Make Cycles

Our course is organized by two week “make cycles,” a term I borrow from Connected Learning. You can find the weekly tasks for each cycle in the drop down menu above.

Google+ Community

We will share most of our work in a Google+ Community. We will upload images, respond to each other’s ideas, and share links and “makes” here.

Featured Bloggers: Tamara, Grace, Sophie, Elizabeth, and Jake

Featured Bloggers: Tamara, Grace, Sophie, Elizabeth, and Jake

image of Tamara and her familyWhat an exciting couple of weeks we’ve had here in our Google + community! English 333 students really stepped it up a notch and showed us what they are made of! In week one of our second make cycle we read chapter one plus two studies in our book About the Authors, watched a hilarious and inspirational TED talk from Mac Barnett, and then followed them up with one post about our readings, and one post about writing ideas and Barnett’s talk. Some amazing stories were then created by our fellow students.

One of the main ideas in our readings that resonated with me was about how to help instill in a child the ability to read like a writer and to think of themselves as people who make books. While reading chapter one, a passage stuck out to me like no other:

“thinking of themselves as people who make books is the starting point for students learning to read like writers, the most important habit of mind for writing they will develop all year. Reading like a writer means that when you read, you think about more than just what a text is about, its meaning. When you read like a writer, you also notice and think about how a text is written, because you write yourself and you just notice things like that” (Wood Ray)

This passage helped me realize that if we nurture this idea in children at an early age and continue it on throughout their schooling, then we as teachers are likely to help our students grow into readers and writers that do more than just read and write, but analyze and comprehend on a higher level. The text we read were truly exceptional readings.

The next week was filled with such an incredible variety of stories and idea inspiring texts. Reading The Dot, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, really inspired so many students to make some incredible stories of their own! There were so many excellent stories made by my fellow classmates that I found it hard to narrow it down to just three. But I did my best!

I’d like to start off with Caleb Johnson’s “Tap Tap Tap,” a story of Matty, a young blind boy. Though he had stated it was unfinished, I felt as if what he had written was so wonderfully done. He made you feel as if you were walking right next to Matty, understanding his struggles, his insecurities, his hopes.

“Tap Tap Tap, Matthew walked down the street to school. He liked to walk, just to prove he could…Tap Tap Tap, it was a while before he made it to school. Once he was inside he counted the doorways with his hand. One, two, three, four, his classroom was the fifth one on the right, Ms. Chedwick’s Fifth Grade class.”

The story continues as Matty is urged by his favorite teacher to go and try out for the Academic Decathlon. I think deep down, his teacher knew the struggles he must be going through and thought that this opportunity could really help him branch out and get to know others, and himself. The ending was my favorite part. I felt myself smiling and my heart felt so warm as I read the last two sentences, and that’s how I knew Caleb was going to be my first feature: “That night at dinner Matthew’s dad asked him what happened at school that day. ‘I think I made my first friend,’ Matthew said, and he smiled.” You get the sense throughout the entire story and really toward the end, that it must be really hard for this child to make friends. Being different can be really hard on young children when it comes to the friend-department. The way Caleb made his character come to life was amazing. If you haven’t read it yet, go do it! Trust me.

Moving on, I’d like to praise Amanda Greene on her take of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick’s photo “Just Dessert.” She brought to life an incredible precursor to the classic Cinderella fairy tale. I loved how she tied in this tale to her story, which just so happens to be a subject I had just written about in our professor’s other English class! Amanda ends her story with: “She knew this pumpkin would help her do something great one day, but for today she tucked it away in her magical room filled with enchanted objects.” The ending was great, truly great! She left it open for more should she choose to continue writing on it, but as it is, it is such an incredible set up for the carriage scene in Cinderella. Great job, Amanda, really great job!

The last story I chose to highlight was a great little child’s story called “What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?” by Mackenna Gott.

