In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I am working on book #3 in the Winds of Freedom series, a teen adventure series set in the 1850s in North Danville, Vermont. My 1852 Vermont adventure THIS ARDENT FLAME is scheduled for June 2021 publication with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you updates and early order information as soon as I know! I'm also writing a memoir; revising a mystery; in the midst of a novel about a grandmother and her granddaughter; and always writing poems. Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Learning from Common Core Standards While Revising CHARLIE'S PLACE

This Vermont home is like the one I picture for Charlie's new friend John.
Yesterday and today have been revision days for one of my books in progress, Charlie's Place -- the third-grader story set at Ben Thresher's Mill in Barnet, Vermont, underway with co-author and teacher Sue Haven Tester. In addition to tightening the story and making the action as clear as possible, I've been following Sue's suggestion to wrestle with making the book's vocabulary more varied and rich. Along with this is the skill of embedding more challenging words in multiple ways in the text, so readers become familiar with their usage in varied context.

Today's adults looking back fondly at Grade 3 may be surprised at the actions that third graders are expected to take as they read new material in school. This is part of what I see as the improvements we're invited to make in teaching, and therefore also in the books we write for the kids to enjoy: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a teacher-led and state-by-state adopted set of goals to work toward, one after another, so that our graduating high school seniors can tackle life at an adult level. So, here's what third graders need to be doing with the story they're reading (in addition to enjoying it!):
Cite evidence.
Develop logical arguments.
Today I took great pleasure in reshaping this paragraph to develop text with more depth, including several ideas that Sue contributed:

Charlie looked way up at that boy’s face and worried. The boy made clown-like faces. He pushed close to John and said more things. John covered his ears. John said No! Charlie got angry. The mean boy was scaring John. Charlie hit the massive boy. Stop! No!
But I also paid attention to this passage, weaving back into the text some special terms I'd introduced earlier:
There was water everywhere, with pieces of wood floating in it. It was too dark to see the turbine or the penstock, but the little bit of light flickered on the moving water. Was Old Ben shining a flashlight while he repaired the turbine? No, nobody could fix things in the cellar with this much water, not even Old Ben. The stairs kept shaking. Now Charlie felt scared. 
And it was also a good day to outline the nonfiction material for the end of the book, where (me being me) I suggested a timeline to organize the information and investigations that readers might add to their experience of the story. 

Have you guessed yet from the way the text paragraphs here are written? Charlie is deaf ... at age eight, in about 1956 in Vermont. Things were very different then. I'm enjoying painting in the details, along with things that haven't changed at all, like the chest-quivering sensation of thunder, the comfort of morning pancakes with Grandma, and the satisfaction that comes from being as brave as possible, in a scary situation. Know what I mean? 

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