I'm delighted to announce I've signed a contract to write a picture book biography of one of my personal heroes, Malala Yousafzai. Malala is the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls. The book is due out in fall 2015 with possible fully-illustrated ARCs out by this winter. I'm awed and humbled by this soon-to-be seventeen year-old girl who, in addressing the United Nations, said, ". . .Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world." I'm honored to pick up my pen on her behalf.
My first book, All Dolled Up: Bringing 1920s and 1930s Flair to your Wardrobe made its debut at Kern Reading Association's Book Talk Tea February 13, 2014. Here are a few pictures. I celebrated with my daughter Anne, sisters Nancy & Kathy, niece Beki, friends Monique & Vidalia, KRA teacher and librarian buddies, and fellow Capstone author Allison Crotzer Kimmel who penned Prepped and Punked: Bringing 1980s and 1990s Flair to your Wardrobe. In honor of my first book release I'm giving away a pair of handcrafted Barbie shoe earrings in your choice of color. To enter the drawing just leave a comment below sharing your favorite way to accessorize. You can probably guess my favorite accessory is a funky pair of earrings. One winner will be drawn by a computerized random number generator program when the contest ends March 1, 2014.
I hear it every year when I teach my seventh graders about complex sentences. "You can't start a sentence with because!" A smug, knowing look accompanies the argument, and a previous teacher's name is often invoked for good measure. As I demonstrate that most subordinate clauses can be moved in a complex sentence and work equally well at the beginning and the end, the smug looks change to doubt and finally to outrage. "Why did our teacher say that if it isn't true?"
While some teacher lies may be due to ignorance, the cold hard truth is that most are lies of convenience. It's much easier to tell students you can't begin a sentence with "because," "and," or "but" than it is to fully explain the workings of subordinating conjunctions and coordinating conjunctions.
Throughout the school year other lies told by beloved previous teachers are put to the test as well. All are well-intentioned and undeniably useful. Not coincidentally, they're all designed to distill writing down to a convenient formula. "A sentence has four to ten words." "A paragraph must have five or six sentences." "A good essay must have five paragraphs." Good writing can never be achieved by focusing on numbers. It dilutes the art and craft of meaningful composition to bean counting. It also confuses students. When I teach them how to format and paragraph dialogue many simply do not believe a line such as He shook his head. "No." deserves its own paragraph.
As teachers we'd find it much easier to teach some of the common core writing standards if we gave up some of our little white lies. Allowing students to fully explore a wide variety of sentence structures (including . . . gasp . .. starting sentences with conjunctions) will go a long way in meeting the following standards:
Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships
among claim(s), reasons, and evidence.
Common Core Writing Standard 7.1.c
Use appropriate transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships
among ideas and concepts.
Common Core Writing standard 7.2.c
Think about it. Cohesion. Clarifying relationships. Subordinating and coordinating conjunctions are perfect for these tasks. And they can do their jobs just fine and dandy at the beginning of sentences.
Time for true confessions. What teacher lies have you told?