Book titled 'What do I want to be when I Grow up'Made on StoryJumper

It starts out with a teacher asking her students to think that night about what they want to be when they grow up, and when they come to school the next day, to share with the class. Simple, right? Not so much for little Chloe. She spends her night bumbling over ideas of who she will be when she grows up. A policewoman, a sailor, a doctor? Not for her. Maybe a ballerina, or a rockstar, who knows, maybe a knight! Nope, not for her either. She sleeps on it and comes to such a powerful conclusion when her teacher calls on her to share. Chloe says something that I found to be powerful, she tells her teacher, “I am going to be me when I grow up. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grow up. But I know whatever I choose will be right for me.” Boom. Right there. THIS is what it’s all about: empowering children through stories like this. She knows that she could grow up to be any one of these if she puts her mind to it. But right now, that’s not what she is going to do, and that’s okay! Deciding so early on just didn’t seem right to her, but she knows that when she does choose, it will be what SHE wants, not her parents, or her teacher, or her friends, but her. Her choice. I remember finishing Mackenna’s book and with a nod said, “right on!” I love that her story actually had me vocalize my appreciation. I spend most my days tapping at a computer, my nose in a book, with all my thoughts bouncing around silently in my mind. And when something actually moves me to break my silence (silence is so rare for me having three boys), you know it’s good! Absolutely amazing, Mackenna.

Though there were many great makes out there, these were the ones that touched something within me. If you haven’t read their makes, please, I implore you to do so! This was such a great make cycle and I am so honored to have read all of your stories and posts! Great job everyone!

Author Bio: Tamara is a Liberal Studies online major at CSU Chico. She loves kids (obviously, she has three!) and cannot wait to teach them in the elementary level. She went back to school after a seven year break when she started and grew her family and is in her final semester of her Junior year. After graduating from CSU Chico, she will pursue her credential/masters program through CSU Fullerton closer to her home. In her spare time (wait, what’s spare time?) she is a wife, a mother, a student, a soccer and baseball coach, a disney employee, a classroom volunteer, and a budding writer. Her life is busy, but her life is full.

picture of GraceNow that the introductions are out of the way and we have gotten a grasp on the format of this class, this week was about diving into the material. We started this week out by reading the first chapter in our book About the Authors by Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland. Reading this chapter seemed to be enjoyable by all. It’s so exciting and also nerve racking to begin to see what your teaching career will really be like and what you can do to make it successful. This first chapter was primarily about how children begin to write stories, and in what ways. It also gives examples about how a teacher can encourage creativity and what activities support doing so. The class expressed a lot of excitement towards the text and how well written it is. There was also a lot of excitement about becoming teachers and using these strategies in a classroom, but some nerves were also expressed.

Samantha Prosser commented about being a bit intimidated by how well the teacher could identify features of her students writing. She said, “Though I was intimidated by this, I feel that this class will help me to feel more confident in doing close reading in children’s work.”

A lot of students pointed out how even though the sample stories written by children in our textbooks had many spelling errors, they were still able to decipher the meaning of the word. I found it really incredible how even though a child doesn’t always know the exact spelling of a word, they have the confidence to spell it out and give it their best shot. All in all, everyone seemed eager to have this book as our textbook this semester, and excited to find out what Chapter 2 holds.

The next thing that we did was brainstorm our own lists to begin thinking of ideas for stories. We looked over some google slides, and each had a category such as “things you fear” or “things that you love.” We gave ourselves about two minutes and wrote down everything that came to mind under that category. This strategy worked great! Definitely something that would be useful when in a classroom and attempting to get creativity flowing among students. We each shared a couple lists with the class that we felt the most connected to. Among our class, the most popular lists chosen were “Things that are important to me” and “Things everyone should do before they die.” I feel that these being the most popular lists is not surprising because they are both very positive, and are a happy thing to think about. Lists such as “Things I fear” and “Things that annoy me” were less popular, probably due to them being less pleasant things to think about. Alice Mylod-Vargas was a fan of the activity and wrote: “I believe that by doing this type of brainstorming your improving your writing by just letting yourself write whatever comes in mind, even if it sounds like it doesn’t make sense. As you keep adding to your ideas your writing gets better each time.”

