Saturday, March 16, 2013

Snail Mail - Illustrators Rock

Feeding the Fires of Passion for Books

I wrote a post not long ago about my virtual visit with Kate Messner - author extraordinaire. My students also enjoyed a virtual visit with graphic novel creator Stephen McCranie in the fall of 2012. Part of my goal for my students this year was to jump start their excitement for reading, and making connections with amazing creators has proven to be a sure-fire way to get this done.

I want them to know about all the hard work - the fun work - that goes into creating the books they love. So when I saw the tweets by the illustrator of I'm Bored that declared how she would respond with doodles to any classes that sent her snail mail, I knew this was another great way to hook my students up with a fabulous learning experience.



Now, I've used I'm Bored with two different age groups. I read it to my second graders because they are often the ones I hear declare, "I'm bored!". I've taken to reading them picture books sporadically during our time together to spark different ideas. (I see them for enrichment weekly - for two 45 minute blocks). I also used it with third graders as an introduction to The Phantom Tollbooth. Since my third graders got to have two virtual visits this year, I decided to have the second graders write to Debbie and experience the thrill of a direct response from a creator.

None of the kids penned really long letters, but they all took some time to think about what they should tell her and what questions to ask. They asked about her favorite color, when she started drawing, and if she thought her book could win the Caldecott. They told her about their own artwork (including doodles on their letters) and one wrote that her book was "funny and weird". I chuckled at that, and hoped Debbie understood the spirit of the sentiment. Weird is good in my room.

We sealed up our envelope and sent it winging to Debbie, then waited patiently for her reply. Her response was so much more than I had hoped for!




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The first sign that this would be an amazing experience was the envelope itself. I was going to hold off and open it with the kids, but I couldn't resist. I opened. I peeked inside.




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This wasn't just a letter with a few doodles. This was a three page masterpiece! There were drawings with watercolor, specific answers to my students' questions, and just overall adorableness.













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One student had written that he didn't think his art was any good. Debbie had a wonderful response. She showed, with several illustrations, how even stick figures can get the ideas of a story across to a reader!











Debbie even sent stickers for each child to keep and a drawing on card stock that I can hang on my "Author Love" wall. Check out her website for wonderful connections to her text and many other activities to use with students.


Hooking students up directly with authors and illustrators may be my favorite "innovation" from this school year. It has generated so much love and enthusiasm in my students, and I send a virtual HUGE HUG to every single author and illustrator who has touched the hearts of my students. I know that each time they do virtual visits, write amazing letters, and even respond to tweets it takes time from their own busy schedules. Thank you, thank you so much for the love you share. It is greatly appreciated.




I'm participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by the amazing educators at Two Writing Teachers. Stop by to see what others are posting!

Also - if you stop by and comment, and you are also slicing - PLEASE feel free to include your URL in the comments. With over 200 people slicing, it is often hard to go find your specific link on the Two Writing Teachers page, and I'd love to come read YOUR slice too!


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