and writer see that they can write. Blank pages are intimidating, so filling a page with drawings surrounded by Bits and Pieces of writing is a means of Laying a Path. Stones are small steps, so we write in defined boxes and circles to encourage children to take another step. We respect each child’s current ability level, luring kids along with tender encouragement and care. Bits and Pieces of writing is a necessary ingredient for the struggling learner who needs even more encouragement and tinier steps.

Bits and Pieces of writing is good for all of us. All readers and writers, whether they struggle or not, grasp a story on a surface level, yet must grow in deeper understanding to comprehend below the surface of a story. Deep comprehension requires us to interpret not only how a character acts, but why a character acts or thinks a certain way. Not only what a story is about, but why a story is being told. Cartooning characters with Bits and Pieces of writing encourages all of us to answer why questions.

Today we are going to continue to add Bits and Pieces of writing to our character cartoon. Each day, each Bit will help our children elaborate on their understanding of both the character and the story’s meaning. Each Piece will help them get their words on paper.

No matter the age, kids can engage in some level of interpretation about what their character wants and what stands in the character’s way. This is known as conflict. As we engage in this activity with our children, we will notice that having general ideas about how a character thinks is far less demanding than writing what a character is thinking. Writing even a simple sentence requires us to capture our stray ideas and formulate them into one cogent thought.

By putting pen to paper, our children can see their thoughts in a new way. Written words are not fleeting: they remain in place and in time, giving children an opportunity to ponder. When re-reading our own words, our ideas are magnified, so our understanding solidifies. I have had students exclaim, “Oh, I get it!” after seeing their own words on paper. It seems that speaking our thoughts helps focus our lens, writing our thoughts brings a closer focus, then rereading our writing magnifies our ideas! Written interpretation has the power to deepen our comprehension and then inspire further insight.

Today our children will write in Bits and Pieces about their character’s conflict. We do this by taking on the character’s perspective and voice. We must think about the entire story, then converge on one single idea: “My character wants to . . .” In this way, we begin to identify the character’s conflict: what our character desires versus what or who stands in our character’s way. When you are done with today’s writing, have each family member read aloud what they have written; notice whether today’s writing leads our children to deeper insight and discussion about their character.

If you haven’t already, download Cartooning Characters to see how we encourage children to interpret their character’s problem. 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.

We are on Day Three of the activity, so be sure to work up to that day. Tomorrow, we will give you insight into Day Four’s strategy. Each day we will give you insights into how and why the next step matters, so be sure to read along throughout the week. Spreading cartooning over many days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


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.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Live with Rita!

Rita CevascoIf you’ve been thinking of joining The Homeschool Alliance now would be a great time! Rita Cevasco will hold a LIVE web conference for Homeschool Alliance members Thursday, January 12th, from 4:00-6:00 PM EST!


Learn more at Rita’s website: Rooted in Language

Trees in the Forest: Day Two

Trees in the Forest: Bits and Pieces I

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

See Day One: Laying a Path

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.

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension (Volume 1)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.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Learn more at Rita’s website: Rooted in Language

Trees in the Forest: Day One

Trees in the Forest: Laying a Path

We’re excited to announce the new book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension, by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors.

Rita has spent over thirty years working with children as a speech-language pathologist and a reading-writing specialist. She has extensive training for treating dyslexia and using various reading and spelling programs for children with weak reading and writing skills.

Tracy is a watercolor artist, graphic designer, and a children’s book author and illustrator. She is the illustrator and a contributing author for Rooted In Language publications.

Rita and Tracy will be guest posting all week here on the Brave Writer blog. Enjoy!


“I loved the time that you said ‘set a small task of writing and then be done, remembering that they are tired even if you aren’t.’” —Tara, Homeschool Parent

Rita Cevasco and Tracy MolitorsLaying a Path. Remember those words. Everyday your children walk on a path as developing readers and writers. For some it is a pleasant, easy walk. For others, it is uneven ground. For still others, it is a steep and daunting climb—overwhelming and exhausting.

Our goal is to lay a path for our children, one stone at a time. Reading and writing is a journey, and when we lay a thoughtful, encouraging path for our kids, we can rest in the knowledge that they are growing at their own pace. They are not stuck or overwhelmed. They are not skipping over important steps.

One way we lay a path is by consolidating language arts skills, so there is a smooth flow from reading to writing, and from writing back to reading. This path becomes smoother as children learn to capture their thoughts on paper.

This week we’re sharing an activity from our book Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension. Our activity, called Cartooning Characters, encourages kids to think more deeply about text, then express their thoughts in Bits and Pieces of writing—all combined with visual art!

Cartooning Characters by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Each day this week, we will walk on this path, each day we will discuss an addition to the activity, each day more drawing and writing—all in Bits and Pieces! By the end, your children will be further on their own journey to becoming deeper readers and thoughtful writers.

We encourage you to do this activity along with your children—one character for each of you. Each of you will choose a character from a story to “draw,” in sketching and words. In our book, we discuss the concept that drawing can help us see new aspects we may not have noticed before. Drawing a character, eventually adding Bits and Pieces of writing, will help us capture our thoughts on paper.

Having each person in the family select a different character will help reduce competition. We want children to believe their ideas are valid with no single answer or perfect drawing. Keep your own performance in line with your children, so you do not overwhelm them with adult-level abilities and expectations.

  • Download Cartooning Characters to begin. 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.
  • Each day in this blog, we will explain that day’s strategy. If your children are feeling inspired and want to do all five days at once, then go for it. But we will give you daily insights into how and why the next step matters, so be sure to read along throughout the week. Spreading the cartooning over five days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.

For today’s activity, you and your children will choose a main character of a fictional story. It can be from a favorite book they have read, your family’s current read aloud, or other media. You will each draw your chosen character from the directions on the Day One sheet. Encourage your children to draw as elaborately or simply as they desire—even stick figures (check out this helpful guide by Tracy). Simple drawings, like simple words, can lead us down a path to deeper insight.

Download our PDF, and let’s begin with Day One . . .

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension (Volume 1)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.

This is available in PDF or PRINT formats.

For the digital PDF version:

Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Live with Rita!

If you’d like an opportunity to ask Rita questions live, she’ll be doing a workshop for The Homeschool Alliance January 12, 2017 at 4 PM EST. Join us and don’t miss the chance to get some help!

Rita Cevasco was also with me on Facebook last week and we talked about reading, writing, and learning differences. Watch the recorded broadcast below.

Learn more about Rita and her work at Rooted in Language.

Rita Cevasco