Monday, February 19, 2018

Ariel Bernstein Has a Balloon, We Have an Interview

We would like to welcome Ariel Bernstein to our blog. I first met Ariel at an SCBWI conference many years ago. She was kind, talented, and had an awesome book in the works called, I HAVE A BALLOON. Since then she’s landed more book deals, consistently supported her kidlit friends, all while raising two kids. Read on to find out about her publishing experience and one really weird, yet awesome, fact about her! Thanks, Ariel!

AMS/ER: Tell us three things about yourself: One funny, one weird, and one interesting. 

AB: Funny – I still have a baby tooth. I usually forget until I have my dentist cleaning and it’s commented on.
Weird – I can count the letters in a group of words almost automatically. So if someone says “Tell us three things about yourself” I know all those letters add up to 30 right away. Weird, right?
Interesting – Not to brag, but I make the best dessert in the history of dessert. It’s called cottage pudding, and it’s the easiest thing ever. You cut up pound cake into small cubes, mix them with a ton of whipped cream, and then mix in all sorts of berries. I guess someone might prefer a different dessert, but I don’t trust those people. 

AMS/ER: How did you break into the publishing world? 

AB: I broke in through the slush pile. I spent time querying, signed with my agent Mary Cummings, and she submitted my stories to editors. Sounds straight forward but there were the usual stumbles and heartbreaks along the way!

AMS/ER: Where do you like to write? 

AB: I like to write on either the loveseat in my living room or the couch in my den. They’re pretty comfy

AMS/ER: Why an owl and a monkey?

AB: At first I thought of two frogs, but quickly discarded that idea. I went into my children’s rooms to find inspiration for different characters by looking at their stuffed animals. I found an owl doll and a Curious George doll. I thought the idea of a calm, rational owl, and an energetic monkey would go together pretty well!
AMS/ER: What is your next book? Tell us a little about it.

AB: The first two books in my chapter book series, WARREN & DRAGON, illustrated by the awesome Mike Malbrough, are coming out on August 28, 2018 (Viking Children’s). It’s about a dreamy seven-year old boy named Warren and Dragon, his vain dragon companion.
AMS/ER: If you could have lunch with a children’s book author or illustrator whom would you choose and why?

AB: I once heard Rita Garcia-Williams give a wonderful speech at a conference. I’d love to sit down and listen to her talk over lunch and ask about her incredible career.

AMS/ER: What are you working on now?

AB: I’m working on books three and four of the WARREN & DRAGON series!

Questions our first grade students think all authors should answer:

First Graders: How do you concentrate?

AB: It can be hard but I just make myself sit and write. I usually put my cell phone in another room.

First Graders: How do you think of great ideas?

AB: All you have to do is find the most inconvenient time to think of a great idea – like in the middle of driving or taking a shower – and voila! An incredible idea will pop into your head that you won’t be able to write down. You’ll hope against hope you’ll remember it by the time you can access a pencil.

First Graders: Why did you become an author?

AB: I like making up stories and hearing that people find them funny, so that’s pretty good motivation.

First Graders: How did you get famous?

AB: I’m not sure I’m quite on the ‘famous’ level yet, so I’ll let you know when I get there how it happened!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Did you know February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day??
When we discovered this last year we knew it had to be the theme of our February bulletin board.
To get our kids thinking about kindness, we read books like What Does It Mean To Be Kind? and One Good Deed. Then we had them write their own random act of kindness (RAK). They were filled with energy as they began brainstorming their ideas. When they settled on one they loved, they wrote in down and we added it to the board. Some students even needed an extra page to fit the details of their plan.

We compiled a list of their ideas that could be done at school and I added some extras. After some intense Pinterest and Google searching I felt our list was complete. Then I created a “Random Acts of Kindness Bingo” board with items that I knew our class would complete or knew would be easily accomplished individually. (Here's the Word version if you'd like to edit it.) Each student got a board and glued the squares on randomly so that they wouldn’t all be the same. Whenever a student got a Bingo, we all applauded for their acts of kindness (no award was given because we’re focusing on kindness, not winning).
We got compliments from adults all day who were impressed with our RAKs. When kids discovered the RAKs we’d hidden or left anonymously they’d look around with smiles on their faces. My class could not have been any more proud of themselves. I also noticed that RAKs continued to appear in my classroom long after February 17th.

Here are a few of the Random Acts of Kindness that we completed:
-Smile and wave quietly to someone you don’t know.
-Write something kind on a sticky note. Hide it inside the cover of a book in the library.
-Use chalk to write positive messages on the sidewalk. (This was a real crowd pleaser!)
-Say hi to someone new on the playground.
-Make a bookmark for someone in another class.
-Write a kindness poem.
-Hold the door open for someone.
-Pick up someone else’s trash.
-Ask someone who’s struggling if they’d like help.
-Make a friendship bracelet. (We did this as a whole class and each student put a bead on everyone’s bracelet.)
-Put a picture of each student in the middle of a piece of paper. Go around writing something nice about your classmates on their papers.

How will you celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

All You Need is Love (And a Break From Testing!)

Whew! January is finally over and we couldn’t be happier. The month was full of tests, tests, and more tests! (Erin loves data and all the charts and tables that come along with it and even she is thrilled that it’s over!) Now that February is here we are celebrating with a new bulletin board.
The crafty part is pretty simple. We used hand and heart patterns. The students cut out the hands and folded two fingers down to make the sign for “I love you.” They did not crease the paper, which created a rounded, more natural look for the fingers. Then they cut out the hearts, glued them onto the hands and wrote about something that they love. We even used this as an opportunity to practice working on synonyms and ended up with sentences with words like “cherish,” “treasure,” and “appreciate.”

Next, we made our class poem centerpiece using this writing frame.
The kids threw out ideas and we worked together to chose the ones we thought sounded amazing. We even combined ideas. To make the board interactive we made individual copies of our writing frame to hang in a pocket. We posted quick and easy instructions on the outside of the pocket. Any student or staff member in our school can take a copy, compose a poem, and return it to us. Then, we’ll hang the poems all around the board, spreading love and poetry for all to see. It’s been an inspiring way to move on from testing. 
**On a quick side note, our team came up with a creative idea that I LOVED. After we hung up the poem on our white poster board heart we felt it was entirely too plain. We thought that adding polka dots could make it cuter but debated on what color would be best so it wouldn’t clash with the other things on our board. We ended up using…. leftover border! We used a round craft punch to make circles that matched the board perfectly. Now this may be old news to some, but I think it’s brilliant!