We also watched a TED Talk this week by Mac Barnett. Barnett is an author who explains what writing to children means to him and what elements go into good writing. He explains the idea of “ wonder” and how important it is to be whole-heartedly dedicated to a story you are telling and believing every word. This is what gets children excited about stories, and begins to grow their love of writing. He also shares that he wrote a story about a whale, and he continues this story into the real world by creating a telephone line with whale noises on it that children can call. And they do. The class really seemed to love both the list making activity and the TED talk.

We read four stories this week. The first one The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, was about a little girl whose teacher proved to her that she was a good artist, despite her previous beliefs. The next story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Voirst, was about a young boy whose day was just getting worse and worse, and nothing seemed to be going right for him. These two stories were writing from a child’s point of view, making them relatable to children, and also quite humorous. They were very well written and used elements such as repetition to get their point across. We next read a story entitled “Moving Vines” written by Ashley, a 4th grader. This story was quite interesting to read knowing it came from the mind of a elementary school student. Following her train of thought was fascinating and she did a great job of capturing the audience’s attention. And the final piece we looked at was a book called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg. This book was a collection of different pictures all with usual events occurring. They each had one line on the back followed by “…”. This book is an excellent way to prompt creative story writing, and is a book I had many teachers use in my own elementary school experience. Michelle Rodriguez noticed an interesting feature among the stories and wrote: “Some features of these texts that resonated with me was that all the stories started with a small idea and ran with it. The book The Dot is all about a dot; they took a small idea adding a moral and making a whole book on it.” Sophie Tisdale also commented on the structure of these stories, but rather on the repetition of it: “I think this is a good way to work with writing in children’s books because repetition makes the overall message easier to understand.”

Finally this week, we got the chance to write our very own stories! This was such a fun project to have and it was so exciting to get this opportunity after all of the example stories we have read. We could write about anything! We could also use our previously mentioned lists to get ideas. We could also portray our stories in the way of our choice. We could use the Storyjumper website, use a google doc, write the story out, or any other way of our choosing! Our class really succeeded in doing this make. The stories shared this week were so interesting and well written with so much creativity. I personally used my “fear” list and wrote a story entitled “The Worst Nightmare Ever.” Alice Mylod-Vargas wrote a stand out story this week. painting of mother catching a childHer story was inspired by a painting that her grandmother had bought her daughters, and her mother had bought her. She used this family token to write her own story! A line that really stood out was

“Nia took a deep breath in, and looked into her mother’s teary eyes knowing the strong bond they will always have. Then, they embraced in a tight long hug, looking out into the distance at the top of the hill with all the colorful leaves, wondering what their future holds.”

This line had beautiful detail to it, and painted a lovely image that really brought her story to life. Also, you could really see Alice’s passion and dedication to the assignment this week.

Elizabeth Salazar also wrote a beautiful story about her own personal life. She wrote the story “My Bad Baby Brother” and also introduced the class to the Storyjumper website.

Book titled 'My Bad Baby Brother'Made on StoryJumper

This story really stood out because she used a clear structure, had strong sentences, and also created a very relatable story. Her story would appeal to children because if they had little siblings, they would be able to relate to it. All in all, it was a very successful week and we got some great work done!

Author Bio: Grace Taylor is a sophomore and a Liberal Studies major. She is from Santa Cruz, California and has lived in Chico a little over a year. She hopes to one day teach second grade. She speaks Spanish fluently and is on the Chico State Dance Team!

picture of SophieOver the past two weeks, we have accomplished some amazing work as a group. We read and discussed the beginning of the assigned course book, About the Authors: Writing Workshop With Our Youngest Writers, created lists to better our imagination for writing children’s books and read a few additional readings/watched a Ted Talk, which in return helped stir ideas for our own makes at the end of the second week of our “make cycle.”

