Writing Exercise for A Boy, a Mouse and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White
E.B. White's writing was a celebration of life--he examined the sights, smells and sounds around him. He started doing this as young boy.
Take your journal outside or sit by an open window. Describe what you see, hear and smell--the warmth of the sun, the smell of cut grass, the sound of raindrops or birds singing. How do you feel, sitting there at that moment?
You can also try this exercise at night. Note how the sounds and smells change at the day's end.
Share your observations with your classmates.
You can use Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter in your classroom, both as an art project and a writing exercise.
Look at some examples of Mary's art. Notice the cropped viewpoints, close-up perspectives, and diagonal lines. Notice the dazzle of vibrant colors placed next to each other in bold strokes. Draw a figure--it could be a self-portrait, a picture of a friend or member of your family--with chalk or oil pastels, using strokes of bright colors, placed side by side. Experiment with a diagonal background and cropping your figure so only part of it shows. Zoom in close.
I write my picture book biographies in free verse, a form of poetry that doesn't rhyme but uses other elements like alliteration, simile and rhythm. Try writing your own picture book biography using free verse. Pick someone you admire, who may have faced many obstacles but never gave up on their dream. Research and take notes. You don't have to start your story with the birth of the person--try starting with the day something changed in your subject's life. Read your story aloud to check for rhythm and word choice. Discover the joy of writing about someone's life in a way that sounds like lyrics to a song.
You can use Sewing Stories in your classroom with the following art project.
Make a story quilt.
1. Divide a large sheet of paper into fifteen squares. Draw your story within the squares, using symbols like Harriet's: stars, moons, suns, eyes and hands. Color the squares in bright hues, like red, green and orange. Use patterns, like stripes and polka dots.
2. Design a single square on paper and transfer to cloth. Use fabric paint or iron-on cloth for your designs. Stitch all the squares together. Display.
3. Here's a project for younger students. Draw shapes based on Harriet's designs onto heavy paper. Cut out and color with crayons or colored pencils, using patterns like dots and stripes. Place each figure on a large sheet of colored paper. Make up your own stories about your "quilt."