Guide Craft

Free Word Cube Download

 A couple of cubes

A couple of cubes

One of the most versatile and entertaining project-based manipulative is, what I call, the Word Cube. Here's why:

Please be my guest and DOWNLOAD a free Word Cube template. Let me know what cool ways you decide to use it. I'd love to see what you come up with!

Enjoy!

All the very best,

deb

Adventures of a Debut Author - Website Stalking

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_joebelanger'>joebelanger / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I’ve been gathering website tips and ideas all week long. You see, website stalking is part of my teacher guide crafting business. I pull author and illustrator information from sites for reference in guides on a regular basis. I appreciate it when their information is structured and packaged in a convenient manner.  Oftentimes, I craft discussion topics based on the personal information they’ve offered. I like to quickly access facts I need, snag a picture, and pop them in the guide. Ba-da-bing! Ba-da-boom!

Let’s look at a fellow debut author's site I’ve most recently stalked. Want to?

I just finished working on a guide for my dear friend Carmen Oliver’s charming debut picture book, Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies (Capstone, 2016). Her new site was made by another dear friend, Erik Niells, the mastermind behind Square Bear Studios and it is stunning!

As you can see, Carmen’s site is crisp, clean, and easy to maneuver about. (Erik knows what he’s doing, I tell ya’.)  I was able to find Carmen’s professional scoop p.d.q. by accessing the ABOUT tab. Her interesting personal information is clear, concise, and right there for the sharing.

I do have a question for Erik, though. If you notice, on the ABOUT page, beneath the sub-title LINK, one can access a nicely formatted Press Kit. I wonder how to link a zip file to a web page. Hmmmm. Now there’s an idea to explore.

Thanks, Carmen and Erik, for letting me snoop around the new website. It’s a beauty!

I’m officially inspired to do the work I need to do.

Reading Guides: Align with Academic Standards? Why Bother?

Well, if you’ve got some alignment-worthy activities in the guide, why wouldn’t you? The kicker is to offer skill-based lessons. The real deal. Activities that stretch their minds a little . . . or maybe a whole lot! To inspire kids to reason. To challenge. To grow!

The purpose behind aligning guides with academic standards is to document opportunities to practice demonstrating the understanding of a skill.  Whether learning how to cite dialogue, considering the interrelationships of habitat’s flora and fauna, or developing the confidence to present their personal views on a sticky topic – if you’re offering these types of valuable learning experiences in your guides and presentations, align them!

The goals of  well-crafted reading guides are to compliment stories by capturing the imagination of a reader, enticing them into a bit of painless and productive documented skill practice, and maybe have some fun while doing so! Aligning your projects with the standards simply validate the value you’re already offering. So go for it!

Reading Guides: Where Can They Be Found?

Need a reading guide and don’t know where to turn? While I'd love to be of service to you, there are some other options out there for you. Let's take a look at a few.

If you’re very lucky, your publisher will create a reading guide for your book. Publishers such as Peachtree arrange for the guides to be created and then post them on their website. These types of guides are typically formatted with the publisher’s brand and are comprised of discussion questions; writing prompts, and follow-up projects. Occasionally, the guide creator is acknowledged fine print. If you like what you see in the guide, Google them. Perhaps they can make a one for you, too.

Oftentimes, experienced teachers are contracted to create reading guides. Though these guides generally lack the branding pizzazz a publisher’s marketing team adds to a project, they work very well. The key is to find an educator who is able to present the lessons and activities in a lively way. Discussion questions should be structured in an engaging, rhetorical manner. Yes or no questions just won’t do.

A word of caution, though. If you’re considering asking a teacher-friend to help you, have a look at their work beforehand. Compare their content with guides that you admire. I say this because I have redone more guides made by teacher-friends than you’d care to know.

Avoid the heart-ache. Contact a pro. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Reading Guides: What's the Big Deal, Anyway?

Quality crafted guides connect readers with the text on an emotional level, instructional levels, and developmentally. The best of them use the story as an enticement guiding kids into a deeper, more satisfying reading experience. They should be packed with so much inspiration that a kid can’t resist but to read more and more and more and more…

Early in my teaching career, I was charged with the daunting duty of guiding a novel study group comprised of a pack of 5th grade boys (and I mean ‘a pack’, as in wolves) through the timeless middle-grade novel, Johnny Tremain. The dispiriting aspects of this challenge were that the leader of the pack was a non-reader and the novel’s small-printed text is about as dense as they come. Not an opportune mix, I assure you. We were in for a long six-week study of Esther Forbes’ Newbery Medal winning masterpiece unless I could come up with something creative – fast!

I did what any desperate teacher might do. I bought a boat-load of teacher guides – some better than others. I plowed through them in search of the most insightful lessons I could find, those that might keep the pack interested and engaged. All the while, their alpha male tried his best to derail my plans at every turn. Ah, the joys of teaching.

I insisted that he sit through our weekly novel study discussions, though he hadn’t read a word of the novel.  He was forced to listen to den mates discuss their enthusiastic interpretations of the readings. And then, an incredible thing happened. Top Dog connected with the story. Johnny Tremain came to my rescue! All the talk of fires and muskets and Paul Revere charging into the night captured his imagination.  He was seduced into reading. Not the entire book, mind you. Just the exciting parts.

So, the big deal about good reading guides is that they can make a great reading experience even more intriguing.  Through well-crafted lessons investigating aspects of the text and elements of craft, kids can connect with the story on a more personal level. And, who knows? In the end, maybe the stack of Johnny Tremain teacher guides I bought may have helped to transform my 5th grade wolf-like tyrant into a life-long reader.

Wouldn’t that be something?

Reading Guides: Who Needs Them?

Teacher Guides. Activity Guides. Academic Guides. Project Guides. Reading Guides. Whatever the reference, offering some sort of supplemental resource like one these has become a standard in book’s promotional package today.

Quality book guides come in all shapes and sizes – from in-depth, historical or scientific studies to light-hearted games and crafting projects. But how can authors, illustrators, and editors begin to know what type of guide best suits their stories and the market? Are reading guides really necessary? Who needs these things, anyway?

Educators need them. Despite curriculum constraints, the fact that a book’s content is rich enough to support a well-crafted guide speaks volumes about the author’s merit. Texas author Cory Putman Oakes tells the story that a principal in California based his decision to book her for a school visit on the Educator Guide created for her middle grade novel. She said the principal set her darling Dinosaur Boy on the desk, began thumbing through the guide, and responded, “When can she come out?” He knew Cory had what it takes to reach his kids. Her guide proved it.

Librarians need book guides. Be it a list of well-crafted discussion questions or a fun packet of useful read-along projects, librarians delight in these tools.  They’re perpetually on the hunt for quality, supplemental reading resources. In fact, the first guide I created was a result of a librarian suggesting that author Jennifer Ziegler have one made for her incredible How Not to be Popular – a 2010 IRA YA Choices and Lone Star Reading List winner. Way to go, Jennie!

Lastly, depending on marketing strategies, you need a guide – a quality, well-crafted one. A thoughtful, entertaining supplemental guide highlighting all of the hard work you’ve put into the project. One that leads readers to deeper connection with your story and you. One that demonstrates your book’s potential for lasting appeal to educators, librarians, and all of the important gatekeepers in between.

All this to be said, if your book is one that you hope will have lasting appeal in the school and library market, take a moment to consider your marketing strategy. You just might need to include a reading guide of some kind to entice educators and librarians to take a longer look at your fine work.