For me, the class book’s assigned reading was the most powerful and helpful tool from this section. After fully emerging myself into the first chapter, I became even more excited about becoming an elementary school teacher. I think Katie Wood Ray has a very open-ended mind about working with students and helping them learn. This is important to me because I have similar beliefs in allowing children to learn without setting limitations. To make more sense of this, I think we can all recall being taught to write a certain way in grade school. For instance, I was taught the basic five paragraph essay:
– Into
– Body Paragraph #1
– Body Paragraph #2
– Body Paragraph #3
– Conclusion

When in reality, essays can be written in many different forms and still get a message across to the reader in a proficient way. In comparison to Ray’s teachings, I think she is more about giving children the freedom to write in whichever way they believe works. This allows children to grow and form their own opinions and ideas. For me, this was my biggest take-a-way and something that I 100% agree with. (*Note from Dr. Jaxon: Sophie makes such a great point here. For a thoughtful critique of the 5 paragraph essay, I recommend reading Mark Wiley’s “The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist)“)

In addition to going over how to efficiently allow children to write in a classroom setting, we also had some preparation for our own writing. We did this by creating several lists on different topics like things that are important to us or things that are special to us. We made upwards of about ten to fifteen different lists and chose two to three of our most popular and talked about them a little bit. The lists I chose to share were as follows…

Things I Care About/Things That Are Important To Me:
– My family/friends
– My religion/faith
– My health
– My family/friends health
– My animals
– Coffee
– Children’s education
– My job
– My personal feelings/stability
– Staying active


Things That Are My Favorite:
– Grilled cheese and tomato soup
– Country music
– Going to concerts/events
– Nicholas Sparks books
– Elf (the movie)
– Crisp Lake Tahoe air
– Disneyland
– Being in any given place with my loved ones
– My Nana’s cookies/ice cream cakes
– The sound of crashing waves

The reason I chose these two lists from all the others is because these things are what I am passionate about and things are most important to me. They help make up who I am and give me insight on what I could write about in a children’s story or even a basic writing assignment.

Overall, I think my FAVORITE assignment so far in this course is the children’s books we got to create. Before taking this course, I would have never imagined being able to be creative enough to write a children’s book. However, with the help of each homework assignment and video we watched, I was able to do it and so were YOU, my peers. I was amazed by all the effort and work we put together in these things. I enjoyed each and every single one I read. The two that caught my eye right away were “My Bad Baby Brother” by Elizabeth Salazar (see above in Grace’s reflection) and “Tardy Turtle Finds A Friend” by Shannon Lane.

Book titled 'Tardy Turtle Finds a Friend'Made on StoryJumper

Lane’s short story told a tale of a turtle who felt lonely as can be. He then went out to venture and look for someone to be his friend. He stumbles upon many different animals including a dog, a couple cows, fish, birds, racoons, ducks and even bunnies. However, he still felt like he didn’t fit in with them. After awhile, he started to feel discouraged so he moped home when all the sudden he bumped into another turtle. He found his friend! I enjoyed this book SO much!! I think Lane’s use of vocabulary and imagery would easily relate to children. She used pictures on every page that showed the Turtle’s journey. Personally, I think this really made the story come to life.

On the other hand, Salazar’s children’s book was just as relatable. Her short story tells a cute tale of a young sibling (I am assuming an older brother) who is introduced to his baby brother for the first time. The older sibling is faced with a little jealousy and feeling left behind within the first few days because all he wanted was his parents attention, but they had to take care of the newborn. Soon his feelings of jealousy turned into resentment and wishing he never had a baby brother. He even tried getting his parents to take the baby back to the hospital! However, after the older brother visited with family, he realized that having a younger brother isn’t so bad. He found that since he is older, he will be able to take charge, be a “boss” and show his younger brother what to do while growing up. I loved reading this book because I think it can relate to many children too. I assume being an only child for a few years is awesome! They get ALL their parent’s attention and love. However, I imagine being told that the family is going to have another child would be hard to hear. This book brings out a wonderful and cute lesson to families who are adding on another kid and would be good to read to those kiddos who are soon to be big siblings. In all, I really enjoyed reading through everyone’s stories – they were AWESOME!! I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester will bring.

