For the past five weeks, I’ve been coaching my son’s Jr. FIRST LEGO League. At this level, students learn teamwork, research skills and how to use LEGOs as tools rather than toys. Our team is learning about cars from the 1950s. The boys (yes, they are all boys) must research how cars have changed from then to now before building a model. Last week we talked about where they might find information.
As a teacher and a nonfiction writer, I was reminded of how many places we can look for information. Here are some sources our came up with:
- “We can Google it!” This was the first response I received. The internet offers so many sources, some credible and others not. I tend to prefer online databases I can access through the library or my university. GoogleScholar also provides access to scholarly publications.
- Print materials. Cooper and I went this route, taking a trip to the library. While there, we talked about using the card catalog to look up books, or asking a librarian. He opted to go straight for the shelves, since he knows where the juvenile transportation books are shelved.
- Interviews. Our group interviewed a senior citizen (my mom) about what cars were like when she was a child. Interviews are an often overlooked source of information for students and writers.
- First-hand exploration. On the way home from the library, we passed a classic car show. I’m sad to say we didn’t have time to stop, since first-hand experience is a wonderful sources of research.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, I’d love to hear how you learn about your subjects.
Also, I’m not the only one writing about research this week. Check out the Teaching Authors blog for resources for writers of fiction and nonfiction.
Do you have a story to tell? Writing for children is a common dream, but how do you know if your story has what it takes in today’s competitive market? Enter Rate Your Story.
Rate Your Story is a free manuscript ranking service. Submit your story, and an RYS judge will rank it using a scale of 1 through 10, with one being the highest. The judges also provide general comments for improving your story, though this is not a line-by-line critique. The site does have links for fee-based critique services, as well as free critique group resources.
All RYS judges are recently published authors with editing/critique experience. RYS is always looking for volunteer judges.
I’ve submitted three manuscripts to this service. Typically, I submit to my critique group first, incorporate their feedback and then submit my work to RYS only when I feel it’s publication ready. I find it helpful to have feedback from someone who doesn’t know me (and whom I don’t know). My story has to stand on its own.
I highly recommend Rate Your Story. A big shout out to Miranda Paul who started this venture.
Frequent readers of this blog know about Finley’s love affair with Egyptian mummies. Ever since he saw his first mummy at the Getty Villa, he’s been obsessed. So, when it came time to celebrate his 4th birthday, we opted for an Egyptian mummy party.
He took these mummy cupcakes to school. We spread a thin layer of icing on the cupcakes, and then used a flat tip to apply the bandages. The eyes were mini M&Ms dotted with food-safe decorator markers.
Because I couldn’t find a lot of Egyptian decorations, I used my newly acquired Silhouette to print and cut the gift bags and banner. Most of the artwork came from PhillipMartin.com, which has some adorable clip art. My mom used an online hieroglyphics translator to find out what the kids’ names would be in Egyptian. The gift bags included mummy pretzel sticks made from drizzled white chocolate and M&M eyes, as well as an Egyptian activity book and bookmark from Amazon.
We planned three games. The first was a chariot race. My mom made a pharaoh costume for Spider Man. He rode in the “chariot,” which was the trailer for our wagon outfitted with a harness (thanks to my husband and mom). We timed each child as he ran the course, with the fastest child winning. There was a catch — if King TutanSpidey fell out, the child had to stop and put him back in.
Just for fun, we let the children take turns wrapping each other with toilet paper to make mummies.
Finally, I downloaded The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian” for a modified version of musical chairs. Instead of chairs, I printed out Egyptian clip art and glued it to card stock. The children had to scramble for squares instead of chairs. Those who were “out” got to walk like an Egyptian on the sidelines.
For the cake, we baked a sheet cake and covered it with icing and graham cracker “sand.” We cut graham crackers to make pyramids and then added a Nile river. We used LEGO Pharaoh’s Quest figures for decoration.
The birthday was a success!
In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I would share some of my favorites from the list. Then I started reading through the lists. I could not believe how many classics have been banned or challenged. These are books I was fortunate to read in high school and college English and beyond. I’m talking about books like Zora Neal Hurston’s THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD, Jack London’s THE CALL OF THE WILD, Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD….all banned or challenged at one time.
So, instead of listing my favorites, I thought I would look at the list of 97 banned or challenged classics and see how many I have NOT read. The answer: 8 books out of 97. I’ve read all other 89. I guess I should add THE SATANIC VERSES to my list.
If you prefer contemporary fiction, you can look at the most frequently challenged books of the 21st Century here. You will undoubtedly recognize several titles like TWILIGHT and THE HUNGER GAMES.
I challenge you to look through the lists this week and see how many banned books you’ve read. Maybe you’ll find a couple more to add to your “to read” list.