Author Bio: Sophie Tisdale is a brand new student to CSU, Chico. She started her first two years of school at a community college in her hometown near Sacramento, California. Her goal is to graduate from Chico State with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies to become an elementary school teacher.

picture of ElizabethThe purpose of this recent two week make cycle was to learn all about storytelling. We began by reading chapter 1 from About the Authors, “Writing Workshop: A Happy Place Where We Make Stuff” (p. 1-22). After reading chapter 1 and the A and B units of study, I have gained a better understanding of the writing process especially for young students. The writing workshop is an activity that a teacher does in her classroom. She gives her students blank stapled paper that resembles a book. She then asks the children to write stories. Sure there are a lot of spelling errors and missing punctuations, but there stories were all incredible.

Along with the textbook reading we also had mentor texts to read. They were really helpful in making that connection to storytelling. The mentor texts included were: The Dot, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. All of these stories can resonate with any reader. I loved how the stories were all from a child’s perspective. The authors all had their own style but they had a lot of similarities such as: positive/negative attitudes, children’s point of view, and repetition. If you are a future teacher, I highly recommend any of these stories for read alouds.

Lastly, for this week’s make cycle Professor Jaxon gave all of us freedom to write a story about whatever we wanted to. She assisted us with the writing process by having us fill out lists that she provided such as things to do before you die or things that scare you. There was also few restrictions on how we shared our stories. My classmates created some incredible stories. Many which were inspired from the mentor texts and personal experiences. It was difficult to narrow it down to a few because they were all so great.

The first story is, “My Good Day,” by Ismael Munoz. This story is about an adorable little boy that despite all of the negative things that occur throughout the day, he choses to focus on the positive. Ismael stated that he was inspired by Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I did notice he used repetition as well as having a child’s point of view. The issues that arose through the character’s day are definitely relatable for any child. He did a great job writing his story.

The next story I’d like to highlight is, “Talbot the Terrible Troll,” by Kaia Enstrom. In Kaia’s story the character is a mean troll that refuses to be nice. I loved the story and the use of alliteration. Just as the book, The Dot, Kaia decided to end her story with a happy ending. I also liked how she was inspired from her own heritage to write this unique story.

This was a fun and engaging make cycle! I really enjoyed learning all about storytelling. It has really opened my mind to the writing process and how I will go about teaching it to my future students. I will remember to strive for progress and not perfection. I will also remember that writing should be fun and I should not limit the writing topics but instead give my future students free choice: they might just be the next J.K. Rowling!

Author Bio: Elizabeth Salazar is happily married with two amazing boys. She resides in Yuba City where she was born and raised. She’s a Liberal Arts major and hopes to become a primary grade teacher. She currently works for an after school program as a para educator.

picture of JakeI thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Make 2 Cycle, as well as having the opportunity to read over the Makes of my fellow classmates. One of my favorite aspects was they way people drew inspiration for their stories. Some used personal experiences, while others used images to build a creative tale. It can be difficult writing out a story and even a little nerve-wracking.  I think the course material provided for the Make 2 Cycle such as, Mac Barnett’s TED Talk, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Dot, and the images of Harris Burdock helped to get people to produce some very creative posts. There were so many awesome stories that I got to read over, and here are a few that I wanted to share:

The first is by Leslie Franco

SO much to hate

I hate Monday’s and the sounding alarm that jerks you awake from sunny, sheep, filled pastured dreams.

I hate traffic, when someone with a busier and much more fulfilled life than yours, needs to cut you off or run you off the road to get to their busier, more fulfilled life, two minutes earlier.

I hate not having 5 minutes alone with the bitter sweet smell of coffee and croissants.

I hate stubbing my toes and chipping last night’s perfectly done pedicure. Now having to walk with a throbbing fat pinkie toe.

I hate making sure my husband packed his lunch, then forgetting my own lunch, only to decay on the counter for the next 12 hours.

I hate showing up 5 minutes early only to see the meeting was cancelled and now you have 2 hours free, 2 hours away from your coffee, 2 hours away from your fluffy bed, and 2 hours without snacks.

I hate how the browser only has article after article of traumatizing news on their headlines.

I hate how when you don’t try to look decent you run into an old classmate.

I hate being unprepared and I hate preparing. I hate how all that I hate is in the morning. I hate that I hate, hate.

I love cool crisp mornings and my husbands “quiet” giant feet puttering around the house trying not to wake me.

I love calling my family and hearing their voices in the morning. I love eating last night’s dinner for breakfast and a croissant on the go.

I love getting a coffee for brunch and sitting under the trees, reading my new favorite fixer upper book.

I love seeing that the dollar is up just in time for our trip to Italy.

I love seeing the amount of volunteer work that gathered to help fellow Americans in the news article.

I love messaging my friends about the hilarious conversations we had over our pedicure date last night.

I love seeing a familiar face that reminds me of simpler times.

I love the smell of flowers as you pass them, the surprise of raindrops, and the laughter of strangers on their way to school.

I love receiving a thank you note

I love receiving a smile on the awkward elevator ride

I love when I realize there is so much more to be happy and grateful for than there is to hate.

I love when I don’t hate on hate so much.

When I first started reading this story, I thought it would be heading along the same lines as Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It had some very relatable and detailed descriptions of those “not so great moments” that we all face throughout the week at one point or another. As I continued reading, the story took a positive turn and referenced all the lovable moments in life. This brought a nice sense of balance to the poem. Something that stood out to me was how the author used some of the same topics in the poem with different emotional filters. For example: “I hate stubbing my toes and chipping last night’s perfectly done pedicure. Now having to walk with a throbbing fat pinkie toe” and “I love messaging my friends about the hilarious conversations we had over our pedicure date last night.” The pedicure is the common ground, but can be put under different emotional lenses.

Another story that caught my attention was:

“Another Place, Another Time” by Kristine Cowan

image of Harris Burdick bookFour children, all hurting from the effects of WWII, fathers gone to war, mothers constantly working. They all wondered why the world had to go through this, why it had to ruin their lives. The children just wanted to escape from life, with no other outlet, they turned to the power of their imagination.

“ Where should we go next?” asked Christopher.

“How about Europe?” suggested Lily.

So off they went, to Europe in their make-believe land, escaping the cruel world of reality. When all four children were done playing in their imaginary land, they discovered something quite strange, they were unable to return to reality. They were actually stuck in their imagination, with no way of escaping. Christopher, Lily, Joseph, and Drew, were completely puzzled and were starting to worry about how they were ever going to return home. They searched high and low for some sort of portal or way out, but they found nothing. The four children decided to split up into groups and search, Christopher and Lily were to go north, and Joseph and Drew to go south.

The children searched for hours, when finally, someone made a discovery.

“I think I found something!” Joseph exclaimed.

Drew ran over to Joseph and discovered him standing in front of a small cart with a sail, set up on a sort of train track going over a lake.

“Lily! Christopher! Come here, we found something!” Yelled Drew.

Christopher and Lily came running down the path.

“What is it?” Asked Lily.

“I’m not sure, but I believe it may take us where we need to go” Joseph said.

So off the four children went, riding down the track. If there was an answer, they would find it there.

I think that this story is a great example of how Harris Burdick’s pictures work to inspire creativity and help develop a narrative.  It is difficult to look at any of those photos and not have your mind automatically start trying to construct some kind of story or explanation as to the origin of the contents of the image. Sometimes creating a story out of thin air seems like a daunting task, because it can be difficult to find where to start and what to write about. Kristine used the picture “Another Place, Another Time” as a great jumping off point and was able to expand from there. Using the image as inspiration, lead to a nice expression of creativity. The use of dialogue was a nice choice because it made you feel more connected with the characters and their plight of being stuck in their own imaginations. The cliffhanger ending of the story gives off the same type of mystery that the image does.

Author Bio:  Jake Muck is the oldest of four siblings and a transfer student from Southern California. He is majoring in Liberal Arts and works as a manager for Vans at the Chico Mall. He has one year and a semester left at Chico State.  He is not entirely sure what he plans to do after graduation, but most signs are pointing towards joining the Airforce.

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